Rev. Delia Fay: Women’s Retreat sermon

St. John’s Women’s Retreat at Mercy Center

Nov. 17-19, 2017    

 2 Peter 1:3-11, Psalm 23, John 10:7-10

We have certainly been blessed this weekend! Here in this beautiful place with our sisters around us. Getting to know each other and deepening our spirituality together. It has been a grace-filled weekend.  We are coming to know the meaning of abundance—not as the world understands it, but as the kingdom of God breaks through into the world and teaches us:

Abundance of life

Abundance of grace

Abundance of faith.

God gives us the abundance of his love and mercy. Where the world’s abundance is finite, God’s abundance is infinite. The things of the world do not satisfy. The things of God do satisfy. The abundance of God fills us and keeps filling us until we want for nothing. We are the Lord’s sheep and God is our shepherd. Our theme for the weekend was taken from Jesus’ discourses on being the Good Shepherd and laying down his life for his flock. He gives eternal life to his sheep, and they will never perish. This is life abundant and eternal. No one will snatch us out of God’s hand.

That is abundance of life.

 God breaks into our lives with blessings everyday. Sometimes we can see them and sometimes we only reflect on them in hindsight.  Blessings can be large or small.

I used to belong to a spiritual support group that would meet once a week. We had a little agenda to keep us on task and help us focus our minds on spiritual growth. One of the questions it asked was, “What was your moment closest to Christ this last week?” Answers would vary, from being in nature to receiving communion. But they all had something in common: they were moments when God broke through the mundane world and touched our lives. And this happened more than once a week. Truly, it happens daily if we have eyes to see it. The kingdom of heaven draws close and touches us. We have to recognize it and see God in it.

This is the abundance of grace. It requires some work on our part because we have to be open to seeing God’s hand at work in the world about us. Abundance of faith is harder because we are to work out our faith and salvation ourselves. Abundant life is a gift, abundant grace needs to be seen and experienced. Abundant faith requires work. This what Peter maps out for us in our reading yesterday and today. We must support our faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love.

What a list!

This is what we strive for. Each supports the other—love supports mutual affection, affection supports godliness and godliness so on. So our bedrock is love. Love for God and love for each other. Paul’s beautiful discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 is sandwiched between 1 Cor.12, which talks about the Body of Christ and 1 Cor.14. which is about how to run the church. Not for nothing is a discourse on love stuck in the middle of how to live as the Body of Christ and how to get along in mutual affection for each other.

 Love of God supports love of neighbor—you can’t love God and hate your neighbor. Or worse, not care about your neighbor. Love of God draws us into mutual affection for each other. Mutual affection sustains godliness; godliness sustains endurance. Our piety and prayers are not to cease or flag. They are to endure. And for something to endure like that we must have self control. Self control supports knowledge which we thirst after. I know you thirst after it because so many of you belong to Bible Studies and you came on this retreat.

All of these make goodness possible and all of them together support faith. You don’t have one without getting the others unless you try not to—they have a cascading effect. Starting with love they lead you to faith. That is abundance of faith. It does require work on our part, learning and praying and self control. But it is all founded on love which God has put in our hearts. It is love which Christ our Good Shepherd showed us when he died and rose again. It is love that sent the Holy Spirit, the comforter to us to lead and guide us. It is the abundance of love that wins us to Christ. It is his self giving love that starts us on our way through all Christian virtues and faith. It is that abundance, poured into our hearts, that draws us to God and neighbor. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” This is a promise given to us and it is a promise fulfilled in our lives as we look for it in life, grace, and love. Christ died and rose again so that we could claim this promise.

Let us with joy look for our abundant life in God and in Christ Jesus and give thanks to God for the marvelous promises he gives us.