Podcast Reflections

Sermon for Trinity 9 (2021)

Listen to a sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 1 August 2021

They said to Jesus: What must we do to perform the works of God?

How often do we ask this question …
either of ourselves, or even of God himself …
What must we do to perform the works of God?

It has become a fact of human life that we revel in our self-reliance… our ability to ‘cope’… our independence… our lack of need for others.

But, in reality, all of that self-assured self-reliance does nothing other than distance us from God… and it certainly does not represent the work of God.

Human beings are created to be in relationship. If you haven’t mastered that fact, I suggest you read the opening of the book of Genesis, chapter 2, verse 18: Then the Lord God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’

We are all created to live in relationship with each other. That may not be the relationship of marriage, but it is certainly in relationship with other human beings.

The bible also shows us how that relationship should work… Jesus tells us to love both neighbours and enemies.

That is the very foundation of the answer to the question that is asked of Jesus in today’s reading from John’s gospel: What must we do to perform the works of God?

Well, you can begin by living out Jesus’ command to  love.

Of course, that sounds easy… until, that is, you are confronted by someone whom you find it difficult to ‘love’.

As we live in a world of relationships, some will be fruitful and life-enhancing, while others will be the exact opposite.

But Jesus calls us to ‘love’ our enemies as well!

In our reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read this: I … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

That is how we perform the works of God… We work hard at honouring and respecting God’s call in our lives.

And what does that look like?

Paul gives us the answer to that as well… We need to live in:

  • humility;
  • gentleness;
  • patience;
  • bearing with one another (in love);
  • making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

That is a tough agenda, but it is the one that should be directing every moment of our lives.

The challenge of performing the works of God has existed throughout the whole history of the human race… the difficulty we experience is nothing new!

The letter of James (just after Hebrews in the New Testament!) makes it clear that even the earliest Christian communities struggled with this.

James writes:

You must understand this … let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

and… be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

andShow by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom… that is, divine wisdom, and not the wisdom that represents selfish ambition and self-aggrandisement.

None of this is easy… hence the question to Jesus:

What must we do to perform the works of God?

As well as expressing his frustration at the crowd’s question, Jesus does offer us an answer… This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

That is it!
That is the answer!
To perform the works of God we just have to believe in Jesus Christ.

But we see in the reaction of those questioning crowds a reflection of our own response to that command… They asked for signs… for proof!

They referred to the moment in Jewish history when, in response to the need of those who were journeying towards the Promised Land, God provided food from heaven to sustain them.

Then, in response to this fallacious argument, Jesus declares that he is The bread of life. Jesus, himself, is the one who will sustain us on the challenging journey which is the life of true discipleship.

Next week, we will be considering the meaning of Jesus’ words in more detail.

But, for now, let us hold on to the Gospel message of today …

For some, there will already be a sense of unease and conflict.

For some, there will be a sense of reassurance and consolation.

In the multiplicity of responses people have to Jesus’ words: I am the bread of life… there lies the fundamental issue we are called to reflect upon today: What must we do to perform the works of God?

We must go forward in faith …

  • in humility;
  • in gentleness;
  • in patience;
  • bearing with one another in love;
  • making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We must believe in him whom God has sent.

We must set aside our ‘need’
to argue and dispute,
to judge and to condemn,
to wheedle and negotiate,
and we must follow where Christ leads us.

The crowds asked Jesus: What must we do to perform the works of God?

Simple really:
Believe in Christ…
follow Christ…
be Christ-like in all you say, and think, and do.