Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sermon for November 1st - A Promise for all God's People

Acts 2:38-39
Mark 10:13-16

Promises, promises – some promises we can trust; others we are not so sure about. What about those promises we have heard today?
From our readings:
“God's promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away”
“The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these”
And from the baptismal liturgy:
“All this he did for you, Rachel though you do not know it yet”
The phrases that stand out for me here are
You and your children
All who are far away
And, though you do not know it yet….

The promises of God are not tied to knowledge or understanding – they are there anyway
The promises of God are not reliant on us doing anything, or being anyone – they are for all the people, all the time.
Making a family; joining a fellowship; being part of something, belonging… all of these things are elements of the Christian Church; and reading the stories and memories recorded in the New Testament writing reminds us of the real meaning of following Jesus, of being the church – because, in the words of the hymn: the church is not a building or a steeple, the church is the people!

And ALL the people: children and adults; teens and the elderly; all are needed, all are welcome, all are part of what makes the church.

How does this work today, in the 21st Century, when society is busy; work happens 7 days a week; sport is considered more important than worshipping God; and world religions seem to be adopting extreme behaviours? How does all of that fit together with being church?
How can we live well; love our families; do the best for them and somehow honour that sense of otherness? That vague inclination that there must be something else, there must be more purpose to life that simply live until you die and that’s the end?
It will not have escaped your notice that yesterday was Hallowe’en and today is November 1st… do you also know what this day is called? It is All Saints Day. The tradition of Hallowe’en is ancient, and is actually not about witches and ghosts and ghouls, but about preparing for the Holy Day that follows.
All Saints used to be called All Hallows – All Holy; and Hallowe’en, is Hallowed Eve (like Christmas Eve?!)  Hallowe'en was traditionally a time when people chased away all the evil spirits so that the next day - All Saints - dawns bright and clear and hopeful.
It was a holy day, a day to go to church and remember the saints; November became a month to remember all those who have gone before: the cloud of witnesses who died in faith and were gathered into heaven… and there we have it! Heaven!
Historically the majority of people believed utterly that this life was just one chapter; that there was more; that we would ultimately be reunited with our loved ones in heaven. Nowadays, people are not so sure; there are those who believe it absolutely and those who deny it equally vehemently and then there are all the others who simply do not know.
Truth is, we do not much think about death and dying until we have to: We do not think about what we want, by way of expressing end of life wishes… or what we wish for our loved ones, or how we want to say goodbye… but, sure as we are born, one day we will have to address these things
Now – before you begin to think this joyful occasion has turned into a depressing exercise in thinking about death and dying let’s go back to those promises…
“God's promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away”
“The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these”
And from the baptismal liturgy:
“All this he did for you, Rachel though you do not know it yet”

What is God’s promise?
That we will receive the Holy Spirit in our lives
That God will prepare a place for those who love him
That God’s kingdom is for everyone – those close by and those far away.
That gives me hope!
God’s kingdom is for everyone
Not some elitist place for the chosen few, but for everyone.
All God’s People
If we can manage to trust this promise, even if we do not have all the answers or understanding to carry it right through, we can have hope.
You may not have an active faith; you may only come to church for holidays and special occasions; you may even have more questions than you dare to ask – but that’s ok.

That is OK!
One of the greatest mysteries of faith and life and living is trying to understand God.
To know God.
Jesus told the people who were trying very hard to be proper and grown up and exclusive, to stop!
Let the children come, he said, let the children come.
Receive the Kingdom of God like a child, or you’ll never get there.
I love that!
Receive the Kingdom of God like child… it’s not complicated; it’s not a trick; you don’t have to be clever, or rich, or powerful, or understand it all – you just have to be like a child
The Kingdom belongs to such as these: the ones who can enjoy life and live it; the ones who offer friendship and love, and can equally accept it too.

God wants us to know God
If you want to come to church – great!
If you find God in the countryside, or through caring behaviours – wonderful!
If you haven’t yet found God, but you are still looking – keep it up!
This is all God asks of us: to seek, to be kind and compassionate and to listen because God will be heard and seen and found in the most unlikely places

If we just allow it to happen….  

Big Sister

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