Sermon 2017 June 18th

ST COLUMBA’S CHURCH OF SCOTLAND

SERMON ON 18TH JUNE 2017

PREACHER: REVD ANDREA PRICE

 

LISTEN HERE: https://youtu.be/ZWcQBL4TB8Y

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you our strength and saviour. Amen

 

Kathy Galloway, one of whose hymns we sang earlier, wrote this description of a young man called David:

“David is in his late thirties, married with two young children. He lives in a dormitory town thirty miles from the city where he works. He works for a large computer company, which has been downsizing and his job is far from secure.

Although he is well paid, he has a large mortgage and he works long hours on top of the drive to work. In addition, he works to constant deadlines and often has to bring work home at weekends.

He is constantly tired and irritable, his family time is very limited, and his relationship with his wife, who is at home all day, is becoming difficult as communication becomes less.

He knows that his way of life is damaging to his health, but feels caught in a trap of financial obligations and does not know who to talk to. If he talks to colleagues, they might think he cannot cope and his job will be at risk. But he doesn’t know if he can tell his wife about the warning signals he has been getting about his health.”

 (Kathy Galloway, Praying for the Dawn, a resource book for the Ministry of healing 2000 Wild Goose Publications)

 

How does David’s story make you feel? How do you think David feels about his life?

Do you know people near you, who feel trapped like David? And is there anything we can do about it? What would be good news for David and the many people in his or her situation?

Kathy Galloway published this story in a book of resources for the ministry of healing. Do you find that surprising?

When we read or hear some of the miracle stories of Jesus our modern minds go most frequently into doubting Thomas mode or into open rebellion saying: fat chance! Or why could Jesus not have sorted things out for everyone instead of one or a few lucky people and leaving a suffering world behind?

And it is not much different, I guess, when we hear today that Jesus, having compassion with the suffering, lost sheep of Israel, calls his 12 closest friends and sends them out – not just to tell good news “The kingdom of heaven has come near!”, but more to exercise a ministry of healing: curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons!

Taken literally this is surely impossible! Yet think of how far medical research and practise has come since Jesus’ day. Is it not a miracle what is possible to defeat illness and disease? Ok it is not a miracle in the magic sense – but Jesus refused magic tricks himself when he was tempted.

Jesus’ mission and the point of the miracle stories was not to impress with the spectacular, weird and unusual to suddenly rearrange the world and its ways. Many had hoped for and some still wish for such a drastic final solution.

Instead Jesus’ miraculous actions were to be signposts to the will of God and the way He wants the world to develop. Jesus was able to make people feel so much better (using the creative power of God) that stories went wild about him and his healing powers.

And then Jesus sent his closest friends out to do as he did, not to become magic workers, but to see the suffering of people and instead of ignoring it to have compassion.

Then like him they were to act on it. What is the action? Ask what is good news for people like David or anyone else, whose need you notice. What will make him or anyone else laugh not in disbelieve but with joy like Sarah, freed from their burden or sadness?

For this is the will of God as Jesus put it: to make sure that people have life and life to the full!

 

And so Sarah, childless old wife of Abraham, has a boy, Isaac, which means “he laughs”. Again and again Isaac’s name or the laughter is mentioned in the text – like a bell being rung.

For in that OT story today we heard how God ensures that his promise to Abraham is not destroyed by the human sin of doubting or the human weakness of old age. His word, the story wants to remind us, is trustworthy and will be fulfilled.

God ensured that his will is known to all the world through Jesus Christ. God’s love is demonstrated and come near our world through Christ giving us peace and hope. This is not a pale hope for a wee gift or good weather or sporting success.

The hope God gives us is the knowledge that each one of us is known, loved and special before God and thus to each other – if we would only awake to this!

Thus Jesus sends the 12 to bring good news and healing to Israel and at the very end of Matthew’s gospel (28, 16-20), as we heard last week, he sends them and all of us to all the nations to make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them and promising his presence always.

Well, you may think that was a long time ago and surely did not mean me or us? Jesus would have chosen the right people to carry forward his work and be his church, his body on earth.

 

Think again: have you noticed the motley crew Jesus assembled in Peter, who often acted before he thought or

Thomas who thought too much and insisted to look at something from all angles before committing. Imagine Peter and Thomas in a committee meeting!

And then there is Simon, who used to be a freedom fighter against the Romans,

and Matthew, who used to be a collaborator with the Romans. Imagine a meeting with those two present.

And then there are James and John the sons of thunder – did they have a short fuse?

Jesus did not go around with a promising bunch and sometimes he was exasperated with them arguing among themselves, not getting the message or misinterpreting what Jesus was trying to do.

It is a miracle the church ever grew!

 

But it did and not because of the perfection, skill or virtue of the disciples but because of God’s power and love going ahead and staying with his people even through the darkest of times, times of persecution and failure galore.

And so here we are, also a mixed bunch, with different talents and gifts entrusted to us but all of us God’s children, called and beloved.

What is the good news for you? What is it you want to pass on to your children or share with your family or friends about this love of God you trust and hold dear? What makes you laugh like Sarah, freed from her shame of childlessness?

Is it that God forgives and enlivens even after personal pain or public disasters?

 

We all watched in disbelieve last week when the horror of the burning Grenfell Tower became known to us, where so many lost their lives, trapped in real life horror on our doorstep. We pray for all the people who died and their families and friends.

But we also give thanks for the brave fire fighters and for the generosity of neighbours near and far, who came to help and donate food, their belongings and time to those who survived and escaped with their lives and the clothes they stood up in.

The generosity was such that the message had to be given out to stop people from bringing more and websites were at times overwhelmed with responses.

If you would like to contribute to support people and families at this time, you are welcome to contribute to our retiring collection today or you can of course put donations to the office. We will gather all donations and pass them onto the local Anglican parish St Clements & St James, who do great community work in the area. In the morning after the fire they had 150 survivors and their supporters sitting down for breakfast the morning after the fire in their church hall.

We sadly cannot make these horrific events undone, nor bring many back to life, but we can support the injured and bereaved as best we can and in future work to make sure that housing is safe for all.

Sarah laughed with liberated joy as Isaac / laughter was born, after many, many nights of crying over her disappointment and pain at being childless.

What is God birthing through our words and actions?

To whom is Jesus sending us to bring and be good news of healing?

Let me close with this blessing from Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Prayers for Life’s particular Moments p.95, SPCK 2001

 

Be bold for the claiming of the gospel for the whole creation.

Be brave in the lifting up of the life of God in every place.

Be firm in carrying the holy name of Jesus Christ into the palaces of worldly power.

Be gentle in the understanding of ourselves and one another.

And may the songs of the creator sound with love in all the earth,

The tenderness of Christ Jesus cover the wounds of the people

And the truth in the Holy Spirit rise free in every age. Amen