A sermon by The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft

Assistant Curate, St Peter’s Cathedral

Based on Hebrews 10:31-39

Evensong 18 November 2018


In the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tonight’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews comes at the end of a section of encouragement titled “The Call to Perseverance”.

It reminds me of a little book I read years ago called “Balcony People” by Joyce Landord Heatherley.

Both the letter to the Hebrews and the book Balcony People give good examples of encouraging each other.

No doubt the fledgling churches of the early Christians needed much encouragement, or these letters would not have been written. Not only does this letter to the Hebrews encourage us in our context,it also teaches us the importance of encouraging one another.

In this morning services we heard the earlier verses of Hebrews 10, vv22-25 which call the church to have faith, hope and love and to meet together regularly to encourage one another. Curiously, tonight’s reading begins at verse 31 which is at the end of the previous paragraph: It reads “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Whilst this verse is a warning to those who have lost their faith, it may also resonate with those striving towards a goal. Read in this way and as an introduction to tonight’s reading, it could be that “It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of a dream come true.”

Many of us may have had an experience when after a long period of striving towards a goal, we finally achieve it.Perhaps the at end of the school year, a university degree, the end of a play, the end of singing Christmas Carols, the end of organ fundraising (when it happens)there is a sense of loss, a loss of the striving,even though we have achieved our dream.

Theologian Fred Craddock writes that “Since the time of Socrates, philosophers and theologians have observed a condition that afflicts persons and communities, sometimes without causes known to themselves, called ennui. Sails hang limp, but not for lack of a breeze. In the church the condition is labelled akedia, often translated “sloth” and listed among the seven deadly sins.”

The Hebrews reading goes on to remind the church of earlier days when despite oppression they held fast to the knowledge that they “possessed something better and more lasting.” Perhaps having achieved this, they had plateaued and lost the wind in their sails.In our context, we may give up evangelising our friends or inviting them to church because we have suffered rejection and therefore, our courage.We may forget how awesome is the free gift of grace that we have in Jesus.

When we have achieved a goal, say for example losing a lot of weight, how easy it is to slip back to our old ways, to “hang limp”. Or perhaps we have been sailing along happily in life and we suddenly lose our job, our marriage, a friend, our good health etc. How easy it is to let the wind out of our sails.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins says that he is actually not a motivational speaker. He says he is the “why man”. Once we know why we want anything we can invest our time and energy accordingly. In this context when we understand why we love God, what he has done for us, the love he has bestowed on us, the eternal life he has offered us through Jesus, we may find the wind to fill our sails, to promote His kingdom and grow His church.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to have courage, confidence and endurance reminding us that God takes no pleasure in those who shrink back. We are reminded that it is by faith that we are saved.

In thinking of faith, hope and love I was reminded of a little necklace given to me by my grandmother on the occasion of my confirmation. The necklace consisted of a cross, anchor and heart, the cross, representing faith, the anchor representing hope and the heart representing love.

I wondered what a necklace that represented courage, confidence and endurance might look like and how it might act as an encouraging reminder, I set Mr Google to the task. When I Googled “Courage” I found a picture of a key with the words “courage is when we are afraid but we go there anyway”. I was curious about why courage would be represented by a key but was reminded that courage is considered to be one of the essential keys to effective leadership. I decided that a key represented courage well.

I didn’t need to search for an image for confidence. Confidence was easy, Colgates “ring of confidence” slogan is a powerful one. So my second symbol was a ring.

The best symbol I could find for endurance was a runner. Many of us are visual thinkers so I hope my symbols of a key for courage, a ring for confidence and a runner for endurance may help us remember the encouragement of Hebrews.

Do you remember the two grumpy old men from the Muppets who sat in their theatre box seats and jeered at the performers? We might think of them as the anti-encouragers. In contrast there is a stadium across the road from here where people who are masters at encouragement gather. They know well how to be “Balcony people”cheering on their team or their favourite player or rock star.

As we here at St Peters’ Cathedral ride the crest of a wave. With the excitement of the nearing completion of the organ project. The forthcoming celebrations of Christ the King, The First Chords of the refurbished organ, the season of Advent culminating in Christmas and then a whole year of celebrations for our 150 year anniversary next year. May we not become complacent. May we encourage each other to continue to build God’s kingdom, to be missional and to promote the Gospel.

Regardless of how expressive we are or are not, may we all strive to be balcony people, to be master encouragers. May we keep the wind in our sails. May we live with faith hope and love. May we remember our glory days. May we continue to have courage, confidence and endurance in building God’s kingdom. May we encourage all those we meet to do the same.