Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sermon 18 June: How Long O Lord?

Psalm 13 
John 6:35-40

How Long?
Sometimes life and liturgy come together in beautiful synergy – the readings of the day fit perfectly with the events in the world that week.
This is one of those weeks as the country joined together in sorrow and lament over the horrific events in London. Not terrorism this time, but nonetheless terrifying.
You may remember the disaster movie from the 1970s – Towering Inferno? In the movie they were able to rescue most of those trapped in the tower block from the roof; and extinguished the fire by blowing up the water towers on the roof and flooding the building with water.
Sadly, truth is more brutal than fiction; the fire raged too quickly, too fiercely; it was night; there was conflicting advice; and as a result many people perished – and many more lost everything.
Those who lived in Grenfell Tower, and those who live in similar dwellings are raising their voices to cry out: How Long?
How many more tragedies must happen before the rules on high rise properties are changed?
How much longer, must those who are poor, continue to live in unsafe properties?
How long will it be?
The Psalm asks God for answers: how long must we wait? How long will we feel alone? How long must we watch as innocent lives are taken? And not only asking those questions – but daring to give God an ultimatum: “Look at me!! answer me!!! Otherwise I will just give up”.
The Psalms! In them there is always an answer to our deepest longings.

The psalm speaks into the questions that are being asked not only by the survivors, the bereaved, the other residents in similar places, but also by others who see the injustice and inequality so obvious in the stark contrast between the wealth of Kensington when compared with the abject poverty of high rise living.
The Psalm is coupled with a short reading from St John’s Gospel: Jesus’ assertion of his mission and God’s promise: that Jesus’ followers will be raised up on the last day; the promise that all who call on the Son will receive eternal life.

Somehow though, even when the readings fit so perfectly the mood and the events of a week, it is still hard to find what to say; how to speak; how to bring hope into a hopeless situation.
So, I offer this: in every time of horror or tragedy; of fear or distress; in each moment that hope seems to be utterly unreachable, there are the helpers.
There are always, helpers.
Good, good people prepared to offer of themselves.
In every time of disaster, when the death toll rises, there are glimpses of goodness; heroes who may not save everyone, but can save someone.
Firefighters entered and re-entered the burning building, to bring more than 60 people to safety.
A man caught a baby dropped from a 5th floor window by a distraught mother; I believe the baby survived.
Within hours people who lived in the area poured in, donating clothes, shoes, bedding, food, water, bringing phone chargers, offering support weeping, sharing, praying together.
Even in the worst tragedy, people help.
They don’t choose to help one over another, they simply come together and help, whatever, wherever, however they can.
The gospel reading today reminds us: “(God)’s will is that Jesus shall raise up all he has been given; that those who see the Son and call on his name shall have eternal life.”

There is no qualifier there; no conditions placed. It is simple.
Call on his name – and God will hear you.
Call on his name and Jesus will welcome you
Call on his name – know that God is waiting always

Life is not perfect;
Life does not always go the way we hope
Life is not always pretty or predictable
Life is full of everything: good and bad; light and dark; happy and sad; we cannot predict how it will go, but we can choose to be positive, to be hopeful, to be loving and kind and to care for others.
All others.
No matter where they come from or who they are.
For they are all God’s children.
How long O God?
How long must we wait for you?
Make us content with the question, knowing that when we rely on you; when we praise you; when we turn to you – you O God are there, always and forever.
Beach at Lossiemouth - JRen2009

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Stand up! Speak out! Pentecost Sermon 2017

Stand up. Speak out.
“the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2:4)
“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)

The Spirit enables them…
The gifts of the Spirit are:
Self control
We live in times that are not always kind, not always loving; not always self controlled
We are living through days when generosity seems far away
When peace feels a distant memory
When joy is tinged with sadness
When patience has worn thin

We are living through strange and terrible times.

And yet.
I am old enough to remember similar days in the 1970s.
Others here are old enough to remember uncertainty in the 1960s
Or the fear of the 1950s
And the horror of world war in the 30s and 40s…

Just because this feels new; feels personal; feels immediate – we also need to remember that as the old teacher wrote – there is nothing new under the sun.

2000 or so years ago the disciples gathered together, fearful, afraid, paralysed with grief and unable to move outside their tight, familiar circle.
Even though they have seen Jesus – know God’s power has overcome evil; that life is there for the taking – they are still afraid.

A rushing wind
A sensation of God’s presence
And the rush of joy that exploded over them as the Spirit came to do her work.

And suddenly -  the Spirit enabled them to speak
And they were filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

And then everything was fine
And they all lived happily ever after…
Except of course it wasn’t and they didn’t.
Not in the simplistic, safe, fairy tale way at least.

God is not a fairy tale!!
God is all seeing; all powerful; ever present
Our advocate
Our strength
Our power
Our friend
Our comforter
Our everything.

The world may seem mad
Those who seek to wreak havoc – an unseen enemy, may seem overwhelming and unassailable.
Yet, with God, nothing is impossible.
The fruits of the Spirit remind us, again and again, we have hidden reserves; unlimited reserves; holy reserves.
And, "no matter what" we can prevail.
God is good, no matter what.
We are God's children, no matter what.
Love will conquer madness, no matter what.
The coming of the Holy Spirit was a fulfilment of God’s promise; of Jesus’ promise.
The coming of the Holy Spirit heralded a new era – an era that continues to this day
God is with us, no matter what.
The Spirit came, and all God’s People received her power – the were moved to stand up. To speak out. No matter what.
The Spirit brought an infinite supply of
The gifts of the Spirit are:
Self control
Ours for the taking
Ours for the using

Ours – no matter what