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Description: Is our attitude towards people in the world that of 2nd class citizens rather than equal to us as redeemed in Christ?
Religious People and 2nd Class Citizens
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Those two lines in the Wesley hymn, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensively made man.”
That’s usually thought of as a mystery. How could you squeeze a whole infinite God into a little
baby like that? And many of us thought, “Yeah that is a mystery and it’s remarkable,” but of course
what we’ve been seeing is that that’s not half of it even.
The mystery is much deeper than that, and in a way you can find it back in Genesis if you look at
it. In Genesis 3:2 because that is where in a sense the mystery starts, here on earth. Genesis 3:2
and you remember it’s Eve speaking and she says, “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the
fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is
in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
And there is the mystery in that first sentence of Eve’s. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may
eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden,” and just briefly speaking that is free will. That God
said, “You can do what you want, you can do what you want.” But when you think of it for a moment
of course he knew what the trees were, and he knew there was a tree of good and evil, and it was his
will that we would know good by doing it, and we would know evil just as being the opposite of good.
But never the less he did say, “You can eat of even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,”
and I know it’s unthinkable to us, but it’s what God said.
“You may do evil if you want,” you may do evil if you want, and the mystery is that God foresaw the
evil that each of us would do, and that’s why he created us inside his own Son so that we wouldn’t
be lost even if we did it, and we wouldn’t destroy ourselves before we had a chance to know him. So
God foresaw everything. We have a friend whose daughter I believe it was, was married and had three
dear children and we used to hear about them, the funny things that they would do. Little Irish
children, and it was a very happy marriage, and then they decided they’d move to a different house
and so they found a house, and they made a deal on it, and they were planning to move in the next
day. And he came home and said, “I’m not going to move in with you, in fact I’m going to leave you.
I have a wife and a child on the other side of town, and I’m going to live with them.” And then the
lady discovered that he had another wife and child in England. God foresaw that, and that happened
inside his dear Son because it was as we said at the beginning of the service it was through Jesus
that everything was made, and without him was not anything made that was made. And then indeed in
Colossians it says that all things hold together inside Jesus, and so all that took place inside
Christ, and that is because our Father did not make us as we’ve often said, “Silly little animals or
little inanimate objects that he could play with, but he made us as part of his own Son, part of
Jesus, and he has not only foreseen everything that we would do, every action that we would take,
every person we would hurt, but he himself has taken the hurt, he has received the hurt in the other
person and even more than that he has been inside us bearing the strain of being forced to do
something that he didn’t want to do because we wanted to do it. And that’s the mystery that Christ
is in each one of us, and we are in him, and we are still in him, and he is still holding us within
himself and hugging us to his Father even as we do these things.”
And that is part of that mystery and of course the incredible thing is that in the midst of that God
himself has acted and he has neutralized the effects of our actions. Our actions would be far more
disastrous than they are, far more disastrous, there would be no world left if God had let us go on
with our actions, but he has born them in pain of those actions. That’s the sense in which he has
born our sins, he has actually born the pain and filtered through to us and to the people who suffer
the results of our actions, he has filtered through to them as much pain as they’re able to bear so
that there’s no trial come upon any of us of what we’re able to bear, but with the trial has come
even a way of deliverance that he himself has wrought inside his Son Jesus.
And so it begins to come home to you that of course Jesus was not just incarnate in 6 BC, Jesus was
incarnate when he was born of God, when he was begotten, he was begotten by his Father as humanity,
as all the human beings in the world, and so that’s when God became incarnate. I know it it’s
another part of the mystery, it’s almost bewildering to us how can God be God and yet be human as
well? But in Jesus that’s what he is, God is part of us, and we are part of him. And so that’s
part of the great mystery, and the other part is what I’ve begun to mention that God counteracted
all the actions and attitudes and the things that we have done through our lives, he counteracted
them in Jesus and that’s part of the meaning of that verse, God really commended his love towards us
and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and even when we were dead in our sins God
raised us up and made us alive together with Christ.
