Sermon: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (B) – 26th July 2015

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping  7am, 8am and 10am

Readings:   2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21

One of my hobbies is going to the movies. Some films have the ability to transport you to a whole new place – a whole new world – even if it is Mad Max – Fury road. But in a concentrated time span you can experience so much, you can learn so much and hopefully feel you got your money’s worth. It doesn’t always happen. But it is good when it does.

But this is also what we find when we come to John’s gospel. Using just a few word pictures John tells us so much. With the confirmees the other week we looked at John 3 where Jesus was explaining his mission. Then suddenly Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so the Son of Man will be lifted up.” And there in a few words we have that wonderful story from Numbers 21 of Moses rescuing the Israelites, and Jesus used that as a metaphor for his work of atonement on the cross. All of this in just a few words. And all of this fits into Jesus big task of explaining to Israel who he is and why he has come.

Over and over we see Jesus taking us back to the Old Testament and repeating the miracles we see there. This is how Jesus demonstrates in a practical way that he truly is the Son of God. He behaves like God behaves. In his actions he bears the family likeness. We mustn’t conclude that the actions of Jesus are purely arbitrary. They are to convince us that Jesus truly is God’s Son, that he truly is the promised Messiah.

So we come to our reading today. Jesus had been preaching by the Lake of Galilee. A large crowd had come to hear him and particularly they had come because of the miracles. John adds that this is around the time of the Passover. Passover, of course, was the most important date in the Jewish calendar. Three times in John’s gospel John tells us that the events that took place occurred at the time of the Passover. John’s point is that these events have a particular significance in the life of Jesus.

The first time this happens was when Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of John’s gospel. John is making the point that what Jesus was doing was a significant act of the Messiah – symbolic of re-establishing true worship in Jerusalem. The second time is in today’s reading with the feeding of the five thousand. The third time is when Jesus arrived at Jerusalem for his arrest and trial and crucifixion. The Passover acts as a marker so that we will take particular attention of Jesus’ behaviour at the time of each Passover.

So here we have a large crowd who had gathered to hear the teaching of Jesus. But it was in an isolated place – far from any villages. It was the end of the day and people were hungry. Jesus’ disciples had been through the crowd searching for food and all they came up with was five barley loaves and two fish. Recent scholars have tried to argue away this miracle by claiming that when the boy offered his food he shamed the crowd and they than brought out the food they were secretly carrying.

Well that argument doesn’t fit the facts. The disciples had already been through the crowds searching for some food. No doubt their hunger was a greater motivation to find food than these scholars desire to argue away a miracle of Jesus.

So what they had was five barley loaves and two fish. This was not good. The kind of food described here was not appetising. We mustn’t think of soft fresh, crusty loaves. This type of bread was tough and hard – the kind of bread you could break your teeth on. This kind of bread could last for many days – bouncing about in the bottom of your pocket and it would never go off. The fish was dried fish – again, the kind of fish that could last for many days. It too, was tough and dry and almost tasteless. This was all Jesus had for a crowd of Five Thousand. No wonder the disciples were anxious. What could they do now? What they had found was virtually useless.

Then notice how John describes this miracle. Notice the detail.Jesus had the people sit down. He gave thanks for the barley loaves and then distributed them among the people. Then he did the same with the dried fish. Then two comments are made. The people were permitted to eat as much as they wanted. Then it says, they ate until they were satisfied. They ate until they were satisfied. Then to underline the point. They gathered up twelve baskets of left-overs. This was no small meal. It is a picture of an abundance of food. Five thousand people. Each one eating as much as they wanted. Each one eating until they were satisfied. And then there were a stack of left overs. And notice the number – 12. Twelve tribes of Israel. 12 Disciples. 12 baskets of left-overs.12 indicates completion, the full compliment.

These events in themselves are symbolic of enough. But no one on that day would have missed the deeper significance of the event. Moses had fed Israel with the bread from heaven. Here was Jesus repeating that same miracle . That is why for the next few chapters, the teaching is all about the true bread that comes down from heaven for the salvation of the world.

And notice how this section ends. The crowds understood what was going on and it is no wonder they responded the way they did. Jesus had to withdraw quickly because the crowd were about to seize him and make him king. He had revealed his glory to the crowd through this miracle -he revealed his Messiahship so it was not surprising they wanted to make him king.

