Sermon 7th May 2017

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUNDAY 7th MAY 2017

Revd Andrea Price

Listen here: https://youtu.be/LhGIloJhYFs

 

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you our Lord and Saviour. Amen

 

Abbe Michel Quoist observed this little scene:

“The boy stumbled on the doorstep and the door slammed behind him.

He was punished.

Suddenly aware of his disgrace, he rushed in anger at the unfeeling door.

He slapped it, pounded it, stamping and shrieking.

But not a fibre moved on the wooden surface.

The boy caught sight of the key-hole – ironic eye of that sullen door –

But on peering into it he saw that it was blocked.

Then, in despair, he sat down and cried.”

 

On a happy day like the baptism of a lovely child like Matilda it seems impossible that the day will come when disagreement will arise between her and her parents Serena and Sam. And yet we all know from our own experience that such days will come, must come if Matilda or any child is to grow into an independent adult.

 

The job of children is to grow and to learn, and in doing so to test their strength and the boundaries, which are being set. When children disobey they are asking the adult world questions: why should I do this? Is there no other way?

 

What measures do you remember for reinforcement of the rules? Did you experience or use the naughty step? Do you remember being sent to your room, being slapped or worse, even turned out of the house?

 

They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Parents have for a time absolute power. Adults have great power over the world children grow up in – and what do we do with it?

Sometimes adults abuse their power consciously or subconsciously re-enacting what they learned and experienced themselves. Many grown children spend a lifetime getting over their childhood, quietly suffering or actively taking revenge!

 

A long time ago I made a note of a text on a poster, which hung in our doctor’s surgery. It read:

Children learn what they live

If a child lived with criticism, she learns to condemn,

If a child lives with hostility he learns to fight,

If a child lives with ridicule she learns to be shy,

If a child lives with shame he learns to feel guilt,

If a child lives with tolerance she learns to be patient,

If a child lives with encouragement he learns confidence,

If a child lives with praise she learns to appreciate,

If a child lives with fairness he learns justice,

If a child lives with security she learns to have faith,

If a child lives with approval he learns to like himself,

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship he or she learns to find love in the world.

 

As much as we want to make life wonderful and safe for our children and all whom we love we know this is impossible. The world is too big, varied and flexible to allow us to wrap our loved ones in cotton wool or safeguard them in castles or keeps. Even fairy tale parents, like those of Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, do not manage to keep the real world from their beloved daughters – on the contrary they endanger them.

 

Our task as adults is to walk with our children and lead them by our example and shelter them in our love, giving them support, encouragement and resources of wisdom.

And this is why we are here in church. For we know that this is not an easy task and to do it well we need the example of someone greater and better than us.

 

Our readings today from the gospel of John and 1 Peter are clear, who our example and leader should be: Jesus the good shepherd of his sheep, the guardian of our souls.

 

Why should we pay attention to Jesus, who lived after all in a very different time and place and who people claim to be the visible messenger of God, a notion, which in our secular world does not sit easily with many?

 

John encourages us to listen to Jesus, listen to what he has to say and see if you do not find that he gives good advice for right living, leading to righteousness. Jesus has a lot to say to us still about loving our neighbour, forgiveness and generosity, about truth and caring for the weak. Our children are watching whether we live Jesus’ word or just playact.

Jesus is less interested in us knowing what God looks like than what we do, hold dear and live like. God, he says is like a good father, powerful, caring and generous. That is enough to know and more than enough to pursue and remember.

 

Jesus opens this way of thinking about God like a door or gate opening the way to the safety of a sheep pen.

Jesus is also the voice of the shepherd, which the sheep know and follow. And no sheep can stay in the sheep pen for ever but need to go out to find pasture and water and exercise…and that is when life with all its difficulties can trouble us even when we follow our good shepherd. But this shepherd is walking ahead of his sheep and will come to us to give us strength every time we need it.

SJ Davies, once chaplain to the First Battalion, The Gloucester Regiment, wrote in his memories of being a prisoner of war in North Korea:

One night a tall American doctor told me a story of Commissioner Lord, of the Salvation Army, also a prisoner of the Chinese in Korea.

“We were dead beat. Another terrible day’s march lay ahead. The men were lying cold and half-starved in the lousy shacks waiting for the command to get going. A lot of those guys thought they couldn’t make it – they felt they’d had it.

Suddenly old Commissioner Lord appeared at the doorway of our shack. He seemed very confidential about something. ‘Boys,’ he said. ‘Boys, I have got news for you – great news – listen.’ We all took notice. We all thought, ‘What’s with this guy?’

The old Commissioner, why he just stood among us and said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,’ and he went right through that psalm, like it was God’s personal message to us.

Chaplain, I’m telling you, you could hear the silence. I never felt so moved in all my life. Then the guards came – it was get going or die. Those men rose like they had new strength. Can’t tell you where they got it from. They marched and they stuck it out’. (S.J. Davies, In Spite of Dungeons)

 

So let us pay attention to the shepherd and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who wants to lead us, even through the valleys of the shadow of death and wants us to have life in all its fullness.

Amen