And so God counteracted all the actions of our attitudes and our lives in his Son Jesus, and made
them bearable by burying them himself, and so that’s all part of the mystery, and that’s what Paul
is saying, you remember in Ephesians if you look at it. That’s what he’s talking about when he
talks about this secret that was hidden because of course the Jews didn’t know that about the
Messiah they always thought of the Messiah as a national military leader who would lead them into
political freedom. They never saw him as someone who existed from the beginning of the world, and
in whom all men and women were created.
So that’s why Paul say’s in Ephesians 3:1, you remember, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for
Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that
was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written
briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not
made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles
and prophets by the Spirit; that is how the Gentiles,” you Gentiles, “Are fellow heirs,” it was not
just Jews that were in this Messiah, but you Gentiles were created in him all things were made
through him and without him was not anything was made. How the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members
of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, and that’s what we
caught up with last time here, last Sunday here in London. That all of us had been made in Jesus
and had been changed in Jesus, and had been lifted up and made part of God in Jesus, and so every
Gentile is in Christ even if he doesn’t know it.
Of course what we’ve finished saying was, every one of our customers is too. They are not second
class citizens, they’re not the non-Christians we witness to, they are people who are part of Christ
even though they don’t know it. And they are in him, and he is bearing them every day.
You know, when we meet somebody rather unpleasant not just with bad breath but somebody who swears
and is filled with anger or hatred we can separate ourselves from that little respite, move to the
next room or move to another table in the restaurant, but Christ can’t. He is stuck with it really
and so that’s part of the reality of it that God lives. We say, “You have to live with your
mistakes,” except that it wasn’t a mistake for him, he knew as he made us and gave us freedom of
will that he would have to live with that, and that’s some love really.
So we come to next verse in Ephesians 3 and Paul is going on and he says, “Of this gospel,” this is
the gospel that he’s just preached, that each one of us is just in Jesus and each one of us has been
born by him and made new in him. “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of
God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am very least of all
the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and
to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;”
and just as Paul said that about himself of course in a smaller infinitesimal way is true of us. Of
this gospel we have been made ministers according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to us
by the working of his power.
And I think I’ve said to you several times that we probably don’t realize the unbelievable
opportunity God has given us. I used to think I was saying to I think Marty the other day, I used
to think other people are going to see this, other people are going to do it, other people are going
express it. And I thought of course there are most people must or many people must see this. And
they will share it, and at last I’ve realized, no, no there are not many that seem to have seen it
and there are fewer that seem to share it and few have the unbelievable ability we have to share it
with the people who don’t for a moment suspect it, the people who don’t go to church, the people who
don’t want to be with religious people, the people who think it’s all foolishness. Those are the
people that God has called us to be ministers to, and he has fitted us for it.
There is just no other church that can buy space on the underground in London, I mean there are but
they don’t do it, and relatively few of them are capable of doing it. There just aren’t churches
that have people going around meeting ordinary people in everyday life as you are, the customers.
And so we may think, “Ah, were a pathetic little bunch, we are, we are a pathetic little bunch and
we’re a pitiful, pitifully small little bunch, but we are Gods little bunch, and he has given us the
opportunity to be the ministers of this gospel to people who do not know it.” And it’s to make
known a mystery that has been hidden from before the beginning of the world.
You know nobody really believes that, you know people don’t think, “Made in Jesus, in Jesus you mean
the Christ of God, you mean the Jesus that the Archbishop of Canterbury talks about? You mean the
one who we see in stain glass windows? Oh I’m part of him, Oh yeah, yeah I’m part him.” They know,
they’re sure that is somebody they aren’t part of they are absolutely sure of that. And you can see
the irony of it, that that’s the very person of whom they are part, they are part of Jesus and Jesus
bears their sin not only has born their sin but bears their sin moment by moment, and day by day.
And it’s him that they wonder at times, “Oh where did that come from? I didn’t know I had it in me,
Ah oh that was a nice thought,” and of course it’s Jesus within them that has produced that thought.
They wonder why they have a good time at times at Christmas, they wonder why they have this
generous feeling, why they somehow do feel loving towards everybody at Christmas, and that’s because
the baby’s inside them. But they don’t know that at all, and so that’s the gospel that God has
entrusted us with, and that’s what we have to do in every way we can on the old websites.