And then we have our second story. The disciples left Jesus and they travelled by boat across the lake towards Capernaum. But the worst of storms blew up – the kind of storm this lake was famous for. They had been rowing and rowing in a desperate attempt to get across. And then to make matters worse they began to hallucinate – at least they thought they were. They could clearly see the form of Jesus walking across the water, through the storm towards their boat. No doubt they thought they were seeing ghosts who would take them to their watery grave – they were terrified.

And then they heard a voice across the water. “Its me! Don’t be afraid.” They took him into the boat and almost immediately they were at their destination. Again, this miracle takes back to the days of Moses when Moses led all Israel through the waters of the Red Sea to safety on the other side. This was a story of rescue, where God was taking Israel out of slavery into the promised land.

Jesus time was limited. He had a big story to tell. He had to get across to Israel that he was more than a teacher, he was more than a prophet. These two miracles are intended to show us quickly who Jesus truly is so that we come to the right conclusions about him.

And these miracles work in the same way today. When we share the message of Jesus what are we trying to tell people – that Jesus was a good man? That his message of loving your neighbour is a good one? That Jesus gives us good advice about how to live the good life. Sure, he can do all that for us but is that ever enough? Jesus message is the message of the Son of God coming into the world to defeat all that destroys and perverts our humanity and ultimately to destroy death itself. Who could possibly do all that but God alone? And that is what Jesus does for us in these miracles – he shows us he truly is the Son of God.

And that should be the impact upon us as we read these words. We come to church week by week. We read these stories and then we reflect upon them. And then we go home to live our lives and most of the time they are good times. But the day comes when everything falls apart, when the world we knew so well – disappears, when those things we were so sure of are no longer there. And it is at those times we really need a God who hears and understands us, a God of the impossible, a God who truly can defeat our great enemy – death itself. And as we read these stories of Jesus we see it is all there. The God we need, the God we long for has truly come into the world to do his work of rescue for each one of us.

 

Reverend Ross Weaver

 

Sermon: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (B) – 19th July 2015

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping  7am and 8am

Readings:   2 Samuel 7:1-14; Psalm 89:21-38; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Throughout the history of the church there has always been a strong link between the church and healing. The hospital movement we know today grew out of the churches’ practice of offering hospitality to travellers and strangers looking for shelter and asylum. And that tradition goes all the way back to Jesus himself. Jesus was well known as a healer and we see that in our gospel reading today that wherever Jesus went the crowds gathered around him and demanded healing.

We need to remember that this was an age where medicine was fairly primitive. Much medical practice seemed closer to the dark arts. It was for a good reason that Hippocrates included in his oath a promise to do no harm, such was the state of primitive medicine.

Consequently, chronic disease was everywhere. Go to any third world country today and one of the first impressions you get is how sick the people are. That was life in Jesus’ day. Sickness was the common experience of men and women. All sorts of techniques were tried to attempt a cure but rarely were they effective. Good health is our normal experience of life. But we live in a unique age. This is not the normal experience of human kind throughout the ages.

So you can imagine the impact of the arrival of a healer who could actually make people better. Not only that, we have recorded for us healings that even today cannot be achieved. The lame walk, the deaf hear, the blind receive their sight. We are not told of Jesus curing the common cold, or reducing someone’s back pain even though those would be nice. Each gospel writer goes out of their way to record for us healings that are extraordinary by any standards.

Jesus goes into the Synagogue and there is a man with a withered arm. “Stretch it out!” says Jesus. Stretching it out is the one thing this man had been trying to do all of his life. Of all people he knew stretching it out was the one thing he could not do. And yet, in obedience to Jesus’ command he stretched it out and he was healed – he was made whole.

Scholars normally attribute the events in today’s gospel reading with the first year of Jesus’ ministry which they call the year of Jesus’ popularity. We have two pictures of Jesus here. The first is of Jesus the teacher with large crowds coming to hear what he had to say. His teaching was nothing like what they had heard before – what was being discussed in the synagogues.

The second is Jesus the healer as large crowds gathered to bring to him all who were unwell. In each picture we can assume the people were gathering in their thousands. But notice, those who put this lectionary together have left out the middle of this chapter. They have left out two other miracles of Jesus – the feeding of the five thousand and the story of Jesus walking on the water. Now this is where the modern thinker wants to part company with Jesus. We have the two sides of Jesus – the teacher and the miracle worker. People like some of Jesus’ teaching and are prepared to accept that. But they draw the line at the miracles. Rationalism just wont let them go there. How could Jesus heal the blind and the lame? How could Jesus feed five thousand? How could he walk on water? There is no rational answer to that.

