Sermon 10 June 2018

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 10 Jun 2018, ST COLUMBA’S DAY

Listen Here:https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-10-june-2018

 

And looking at those who sat around him, he said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:34-5

 

An old witticism runs:

“Friends, are God’s apology for family.”

Today’s gospel puts a spot light on family;

and with that spotlight comes an examination, for his followers,

about the loyalties and responsibilities that come with belonging to Christ.

To whom do I belong and if I belong to Christ, who belongs to me?

 

It is the end of another frenetic day.

Jesus is attempting to eat dinner.

But the crowds, desperate to get close to the man

reported to possess power over sickness and demons, are unrelenting.

Jesus’ family are on the way to “remove” him,

disturbed by the rumours that he has now completely lost the plot,

potentially putting them all at risk.

The scribes from Jerusalem are also circling,

believing him to be in league with Satan.

 

To their accusation, Jesus responds –

How can a house, a kingdom, Satan himself –

continue to stand, if it is divided against itself? It cannot.

Those who accuse Jesus of having an unclean spirit,

he condemns in the strongest of terms.

 

At that moment the message comes through.

Your mother and brothers are outside.

Jesus surveys the gathering of walking wounded,

the misfits, the needy, tax gatherers, prostitutes, the children,

the Keystone Cop disciples – and declares:

This is my family.

You are my mother and my brothers,

when you do what God is asking!

 

Earlier this week, the front doors downstairs were wide open,

A young woman, passing by, hesitated at the door,

scanning for signs of something. I asked if I could help.

“I’m travelling” she said, in an Australian accent.

“I’m travelling and I was looking for a Meeting.

I saw some folks on your steps and sensed the vibe.”

An illustration of that extraordinary network of AA or NA,

that permit and provide support,

to the regular returner and the traveller, passing through.

The unconditional welcome – where there is need, there is help.

Those support groups embody the famous Robert Frost line of poetry:

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.” (R Frost, The Death of the Hired Man)

 

Jesus is not anti-family. One of the final actions from the Cross

was the placing of his own mother into the care of the beloved disciple.

“Here is your mother.”

From that time on, the disciple took her into his home.” John 19:27

But, as so often he did – either by spoken word or his own actions –

Jesus raised the bar, or better, widened the circle,

about who we belong to;

about who we are connected to

and what responsibility we bear towards others each other.

 

Other events this week have drawn me

to the final hours of two people approaching death –

one in hospital and one in hospice care.

Both were clearly loved and were accompanied by love

as they completed their earthly journeys.

 

“The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story” Christie Watson

In it she reflects: “I have been a nurse for twenty years –

it is only when my Dad is dying too quickly from lung cancer,

that I begin to understand the importance of kindness,

and the depths of humanity and philosophy that lie underneath.”

From the perspective of the family member

she sees with new eyes what is important in the nurse’s role.

[…so that grace, as it extends to more and more people,

may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. II Corinthians 4:15]

After her father’s death she goes back to her own work very quickly – perhaps too soon.

On the first day back, the emergency bleep summons her to the oncology ward.

It turns out to be a false alarm.

But after the emergency team has dispersed, the nurse lingers a moment.

The elderly gentleman patient asks: “Do you have a minute?”

She ends up reading the racing results to him.

But as she reads, she is undone by the pair of slippers neatly aligned under his bed –

so like her Dad’s.

The crying I had held in for days, rushes out violently.

She cries and cries.

The man puts an arm around her, tucking her to his wheezing ribcage.

Him the nurse, she the patient.

“You let it out girl.”

“Sorry. It’s unprofessional. I should be helping you.”

“Nonsense. We all should be helping each other.”

 

At both bedsides this week there was a sharing of communion.

At one, the wife of the dying man dipped her finger in the chalice

and eased the wine onto her husband’s lips,

in the last hour of his life.

Unutterably sorrowful and incredibly precious.

[St Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Even though our outer nature is wasting away,

our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,

we have a building from God, a house not made with hands,

eternal in the heavens. II Corintians:4/5 various.]

Though the setting could not appear more different this morning,

it is the same feast that we are invited to join this St Columba’s Day,

It is the same feast, linking Upper Room to Hospice Room;

the same feast, linking generations gone before to those still to come;

the same feast, linking us to our loved ones present and departed.

By the grace of God,

may this communion deepen our sense of belonging,

to Christ, and to each other,

bestowing strength and courage, for the road ahead;

bestowing knowledge that:

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother

Fed with the bread of life, may we do likewise.