Every way we can do it, every image we can use, every different kind of language we can use, every
illustration we can get from movies, whatever we need to do we need to express that in a way that
enables people to see the wonder of it. You know it would transform. You can think of so many
pathetic things today I’m afraid, but do you remember the little guy, the little guy that fell off
the train and he was trying to get from France to England, you remember, and he was in that camp
that the French have for the immigrants.
And he was from somewhere Middle East, you remember, and got on the train, fell off it, you
remember. And was all shattered his face and everything and the other little guy that was with him
was called Mamoo and he was shattered too and I mean they were absolutely fell off the train when it
was going at 70 miles an hour and something like that. And they were just utterly wounded and
bleeding, and taken to the hospital, and one visited the other, you remember, the next day and the
fellow was all in bandages, and they had only met each other casually a week previously when they
were both running away, and one says to the other, “Mamoo, is that you?”
Couldn’t see him through the bandages whether it was him. And so that little guy was in Jesus,
hasn’t a clue, wouldn’t believe it for a moment. But what a change if he knew. What a change if he
knew reality, it’s not just if he knew, oh yeah if he thought like that it would be nice or if he
could imagine this how it would help him a lot. No, no he is in Jesus, Jesus knows him. He was
made in Jesus, Jesus bore every error that he ever committed. Jesus bore every insult that he has
ever been given, so he is in Jesus. What a change it would make, even if he was to die the next
minute, so that’s part of the mystery and part of the glory.
Of course it’s for us all pragmatic people, the purpose of it is a bit strange and then Paul comes
to that because we always think, oh yeah the purpose of this is so that the people will be happy, so
that Mamoo will be happy, and the purpose is to do each other good and to make the world a better
place. No, it isn’t, no. Verse 9, “And to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden
for ages in God who created all things;” why?
Verse 10, that the world may be a better place that we may be happier people, no. “That through the
church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the
heavenly places.” And in a way at first it seems very abstract and then it gradually brings you
freedom, because the purpose of it all is so that all the powers in heaven and earth will see the
kindly mercy of our Father.
As we see the body of Jesus, the church entering into the reality of all these things, as we see the
members of Jesus body the church coming against difficulties in their lives, and realizing this also
has been born by Jesus, has been overcome by him, and God my God foresaw this would happen to me.
So whether it’s a flat on the freeway or whether it’s cancer in the body, this has been overcome and
I am at peace and rest. Then the principalities and powers look down to see this cowering timid
little creature scared and fearful, and disappointed in the failure of Gods world and instead they
see this joyful person who is absolutely at peace, because they know the truth, that God foresaw all
these things and has solved them and has resolved them, and will bring them through into triumphant
and victorious life.
And that’s interesting isn’t it that that’s the purpose of it? The purpose of it is not primarily
earthly so that we’ll be happier people, or so that the world will be a better place. The purpose
is beyond that, it is to set forth the whole kindly mercy and foresight and graciousness of our
Father in making little human beings whom he let do whatever they wanted to do inside him and yet
bore it and endured it, and brought them through into victory despite it, and so that’s the purpose
It’s a purpose way beyond this world, it’s so that the church, Jesus body, will enter in this life
into the victory of that situation. And so really it happens every morning we waken up, and you
feel the pain in your right leg or you taste the taste in your mouth or you think of that person I
have to see today, or you think of that financial difficulty that you’re going to hit whether you
like it or not. And then at that moment you look up and you see, not only this too shall pass but
this has passed Lord. You have born this, and you have taken the sting out of it in Jesus, and you
have already foreseen the answer to this, and you have it for me and it will be an answer that will
It may not the answer that I want or that I think is necessary, but it will be the real answer that
you see is needed, and so Lord thank you. So let’s go and get it, and that’s it, and the
principalities and powers look down and see that, and glorify the Father. Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we thank you for being the God whose heart is most wonderfully kind. We thank you
father, that you feel everything, and not only feel it all, that because you have planned for us to
be your children. You have a work around for each situation, you have brought about a solution and
foreseen a deliverance in every situation so that instead of worrying and fretting we are able to
recline in your arms and rest in the certainty that our loving father is taking care of things.