Some have responded to this dilemma by attempting to remove the miraculous from the Bible in an attempt to find the historical Jesus but when you do that the whole story collapses. None of it makes any sense.

We also need to consider that the teaching of Jesus is so integrated into the healing of Jesus. Jesus’ message is the message of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the restoration of all creation. And that it demonstrated for us by the rolling back of sickness and disease, the power over life and death and the climax of the story with Jesus’ own death and resurrection. If any miracle is irrational it is the miracle of rising from the dead. The miraculous is at the very heart of the Jesus story.

Or we could consider how this chapter is constructed. Our reading begins with the crowds coming to Jesus to hear more of his teaching. The chapter goes on with the dilemma of how to feed all of these people which is solved with the feeding miracle, and then Jesus escapes their presence and we have him walking on the water and then we return to our reading with the crowds demanding more healing. Mark overlaps event after event, never drawing a line between the teaching and the healing. It is all part of the one package.

All of these events take us beyond the realm of the rational and we are challenged by that. But that is the nature of the story of Jesus. It is the story of the creator of the universe becoming a part of his own creation. This is the incarnation, the message of God in the flesh. This is not a rational argument. But it all depends upon our starting point. If we are not convinced there is a God of the universe then nothing of the message of Jesus will help us. However, if we are prepared to keep an open mind then the message of Jesus follows its own logic. If Jesus is the son of God then we would expect him to do the miraculous. If he is the creator of the universe then it makes sense he could heal the eyes of the blind man. If he is the origin of life itself then we are not surprised he can bring back to life a twelve year old girl who has died.

But our own Christian living also has its own irrational elements. When we go to prayer it is an activity that cannot be proved in any scientific sense. It is a belief that there is a God out there who hears our prayers and who in his own unique and enigmatic ways answers our prayers.

This has always been an area of tension for me between me and God. There have been times of crisis in my life when I have prayed to God with an overwhelming sense of knowing what I think the answer to my prayer should be. So I have prayed not only for God to answer my prayer but to answer it in the very specific way I think it should be answered. I have spelt it out to him. I have made it plain. I thought my solutions were good ones. Yet at no time have my prayers have ever been answered in the ways I specified – not once.I have been very disappointed with that. I have felt that God has not listened to me. That God was ignoring me. And yet the outcome has been very different. In each of those cases if God had answered those prayers in the ways I outlined it would have been a disaster. Without fail, it would have been awful. To rub it in, in each of those cases the actual answer to my prayer was much better than anything I could have thought of or anticipated. Prayer is an irrational thing and I am not very good at it. One great theologian once said he couldn’t explain prayer at all, all he knew was that things were better when he did it. Things happened when he did it. And that was all he could say.

We can feel embarrassed when we read stories of Jesus that don’t seem scientific, don’t seem rational, but it is not a criterion we apply to every area of our lives. Marriage is not based on rational thought. We don’t make our friends that way either. The message of the Jesus is the message of God’s love for our broken and lost world. It is the message of God sending his son into the world to draw it back to himself, to rebuild it, to renew it. It is the message of Jesus who sees the crowd who appear to be lost and he responds with compassion for them. It is Jesus who sees the sick and the lame and responds with healing for each one.

Perhaps this is why we can find it difficult to speak about our faith because it is so personal, it touches upon the intimate – God’s love and our love for him.

So our reading today tells of two crowds, each one rushing to Jesus, one group longing to hear his teaching and the other to receive his healing. Each group in their own way was expressing their faith in him, trusting he had the words of eternal life, trusting he could relieve their suffering and pain. And he did. This is the God of love, who reveals himself to each of us in these ancient stories, who reveals himself to us through our prayers, and who comes to us each day by his spirit.

Reverend Ross Weaver

Sermon: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (B) – 19th July 2015

St Aidan’s Anglican Church, West Epping  8.30am

Readings:   2 Samuel 7:1-14; Psalm 89:21-38; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-56

“BUILDING THE HOUSE OF GOD”

A few days ago, Sarah and I returned from a wonderful five weeks in Europe: we sailed down the Rhine and Danube from Amsterdam to Budapest, we spent a week in the ecumenical community of Taizé in France, and we enjoyed a week exploring the beauty of Provence.

