November 8 2020
Let us pray. 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.
We have this antique gold bracelet belonging to my wife’s grandmother and we decided to have it valued for insurance. The valuer said, I have to tell you that this bracelet is not all what you think it is. First of all, it’s hollow and a lot of the weight is due to the fact that it is filled with wax. Meaning it’s not solid gold. If he was the apostle Paul, he might have said, this bracelet is not, sincere.
You see in Paul’s day if you were an artisan and you created a piece of work and there were some flaws in it you might patch them up with wax. If it was a statue, maybe sprinkle gold dust on the wax so it would look like the real thing. In other words, it looked good on the outside to all intents and purposes. If it was 100% the real thing, if your craftsmanship was of top quality, if you refused to make do with second best, either silver or gold or bronze or even a sculpture you were entitled to claim it to be sine cere. Sine, without, cere, wax. And you could presumably hang out a sign saying this work was, sinecere. The real deal. Solid gold, unlike grandmother’s bracelet.
So when Paul is writing to the church at Rome who lived in this commercial capital he is writing to a church that is to be a witness to the city and so he says to them: Your love – must be completely sincere. Without wax. 100% the real deal. Why was this important? Because they were living in a culture dominated by politics, greed, and violence. Wait wait – that sounds familiar. Wasn’t I reading about that in the Herald the other day? You are living in an empire which demands that you confess that Caesaris Lord, and there is no other name than that of Caesar by which you can be saved. And you are having the audacity to say that actually Jesus is Lord, and salvation is found in Him and His message of love. So when the population checks you out as followers of Jesus, Paul is writing, your love must be found to be sine cere without wax! Even as God’s love is flawless.
People in Rome are looking at you to see if you are the real deal or not. So this is what love, without wax, looks like. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you---yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him/her with a wrong. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge. If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them a drink. Do not let evil defeat you, instead, conquer evil with good. In short – live in a way in complete contrast to the Kingdom of Caesar.
Paul is reflecting what he knows of God’s love through what he has heard of in Jesus and what this Kingdom of God is and how different it is from the Kingdom of Caesar which I suggest is still as pertinent today. Love must be completely sincere. Note this isn’t an emotional love, it’s not the falling in love romanticism. This love is as hard and as uncompromising as steel.
I remember a couple of years ago we had a remembrance service and we used a lot of candles. I took the candles home in a box in the boot of my car, forgot about them, and a couple of weeks later I discovered the candles had melted into amass of wax. So if you are an artisan in Rome and you have created something that needs patching up with wax it can remain hidden and look good, only until when? Only until things get hot and the wax starts to drip away exposing the faults. You bought this statue thinking this will look good at the Toga party tonight and the temperature shoots up to 40, guess what? Your guests discover you got it from the bargain bin as chunks of your statue fall away and it’s exposed for what it really is.
If as Jesus followers our love isn’t sincere when the heat comes on, the cracks in our character are exposed and people see things about us we would prefer they didn’t see. It’s not how we live as Jesus followers in times of calm but how we live when we are threatened. Or when suddenly the evil eye of greed or jealousy or bitterness threatens and we want to revert to our human nature. That is when we discover how real our love is, how without wax it is.
So as we begin a new era in our life as a church and a Christian witness in this community, I have no doubt that this year will be exciting. It will be the answer to prayer, it will be a rising from the ashes, and the possibility is that it will be fraught with the potential for conflict. In other words, the heat may come on. And that’s O.K. Our human nature is always close to the surface that’s why Paul asks that we, “let God transform us inwardly by a complete change of your mind.” Or let’s be the real deal through to the core of our being and so allowing as individuals a sincere love for one another. And that’s just within the fellowship. But outside is as important. So it’s a two pronged thing. Sincere love holds us together. We forgive, we tolerate, we understand, we do all we can to preserve the unity of the body. We understand that it’s O.K. to read the Bible differently. We seek to be servants to each other.
Secondly sincere love speaks to the community. This year, people will seek to find in us something other than the Kingdom of Caesar. In all our dealings we will seek to be servants to the community even as Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled Himself. We will speak to the community of God’s compassion. Of God’s care for the poor and the broken and the homeless. Of our desire to provide a refuge and a safe place for people’s journey through life. And we will do that because our love will be sincere, 100% the real deal.
You will be a blessing and God will bless you.
Let us Pray
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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