Saturday 6 October 2012

James 3 v.13 - 4 v 7

I heard a sermon preached by the Vicar of Christ Church, Kowloon, Hong Kong, which I thought was so relevant to present day events, and so worthy of wider circulation. With his kind permission I am using much of what he preached as my offering sermon for this week. It is not word for word as he stated, for I have added some comment of my own and I take responsibility for all quoted here.

The question is often asked if it is right for a Christian to be ambitious. In some Christian circles ambition is frowned upon as it is considered contrary to being humble and meek, rather as being aggressive. There is however the danger of being passively aggressive by appearing to be humble whilst pursuing clearly defined goals. The Charles Dickens character Uriah Heep for instance.

We also see such false humility by clergy within the Church of England, At present the Church is seeking to appoint a new Archbishop of Canterbury and there are some men who dearly want the post but don’t want to be seen to be doing so. The Archbishop of York very much appears to want it and is open about it. It is almost a guarantee that the appointed one will say what a surprise and honour it is but before accepting it was necessary for him to pray and consider if he should accept. He would gain far more respect if he would state he was going to celebrate with champagne and rejoice.

Deep seated ambitions can be maintained deep below the surface no matter how humble a person may act and this is true inside and outside the Church, pretending and scheming. Some people are openly ambitions and make no pretence about it. There was a movie titled ‘Wall Street’ where the main character saw greed as good.

There is no more open career ambition than is seen in politics. In America the two candidates for the Presidency are fighting for all they are worth for the job. Some see democracy as a panacea and compare other countries less favourably. Anyone who lives in Britain should know better. We see politicians desperate for power and often they are those lacking totally in talent, experience, or ability and are famous just for being well known.

A study of the two party conferences will have seen all sorts of promises being made for the future, especially at the last one, when the speakers must know they are neither feasible, nor would be allowed by their backers. The Conservative leadership desperately sought votes on the basis of traditional Conservative values and ideals, yet because the leader feels he can look more socially friendly, abandons those ideals on a whim, without consent from supporters.

The young want to be celebrities, footballers or footballer’s girl friends, or winning the X factor competition. Bars around the country are filled with girls seeking a footballer so as to become famous. Reality television has made stars of people out of relative obscurity.

Children have careers picked for them not for suitable aptitude but rather because it may lead to status and wealth and power. Envy and ambition can lead eventually to all kinds of wickedness. We see this in today’s society where people are pursuing their own goals irrespective of the effect they may make on others. Envy and jealousy lead to darkness and darkness.

Good ambition is not built on envy and selfishness and avoids pretence and hypocrisy with a lust for money and power. The biblical ambition encourages the use of talents as Jesus told in the parable of the talents where the Master praised those who had increased the money entrusted to them and rebuked the one who had not.

Those who are sincere in ambition can be recognised by their trying to doing their best, making the most of their talent without seeking power or money. The Olympic ideal was once the honour and privilege of taking part and the only goal was their own goal. Now the eye is often on a sponsorship deal, which is the accepted thing. It was noticeable when Usain Bolt, and mainly American athletes, were seen and heard offering praise and thanks to God before and/or after, the media in this country gave at least little or scant report. The aim should be of making most of our talents, using our gifts and fulfilling our potential and offering our gifts to God.

When Jesus was making His final journey to Jerusalem His disciples knew something was about to happen and had heard Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God. They were arguing as to who would be the greatest and have the best position in the Kingdom. Jesus knew what they were talking about and told them whoever wanted to be the greatest had to be the servant. Jesus said He had come to serve not be served and to offer Himself as a ransom for many.

Christian ambition is to renounce the world’s standards and to refuse to be envious, making

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