It will not surprise you that we visited a number of churches and cathedrals. Many of them were vast and imposing, most of them were beautiful and inspiring, quite a few were over-the-top in their decoration! We saw grand altars and reredoses, statues and carvings, paintings, mosaics and frescos. We saw amazing stonework and marble, jewels and gold. Often I was drawn to the beauty and splendor; sometimes I saw something that surprised and interested me, presented in an unexpected way; and on occasion, I was challenged about whether God was truly pleased and honoured by the amount of money and resources that must have been spent in making the places so spectacular.

We know that often there were mixed reasons for making these buildings so huge and impressive. Sometimes it was to give status to a city or to establish the standing of the local nobles. Sometimes it was to keep the local people humble: for often these buildings had an educative purpose, in days when very few people could read. The stained glass and frescos told people or reminded them of the stories of the Bible or of the saints of old.

And I was struck when a guide explained that the spectacular use of gold and marble and precious stones in a particular abbey was meant to point people to the glories of heaven. Life on earth was tough, but when you came to church you were reminded that God’s kingdom is beautiful and glorious.

Was it all worth it? When vast amounts of money were spent, money which might have made the lives of people much better had it been spent in helping the needy, was this pleasing to God? When taxes were levied or great demands were made on ordinary people to build something unnecessarily huge or expensive, was this what God wanted?

Could it perhaps be said that the generation of work, and therefore income, for the large numbers of people who were employed in building these great edifices made it worthwhile?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, although some things don’t seem to change: I have no doubt that the grand and beautiful church of my previous parish was deliberately planned to dwarf its two neighbouring churches. I also remember the challenge of fund-raising to cover costs of maintaining this wonderful building, which was at risk of collapsing if expensive work was not carried out. By comparison, St.Aidan’s is not a grand church building, but with its simplicity and beautiful features, it is a lovely place to gather for worship with a congregation of our size.

In our reading from 2 Samuel, King David wanted to build a house of God, a temple. He was settled in Jerusalem, and had built himself a substantial palace. It seemed wrong that the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence with his people, was still located in a mere tent. How could God be glorified by that? Surely it sent the wrong message to the people of Israel, not to mention the nations beyond.

It seemed right to build a temple for the Lord: even Nathan the prophet thought so, until he got a new message from the Lord. No! said God. This was not a task for David to carry out. God had travelled from Egypt to Canaan symbolically in a tent with his people, and things had continued that way during the time of Joshua and the Judges and even King Saul. The Lord did not actually need more than that! The tabernacle or tent reminded people that he is a God who is not to be tied down to one place: a God who is on the move. He doesn’t actually need a grand house.

However, says God, a temple will be built for him. David’s son Solomon will do this, not David himself. In fact, God will build a house for David: he will build not just a family for him, but a dynasty. This family will last. The dynasty would in fact last for 400 years, until the leadership became so corrupt and the people so far away from God’s ways, that judgement in the form of exile became necessary.

In fact, when a temple was built, it was not all good. People thought that God was only to be found there. They became superstitious about the power of the temple. They took for granted that because of the temple, God would always look after Jerusalem, no matter how disobedient they were to his laws. And when exile came, they assumed that God was no longer with them, because they were far from Jerusalem and its destroyed temple. Even today, people can have superstitious attitudes towards church buildings, as if they are some sort of container for God!

During and after the time of exile, there was no longer a functioning king of Israel. Furthermore, the temple of Solomon was a pile of rubble. But it was not the end of the royal house of David: for 1000 years after David, a descendant of David was born in David’s own town of Bethlehem, a descendant called Jesus, who would be the new Messiah, the eternal king and Saviour of God’s people.

By the time of Jesus, a new magnificent temple was being built under King Herod, whose motives were certainly questionable. Jesus himself does not seem to have been over-impressed by this new temple. He was angry about many of the commercial and indeed questionable activities which took place there, and he warned that the temple itself would have a limited life before it became once again a heap of rubble. This happened in AD70, when the Romans, sick of Jewish resistance and rebellion, overran Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.

The temple expressed the presence of God amongst his people, but now in the person of Jesus, God had come in a new way. Jesus himself indicated that he was in a real way God’s temple, fully expressing the reality of God’s presence with his people. And when people had crucified Jesus, apparently disproving his outrageous claims, Jesus rose again, conquering death and bringing new life to his people. Furthermore, he made it clear that God was to be found in his people, through the Holy Spirit, and amongst his people when they gathered in his name, even if it was only two or three of them.

