Sermon 13th May 2018

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 13 MAY 2018, SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Listen Here https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-from-13th-may-2018

 

I am not asking you to take them out of the world,

but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
As you have sent me into the world,

so, I have sent them into the world. John 17:15, 18

 

The definition of a babysitter:

A teenager acting like an adult

while the parents are out acting like teenagers.

 

Many of you will know something of the babysitting world –

childhood memories of being baby-sat,

or earning some teenage cash.

Some will know what it feels like to hand over as a parent –

with anxiety or elation…

Some will have received instructions before the front door closes.

Think grandparents rolling their eyes, as if to say –

“We do know what a baby is – we raised you after all!”

 

This morning’s Gospel has something of the handover about it.

In an Upper Room in Jerusalem, at his final meal with his closest friends…

Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet,

foreseen Judas’s betrayal, predicted Peter’s denial,

promised his disciples the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus knows he is departing and now,

in the so-called High Priestly prayer,

he entrusts his disciples to the Father.

In these precious last hours together,

in the vulnerability and humility of prayer,

Jesus asks God to become the carer, he can no longer be.

 “Protect them – protect them by your name – protect them from the evil one.”  

I am asking: Protect them so that they can know unity, joy, and truth.  

 

Jesus knows the disciples are at risk.

The world, which hated Jesus, will threaten the disciples.

The world, cosmos, as used here by John

is not understood as the whole created order –

that realm of beauty and wonder that God saw was good

but that part of life that has rebelled/lives by values and priorities,

unshaped by God.

So, Jesus declares: Just as the world is not my ultimate home,

so too my friends are strangers in this land.

The world does not own me or them;

yet I have been sent to it, for the sake of love,

just as now, I send you into the world,

for the sake of love.

 

Our relationship with the world is complicated.

As people of faith we jump in with hands and feet

to explore the life we’re given, to enjoy love and friendship,

to delight in the kindnesses we experience,

to revel in the diversity of humanity and nature

and how they express the wideness of God’s character.

 

But we must also be vigilant;

Vigilant against the dangers of becoming so enticed

by all that glitters in the world –

the pursuits and priorities that distract us from God’s simpler gifts –

or the temptation to withdraw from the world –

for fear of it, or because it might compromise our religious purity.

 

For the first century community that John wrote his gospel,

as conflict with the authorities increased,

there was an understandable attraction to hunker down and huddle up.

To disengage from the powers that were opposed to the gospel.

But when Jesus says do not belong to the world,

he means the world’s claims are not shape our essential identity, faith or values.

 

At the same time, he is crystal clear –

we are not to turn our backs on the world.

Yes, be a community; yes, find joy in that community,

but do not abandon the world.

Much of our world may feel estranged from God,

but it is the same world

that God loves and into which he sent his Beloved Son.

Amid the complexities of the world,

we are called to live vitally and faithfully,

for therein lies the abundant life, here and now.

 

As disciples, how then do we bear witness today?

This week there was an invitation to consider a collection of paintings

at St Martins-in-the -Fields (Trafalgar Square.)

Sponsored by the work of the Koestler Trust;

each the work of a prisoner from a British gaol.

They spoke of the power of art or music to give hope,

enabling individuals to say that they are more than just offenders.

They spoke about the importance that prisoners attribute to volunteers.

Prisoners have to be there; staff are paid to be there,

but those who give them time voluntarily,

convey something very profound.

 

But they also spoke of the appalling conditions

of overcrowded and under-staffed prisons,

the hiddenness of what goes on, in our name.

Conditions of many prisons were described as a midden;

confinement for up to 23 hours in a cell, due to staff shortages;

far from the holiday camps portrayed by the tabloid press.

They spoke of the scandal of the ISPP’s –

the Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection –

whereby prisoners are held indefinitely,

long after the tariff for their offence has expired.

 

Or consider Christian Aid Week, the annual effort

to raise awareness and collect funds for the relief of the world’s poorest.

This year, their principal narrative –

the building of housing in Haiti

that can withstand the dangers of the hurricane season.

The example/witness of one particular Christian Aid house

that ended up sheltering/saving fifty-three people

on the night of a passing storm.

 

Christian Aid have that wonderful line:

We believe in life before death.

We seek to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ,

who commanded his followers to love their neighbour

and work for a better world. 

We stand with the most vulnerable and excluded people of the world –

both in times of crisis and for the longer term.

We give people survival essentials when they are without shelter or refuge,

and help them find the strength and resources they need

to flourish and protect themselves from shocks and disasters.

We support people to stand up for their rights

and to build stable, secure lives they can enjoy living.  

 

But Christian Aid are also advocates for justice,

which means, the sometimes-uncomfortable business,

of exposing poverty throughout the world,

and to challenge and change the structures and systems

that favour the rich and powerful

over the poor and marginalised.

 

Churches, Christians, us – live with the the creative tension;

prayer and engagement,

compassion and anger,

relief of need and political action,

“in the world, but not of the world.”

It may feel an uphill task; but we do it,

neither in our own strength, nor alone.

As you have sent me into the world,

so, I have sent them into the world.