Easter 6 2014
- Rogation Sunday
John 14. 15-21
Looking for connections
I have the sort of mind that
loves looking for connections - I think that is what really fascinated
me about the study of modern languages. Speaking another language
helps us to make connections with people from another land -
Learning another language also
makes us more aware of our own language and of the development
of words. For often - in learning another tongue, - you can spot
a connection with a word or an expression in our own.
Even in a language that doesn't
share the same alphabet! How is that possible? Well let me tell
you of one silly little example
Most of you know that the first
time I went to University I studied Russian - yes! Very scary
- that funny script that looks like it is written backwards half
Anyone who knows London relatively
well, will know that just south of the River Thames, a bit along
from Lambeth, is an area known as Vauxhall. In the 18th Century
it was the site of a famous pleasure garden, and over time it
became the venue for all sorts of naughty and illicit goings
on! (But that is a story for a quite different time and place).
Today it is the location for a reasonably large Railway and Underground
Tube station. Which is much more relevant to my illustration.
The Railway came relatively
late to Russia. But it made a huge difference to getting around
and even to governing that vast country with its difficult climate.
As the technology spread in the 19th Century, they had to develop
not only the infrastructure but also the vocabulary to describe
the previously unknown. Now there is a perfectly good Russian
word for Station, that is widely used. It is 'stantsiya' - obviously
borrowed from the west. Only that word is rarely used of a railway
station - no, they are nearly always referred to as the 'vokzal'
- named of course after our own area of London where a large
railway station was built - Vauxhall. Now why that word rather
than Paddington, Euston or Victoria, I cannot explain
any Russian would know what the Vokzal was.
Connections you see - probably
something to do with the foreign engineers who first introduced
the concept and technology of rail travel.
St Paul of course knew nothing
of the wonders of rail travel
(or of the joys of cancelations
and engineering works!) But he did know a lot about being a stranger
in town and of looking for ways to connect with the locals in
order to get his message across.
Start with a good bit of flattery - soften them up - complement
them on their culture and achievements - before knocking them
flat with the suggestion that they don't really know as much
as they thought!
The Greeks with their philosophers
and poets; the Romans with their organisation and military skills,
may both have thought they were the height of sophistication.
But the Jews looked down on both - even though they had been
well and truly conquered in the political sense.
Jews considered Greeks and
Romans as heathen and primitive because they clung to a pantheon
- a whole range of gods and goddesses - who all had to be worshipped
and placated. And foremost among the gods was often the current
Emperor - who was raised to the status of a god and before whom
all humanity was expected to bow down.
Christians of course, got themselves
into trouble in the early centuries of the Church by refusing
to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. They could only give that title
to Jesus, and would - like the Jews - claim that there was only
One true God; one Creator of all; one who was the ground of all
being; one who gave both life and meaning to humankind.
But that is all still to come
- at the time we see a glimpse of Paul attempting to evangelise
the intelligentsia of Athens - and incidentally not doing too
well in the end. They were getting quite interested at first
- until he introduced the concept of a man who could rise from
. That was just too fantastical to believe. For
most - but not for all. Some saw the connection with their own
spiritual questing and followed Paul to find out more. If you
read on a bit further in the Book of Acts you will discover that
Paul made just a few converts in Athens before he travelled on
to Corinth - where he found a small group of fellow believers
already in place.
Looking for connections with
our daily lives and the problems we face is what keeps me fascinated
by good bible studies and the writing of leading theologians.
Worrying away at the text - at words - and seeing how a living
breathing developing faith can really reach into the situations
and dilemmas we face in ordinary working and family life. So
that God is encountered in the ordinary - in the stuff of life.
Often I find that country wisdom
and practice can teach me a lot about this. So the season of
Rogation - coming just after Easter and its promise of new life
is still very important. Especially in an area like this. It
is a time of prayer - of supplication to God - asking for his
blessing on the land, on those who live and work on the land
and on the fruit of their labours. If you want a good harvest,
you have to put in some preparation and sow good seed. If you
want a harvest blessed by God - then you better seek his good
influence early in the process.
It was also a time of processing
- of walking around the parish. Of helping people find a connection
with the place they inhabited. It was part of the way in which
children learned the land to which they belonged. In which they
could feel a strong connection - a bond. And where they could
also feel connected to God.
It also comes just before Ascension.
Just before we mark the moment when Jesus finally left his disciples
in physical form - so that they could really learn to feel their
spiritual connection to him and God and to each other. "On
that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me,
and I in you." Connections - deep and indissoluble. Too
deep for words really.
This week, with the elections
taking place - we have all heard rather too many words. And people
are getting very exercised about the levels of immigration and
assimilation into our nation.
What can possibly connect people
from such disparate cultures? Where can their experience touch?
What possible connection can there be?
Well, whatever our political affiliations, (and I would not presume
to try and tell you how to cast your vote - although I do consider
it important that we should try to use our hard won electoral
vote if at all possible) I think that Christians have a duty
to try and make connections with those of other cultures, other
faiths - so that we
engage and struggle with the issues that divide and the issues
"If you love me, you will
keep my commandments". Please do pray for our politicians
and leaders, that they may find the connections that will enable
us all - in good conscience - to feel we are keeping the commandment
that Christ left us
to love one another as I have loved
you and whenever we share bread and wine, to do it in remembrance
of the one who gave his life to connect us for ever with his
and our Heavenly Father. Amen.