God’s presence doesn’t depend on any particular building: it is based on the promises of Christ, whom we trust and follow. He is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit as we live and follow Jesus day by day. But he is also with us in a special way as we gather for worship and as we pray together in his name.

Church buildings have their value: they provide us with special places where people can focus on the presence of God, particularly as we worship and pray. But as it has been said, their value is ultimately to keep out the rain when we gather together. God doesn’t need churches, but we can find them very helpful indeed as we gather for worship. And of course we do appreciate our churches in this parish, and indeed we rightly appreciate all that points us to the beauty of holiness.

But ultimately we find the presence of God, not necessarily in church buildings, but in the one who is building his temple, and calls us to be stones within his eternal temple, written about by Paul in our reading from Ephesians: the community of followers of Jesus Christ, from all backgrounds and classes, male and female, slave and free, with all our different personalities and stories and insights. Christ brings us together in his eternal presence and into his kingdom of glory, where no longer will we need to imagine that glory or to picture it, for we shall see him face to face in all his wonder and love. Amen.

Reverend Paul Weaver

Sermon: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (B) – 5th July 2015

End of the Ministry of the Reverend John Cornish

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping  9:30 am

Readings:   2 Samuel 5:1-15, 9-10;  Psalm 48;  2 Corinthians 12:2-10;  Mark 6:1-13

I have come to the end of my time here. It has been good for me, I hope for you too, and now it is time for us all to move on into the next part of our life journeys into God’s closer presence. This mornings reading are helpful for all of us as we plot the next step in our journeys.

In the first reading we hear of the appointing David as the new king after King Saul. David, as we know, was not perfect. He was a hero, a great king, a distant relative of Jesus, but just the same he had many dropped stitches in the fabric of his being. We all know his failings. He was just like all of us here. None of us are perfect. As you go about choosing your new rector and allowing him, I am sorry that he can’t be a her, my request of you is that you welcome him into this wonderful community in the manner that you have done for my family and me. Do not expect him to be anything other than a fellow child of God made of the same stuff as you and me.

David is appointed king, God’s king. This is God’s church and the new rector will be appointed by God to lead you into unknown territory through the agency of your nominators. His power as rector will be in shepherding and covenant making. As with David, the appointment of the next rector will be governed by his and your care and mutuality. From the 23rd Psalm to Jesus’ declaration of his own death, “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” the image of the shepherd has been a central expression of the church’s vision of leadership in the service of God’s kingdom.

Covenant has always been central to the proper understanding of Israel and the church. Leadership never functions apart from a mutual community of shared needs and responsibilities. This is the how the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, in this community and every Christian community, should function. The future of this parish community is in an intimate relationship between priest and people. It can be no other way.

At the heart of this morning’s Gospel passage is Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth, and his observation that “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house”. At issue here is another kind of question of power, weakness, and grace. By the time Jesus comes to Nazareth, he has acquired a growing reputation as an authoritative teacher and an effectual healer; many, many people in the region are moved by him and attracted to the Way he teaches. The next rector will come with a reputation.

Not everyone is so impressed by Jesus. Jesus’ own family are bemused by this sudden strange behaviour of their son and sibling, they think he’s gone out of his mind, and they try to get him to come home quietly and stop embarrassing them. The townsfolk who knew Jesus before his baptism and beginning of his public ministry have a similar reaction. “Where did this man get all this?” they say. “We know him,” they say, “We know his family, we know his origins, we know that he is one of us, not some prophet or healer or Messiah”. And, they take offense at him, as if they were saying, “Who does he think he is, passing himself off as some sort of teacher, as someone who is better than us?”

Instead of being welcomed as a “hometown boy made good”, they react to Jesus as a “hometown boy putting on airs”. They are so convinced that they already know everything about Jesus that is important to know, that they are incapable of recognizing in his “wisdom” and “mighty acts” the new thing that God is doing. They are so bound in the power of their preconceptions that they cannot admit to the seeming weakness of having something new to learn about Jesus, about God and about themselves.

In not admitting their weakness, they make themselves incapable of receiving the grace of God Jesus would share with them. Without accepting that you, collectively, do not have all the answers the ministry of the new rector will be hamstrung. You will also be hamstrung if he thinks that he has all the answers. He needs to be a person who is open to learn from you about what means to be a member of the body of Christ in this community.

