January 10 2021
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your
sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I would like to do something with hell.
But by way of explanation talk about
trippage – and I may have coined a new word here,
trippage is the stuff that gets in the way when you are trying to do something
and you keep tripping over it:
debris of some kind
the stuff that just gets in your way.
Does that make sense?
Sometimes we call it clutter
I am notorious for having a cluttered desk
and I know to be able to get on with whatever
I really have to get the mess out of the way.
So I like to apply that to
my trust in God.
And for me anyway
there was always a lot of trippage.
Mess that got into the way that confused me.
And what it did was simply stop me from having the peace that Jesus said He would
give. And because there was no peace
there was no joy.
I sensed there was in God
the joyous laughter of the universe.
That God delighted in His creation
that as the psalmist wrote:
The heavens declared the glory of God.
That to be a believer was to have outrageous joy.
And it would have been but for the trippage
the major one being the idea of hell.
A place of torment where God would consign
people for various reasons.
For me as a teen it didn’t make sense and as I got older
it made less sense.
And whether or not you ended up there
came down to, what was a real Christian!
And there were so many different takes on it.
And there was always older Christians
and church groups
who wanted to tell me why I was wrong
and why my part of the church was wrong.
And so I found myself retreating
into a very simplistic faith:
“Jesus loves me this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
we are weak but He is strong.”
So there were all these trippages:
hell; which baptism is the right one;
which church group had the true faith;
baptism of the Holy Spirit
all kinds of things that divided the church.
And so joy seemed an unattainable thing.
And I wonder if non-church people looking in
see confusion and division.
So to hell!
The Psalmist wrote: And you can read it from the front of the bulletin
Psalm 139:7-10: Lord, Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? (8) If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. (9) If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, (10) you would be there to lead me, you would be thereto help me.
And I love that passage
because it speaks of
a person who
contemplates the possibility of escaping from God
and comes to the conclusion
that there is nowhere
he can go
that God will not be present
not to beat him over the head with a club
not to torture him but rather to lead him, and to help him.
So beyond the east is an immeasurable distance – infinity,
as is the farthest place in the west.
God’s love is immeasurable!
Or even if he went into the heavens
lay down in the world of the dead,
God, he says
would be there to lead him and help him.
Which is one of the most all encompassing pictures of God’s love.
You cannot, I cannot, escape from God’s love and care for us.
This is foundational.
and nothing else is required.
This is the firm foundation that Jesus speaks of
this is building on the rock solidness of God’s love for you
that will never change.
Now what happened is that when the translators of the King James Bible came to the
they translated it ‘hell’.
And it came to mean a place of eternal punishment
and then it got loaded with a whole lot of other images and metaphors
until we ended up with heaven
which was the abode of God
and hell which was a place of torment
and a wrong fear of God.
Which was never the intent of the Psalmist.
So in order to have the joy of the Lord
in order to live
with the peace that Jesus gives
we have to clear away the trippage
in order to have a firm foundation.
Otherwise we will get caught up
and tripped up
by every other person who comes along to tell us
it’s not enough to trust God
and to believe in the goodness of God
and the love of God
rather we have to do all these other things.
It’s not enough to rest in Jesus
you have to go through this checklist
and make sure
you’ve ticked all the boxes
and then God will love you.
But if you can trust that behind all of creation there is a heart that beats for you
and a love that won’t let you go
then you can go into life unafraid.
And you will have joy.
Remember the old song:
I am trusting thee lord Jesus
Trusting only thee
Trusting thee for full salvation
Great and free, great and free.
We don’t have to do anything
and as you do open yourself to God’s love.
When I say we don’t have to do anything
We just have to stop doing something.
We have to stop hanging on to
You let go, and as you let go you find yourself falling into the arms of God
and as we do that
we discover we are being held
and at the same instance we are filled with God’s Spirit.
And joy bubbles out from us.
And then everything changes:
you enjoy all of life.
There will still be darkness but the darkness will not have power over you. You will be
You’ll find yourself free from petty religious debates
and you will simply begin to love the world as Jesus loves it.
And you will know
wherever you go
whatever happens to you
you will be held.
Even if you try to escape from God – you will know that you can’t.
That’s a major point in Jesus parable of the loving Father.
The son says I want to get away from you as far as I can, and I wish you were dead
And the Father says, sure. Off you go.
The Father knows there is life only in His house and one day the son will discover this.
He knows that the son may not think he needs Him
but in His heart there is nothing that will stop Him loving His child.
Once we get rid of the trippage
we discover the simple truth of
the love that will not let us go.
And whenever we cry out, God help me, in life or death
we know his arms about us.
So says the God who loves you.
Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and
glory, world without end. Amen
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