Being Appropriate – 13 November 8am

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

Isaiah 65: 17 – 25

The Glorious New Creation

17 For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;*
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
24 Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,

says the Lord.


2 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 13

Warning against Idleness

6 Now we command you, beloved,* in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are* living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they* received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13Brothers and sisters,* do not be weary in doing what is right.


Luke 21: 5 – 19

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Signs and Persecutions

7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* and, “The time is near!”* Do not go after them.

9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15for I will give you words* and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Do any of you remember the story of Eutychus, the young man from Troas who was sitting on a window ledge while Paul was preaching? You recall that Paul preached beyond midnight and Eutychus fell asleep, overbalanced and plunged to what appeared to be his death three storeys below?

Paul then takes him in his arms and assures the congregation that Eutychus is not dead.

The question is how appropriate was Eutychus’s behaviour? Should he have been lounging where he was, or should he have been making an effort with God’s people?

In the final line of the epistle this morning, Paul tells the Thessalonians 13Brothers and sisters,* do not be weary in doing what is right.

Sometimes our service in the Gospel requires quite a bit of stamina – and falling asleep on the job doesn’t produce the desired result.

When Jesus, in the final line of the Gospel reading this morning says, 19By your endurance you will gain your souls, is he talking about the same thing? Is the Christian life all about hard work?

A few weeks ago I mentioned that English spirituality had tended to err on the side of believing that is was, as opposed to European Protestant spirituality (epitomised by John Calvin) that tended to focus on what God had done.

What is an appropriate approach to serving God?

Let’s look at 2 principles that emerge from our Isaiah reading, which literally depicts heaven on earth:

17 For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
God says in our Old Testament reading.

It’s God who does the creating, not the Israelites. The essential work is done by God. It’s beyond human doing.

Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead after three days – we may be able to accomplish the first, but the second is beyond the keenest labourer.

That’s foundational – an awareness that the really important things are done by God.

And not only are they done by God, but everything else is done in terms of them. It’s appropriate to work (to place our energies) into the work of God and while we won’t answer the question this morning, it’s good therefore to ask ourselves, “What is the work of God where we find ourselves?”


22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
  … they shall not labour in vain

Those who are part of the thing that God has done and is doing – in this reading the new heaven and the new earth – when they do labour, will bear fruit. It won’t be a grind. There is nothing that robs energy so much as fruitless labour.

It’s the difference between swimming against the tide on the one hand and catching a wave on the other, between enjoying the rainbow or digging for the imaginary pot of gold. There is a great difference between working for God and working with God.

Applying effort towards the appropriate task – the thing God is busy with – bears fruit.

It’s not appropriate to prioritise anything (whether a good thing or not) above God’s things. Hard work here will end in a less than satisfactory result.

So in conclusion, back to Euctychus. We certainly don’t want to be asleep on the job. That exhaustion normally comes from either:

  • A reluctance to focus on what God has done because that involves putting God first, or
  • From pouring energy and time into things that God does not see as a priority.

Therefore …

  1. I ask myself, “What is my window-sill? What is the place I want to be rather than where God might want me to be?”
  1. Was it not more appropriate for Eutychus to be avidly paying attention amongst his brothers and sisters in Christ? Therefore I ask myself, “What is my place of attentiveness? Where is God active right now, and how can I get involved in that right now?”

So in one sense the Calvinists have something to teach us: the work of God precedes our work. It is foundational and should shape everything we think and do,

But crucially,

Hard work is important, but only when the locus of our activity is appropriate – and that means working with God, not for God.