by Rev Jacky Quarmby 29 October 2021
Reading: Genesis 4: 6 – 16
So the Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but God did not look with favour at Cain and his offering. And Cain was furious. He was the oldest son, how dare God look more favourably on his younger brother.
Mad with jealousy, Cain went out to the fields with his brother Abel and murdered him. And God said to Cain, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. So from this day, you will no longer work this land. Instead you will leave this place, your home, your family and become a restless wanderer on this earth.”
Cain was distraught. Cast out from his home, thrown off his land, without the protection of his family, what would he do? As a wanderer he would soon become easy prey to those who looked out for strangers to rob and kill.
But God said, “It will not happen. For I will protect you.” And God put a mark on Cain, so that no one who found him would kill him.
The mark of Cain is not a mark of punishment. It is actually a mark of God’s grace - God’s forgiveness. Even though Cain had murdered his brother, God still loved him. God had not abandoned him. God would protect him.
We talk about places or people being God-forsaken. But the truth is, that no one is forsaken by God. There is always a way back. The thief, the murderer, the drug pusher, the ruthless dictator - not one of them is beyond the forgiveness of God. Not one of them is beyond God’s amazing grace.
John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”, had been a slave trader in the 18th century. He had been one of those responsible for capturing, chaining and transporting black Africans from the West Coast of Africa to the West Indies, where they were forced to farm the lands, producing cotton, tobacco and sugar for the benefit of the British people. Thousands died horrific deaths crammed into the slave ships on their way to the West Indies and those that arrived faced a terrible existence, working long and hard at the mercy of their owners. It was the most horrific trade in human life and John Newton profited from it. Surely there was no way back for John Newton?
And yet one day God revealed to John Newton, the wickedness of his actions and offered him a new start. In response, John Newton wrote the words, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Even a slave trader, who had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Africans - and the brutal treatment of thousands more. Even he, was not beyond the love, the grace, the forgiveness of God. God changed his life. John Newton became an Anglican minister and for the rest of his life campaigned vigorously against the Slave Trade.
God’s Amazing Grace! Cain experienced it. John Newton experienced it. The thief who hung on the cross beside Jesus experienced it, when Jesus said to him, "Today you will be with me in paradise.”
And we can experience it too. We are never forsaken by God.
Whatever we’ve done - there is always a way back.
Song: Here is love vast as the ocean
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We thank you that you are a God who forgives
We thank you that you are a God who is always waiting to welcome us back.
We thank you that not one person in this world has been forsaken by you.
Help us, we pray to become people made in your image
People who are willing to forgive others as you forgive us.
In Jesus name we pray,