Paying Tribute

I will start this sermon by asking a simple enough question. do you or have you ever gambled? most chapel folk I imagine dread the question or at least the implication. gambling is accepted as sinful. if you enjoy a trip to Las Vegas or a cruise then it seems that a casino visit is high on the “things to do” list. lottery tickets, office sweepstakes guessing the outcome of a rugby match or soccer World Cup, helping out the local scout group by buying a Christmas raffle ticket, not mentioning card games or flutter on the horses or the dogs,  or even chancing your luck with the one armed bandit. let us also not mention accelerating at an amber light or indeed trying to cross the road on the red man.

I’m not a devotee of soccer and therefore did not instantly recognise the name Jeff sterling when he appeared during ad breaks on TV. later when he appeared on countdown I then wanted to know where was this guy from. the answer was sky sports and soccer programs. The one statement though that rings in my ears that comes from Jeff Sterling is for the ad for sky bet, “when the fun stops, stop!” In other words have limits, & know your limits.

Another question. What is the worst aspect of being a Christian? My current thoughts linger upon forgiveness. as it is written in Luke chapter 17 verse four if your brother sins against you seven times in one day and repent you must forgive

There are a couple of questions I have here:-

  • Who is my brother?
  •  7 sins or one repeated seven times?
  • What is repentance?

1 I am fully aware of the answer Jesus gave regarding “who is my neighbour”,  but my brother by definition is family, my kin,  my clan,  and as such someone who respects and accepts the same values as me. Therefore just to sin against me once should not be a default setting, but something quite rare, not familiar.

2 7 times in the day. Seven times or seven sins in a day? To repeat the same sin and seek forgiveness, or better put, to forgive the same sin takes a huge amount of faithfulness. The question again is, with if it is my brother or my sister would/should they repeat? 

I remember as a child being bullied; my Achilles heel was my ears. I have clear recollection of the ringleader saying “go on touch his ears, he’ll cry”. I duly obliged Repeatedly following the surgeon’s advice  to protect the  ears. crying seemed to be the best defence.

Until the day I stood my ground the bullies touched my ears but I didn’t flinch. I even invited them to try again and the ringleader obliged. His spilt lip healed in a few days but the memory lasted much longer. my ear torment days were behind me.

As a student of the Reverend Dr Philip Stevens he once told me that a “good Christian chicken never hurt anyone”.

So does it mean if I am a Christian, a bully can do his or her worst, and I must forgive when they repent?

3 so what is repentance? The answer is being sorry for the injury caused. “saying I’m sorry“ is easy, demonstrating is something quite different.

I remember asking a child who was coming down from a fierce tantrum, “what are you sorry for?“ Unable to articulate, just shrugged shoulders;   I felt unable to accept the apology.

This passage forms the prelude or precedes the count of 10 lepers seeking a cure. As we know 10 were cleansed yet only one, a foreigner returns to Jesus to give thanks.

In Welsh we say “talu diolch” to ‘pay thanks’. in English we would say “to pay tribute to”. both have the same meaning; the act of handing over  gifts in recognition for what we have received.

On birthdays and Christmas we pay our debts to those who have blessed us. Have you seen the wonderful Cadburys advert? Children day after day are knocking a ball into next door’s garden. The grumpy old man throwing the ball back. Day after day, Season after season, until one day a big bar of Cadburys dairy milk lands. Bewildered he looks on until a child’s voice can be heard you “don’t have to throw that one back Mr Smith”. The look of joy on the old man’s face. A simple act of gratitude. 

Jesus himself felt the insincerity of the nine but was overjoyed by the actions of the one, the one who simply said ‘thank you’.

It is not the value of the tribute, but the act.  for actions speak louder than words. according to Luke, Jesus did interact with the grateful one but nothing more is said of the ungrateful nine.

maybe, as we start 2022 we should take a leaf out of Luke’s prescription pad, and give tribute to those who show tribute to us.

To paraphrase Jeff Sterling,

When hurt starts, stop giving.

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