Mark notes Jesus “could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them”. Only those who recognized the weakness of their sickness were able to set aside the power of pride and open themselves enough to receive creating and re-creating grace. New periods of ministry require everyone to be open to new ways of doing things. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways beyond our understanding.

Perhaps in response to this failure in Nazareth, Jesus now expands his mission, not only preaching by himself, but by sending the Twelve to proclaim his message and enact his mission. Like Jesus, the Twelve call people to repentance, metanoia, conversion, transformation. They demonstrate the reality of such transformation by casting out demons, unclean spirits, and allowing more wholesome spirits to enter the healed and make them strong. It is our calling wherever we are to be Jesus to those we meet.

As I said in my farewell Rector’s letter in the Parish Magazine, quoting Teresa of Avila,

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

 

Jesus also warns his disciples, and that includes us, that not all will accept our message and ministry. As Jesus faced personal rejection at Nazareth, so there are those who would reject the message on less personal grounds: Pharisees, scribes, Temple authorities, among others. Those so called experts who know the aims and ideals of God as already given in Torah and tradition. Those people who are so convinced of their knowledge that they cannot let themselves be “weak” enough to accept that God is doing something graciously new in the mission of Jesus and his disciples.

In your case it maybe your acceptance of difference. In my time here this has been an inclusive community. We may not agree with everyone and each other but we allow others to have a different point of view and that is very confronting to many people. The world views of these people are built on preconceived ideas and any difference can cause the fortress within which they live to crumble, or so they think.

Nevertheless, and though they and we are sometimes likely to be rejected, it is important that we do as Jesus does, embodying the aims and ideals of God as given them. The people to whom the Twelve and you go will know that God has been at work among you. Whether these people can have the responsive grace to admit their weakness and make room for God’s new thing will be up to them.

Prior to this story, in last weeks Gospel reading, Jesus had just come from such an event where people had grabbed at him, pushing and shoving to get closer, pulling his robe, wanting to just touch him. He was famous. One might wonder what would amaze Jesus? Every once in a while Jesus would marvel at someone’s simple act of faith. He went to his hometown synagogue on the Sabbath. Everyone would be gathered for worship that day of the week. He spoke to his hometown friends and neighbours in that congregation. He is amazed that his own people, those he grew up with and regularly enquired of Mary how her son was doing, eyed him now as a stranger. “Yes, it is him, but what arrogance to speak to us like this.”

Jesus taught in the synagogue and they were offended. He wonders out loud “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, among their own kin, and in their own house”. Yet, even in his own house, his brothers and sisters and his mother and father were baffled.

He was amazed that his own people choose to be offended because he was, shall we say, uppity? Familiarity breeds contempt in this case. They think that they know everything. They do not know everything about Jesus.

God does not know the future in the same way that God knows the past. The past is settled and the future is open. God provides possibilities to each unfolding event and then waits for the decisions we make and responds by offering more possibilities appropriate to the next unfolding moment. The future is radically open. If God was not involved in this way, then each event would simply repeat the previous event and there would be no change. Monotony would prevail. God provides truly new possibilities that, if chosen, lead to new outcomes and new exciting adventures, especially for this parish.

We see this divine behaviour many times in biblical stories. God responds to the characters in a dynamic give-and-take. Moses argued with God and got concessions. God is the only character in the Noah story that changes. If God’s power is expressed as creative and transformative, then the biblical stories become unpredictable.

This points to two aspects of God’s nature. There is one aspect of the divine nature that does not change. God’s power is creative transformation and will always be working in any and all events to creatively transform. God is always love. God always looks in love upon us and the rest of creation.

The other aspect of the divine nature is that God is continually making adjustments depending upon our decisions. In this way, God is dynamically involved with the unfolding of life, continually adjusting and responding to its unfolding by providing relevant possibilities to each moment.

God calls you and me out of our known present into an unknown future. God is the one who calls us into our own unknown future.

Be brave. Have courage and take that existential step into the wonderful future that confronts you. God will be there. Have no fear.

“Finally, brothers and sisters farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”[1]

(2 Corinthians 13:11-13)

[1] This sermon created using material from The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol II, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1998, and www.processandfaith.org/resources/lectionary-commentary/yearb prepared by Rick Marshall and Paul Namcarrow.

 

The Reverend John Cornish