Sermon for Last Sunday
19. 1-2, 15-18
Matthew 22. 34 - end
So this morning we are "Digging Deeper" into what it
means to love our neighbour as ourselves.... ( I can tell I am
going to enjoy this Stewardship Campaign! And I guarantee that
no-one who comes anywhere near this church in the next few months
will not hear about "Digging Deeper" one way or another!)
And let me begin by saying
that the responsible and serious consideration of how we use
all the resources available to us - our money, our time and our
talents or abilities is also absolutely at the heart of how we
can demonstrate that we are loving our neighbour as ourselves
- not to mention also loving God with all our heart, soul and
Greater minds than mine have
pointed out that we are really not very good at loving God -
and perhaps do not really know what the idea of loving God really
means? One way is to turn to those who seem to have cracked this
loving God lark and see what they say. Bernard of Clairvaux
was one such. According to Bernard there are four 'steps' of
The first, said Bernard, was
to love ourselves, for ourselves. Then we must learn to love
God - which initially (the second step) is for what he gives
us... with the season of harvest just behind us, we might feel
that yes, we can get our heads round that one! But Bernard says
that if we persevere with this one we shall come to love God
for himself - that is the third step. Finally, we will love
ourselves for God's sake.
And those who are single minded
in their search for God, do not find themselves distracted by
other people. Far from it. The journey from self-love to the
love of God does not bypass my neighbour.
OK, fine words - but they,
as granny might have said, 'Butter no parsnips'. Let's dig a
little deeper in the light of the current dreadful problem of
Ebola in West Africa. There, to ask, but who is my neighbour?
Suddenly takes on a new and some would say, sinister tone? People
who have lived in traditional societies all their lives are having
to get used to a world in which other people become a hidden
threat; where human contact is to be avoided and where fear governs
most if not all conversations and transactions.
I am immensely proud that when
the appeal was issued, many UK health care professionals from
our National Health Service with specific experience of treating
those with dangerous viruses have come forward to help the Health
Services of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, that are all but
overwhelmed as the number of cases - of people suffering from
Ebola has risen to over 10,000 - mainly in those three countries.
And I feel for the families
of the volunteers and of those service personnel who are being
sent to build the much needed treatment centres out there. Essential
work - work that is sorely needed by our neighbours in West Africa
- but which must leave many anxious and fearful for the health
of their loved ones. But I am sure that those army, navy or RAF
personnel who are waking up to strange new routines and having
to work in difficult conditions wearing full protective clothing,
are nevertheless pleased to be able to make a difference to people
who have so little. For once they are not having to destroy,
but to build - albeit they are still involved in a fight against
a deadly enemy.
One of the consequences of
our modern world is that the revolution in communications has
made it effectively shrink. We can now be in touch with friends
and strangers from any part of this globe. Email, Facebook, Twitter
- anyone who engages with these or other social networks has
to accept that we have neighbours suddenly all around the world.
And our neighbour is anyone who has a need... anyone who we might
be able to help.
Loving our neighbour is not
just about sharing warm thoughts or feeling affection. Love -
if it is to mean anything - has to have a practical outworking.
That was the point of the parable of the good Samaritan. And
that means being prepared to put ourselves out - to sacrifice
some of our wellbeing and comfort - to improve that of the other....
whether they are in the next room, the next-door house, or street
or half a world away.
Love God. Love your neighbour.
Jesus was not the first, as is sometimes suggested, to link these
two commands together. But the more we read the Gospels, the
plainer it becomes that for Jesus the two commandments are virtually
one. And these two commands or mandates are the heart of the
revealed will of God.... You know, that will which we pray every
week or every day, will be 'done on earth as it is in heaven'.
These two loves are to shape
the life of the community of his disciples in every age and in
every way. We cannot retreat from the world, cut ourselves off,
declare ourselves in protective quarantine and hope the danger
will recede. In the face of immense human need we cannot remain
passive - love is lived in faithfulness and active compassion.
Time for us all to dig a bit deeper I think - dig deeper into
our resources of money, of time, of compassion -of humanity?
And if we do, then maybe we will discover a bit of our divinity
October 2014 - Sunday Evening- Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs
Sermon for Last Sunday
after Trinity - evening
11 and 12
2 Timothy 2.1-7
Our first lesson this evening
was appropriately from the book of Ecclesiastes. Appropriate,
because the Title of the book, means "The Teacher"
and it is full of wise and pithy (and occasionally rather cynical)
little sayings, many of which are addressed to a younger person.
A distillation of knowledge from the world weary and the world
wise, you might say.
So the fact that the young
are encouraged to "Send out or Cast their bread upon the
waters" should give us pause for thought. Especially on
this day as we launch our major Stewardship programme - Digging
Now this is of course about
money - and the church's need of it - and I am not going to pretend
otherwise or to apologise for that. We are created to live in
community and communities can only function through the economic
activity of its members. Money is merely a convenient means of
us carrying out that economic activity. One step up from the
barter economy - which is fine, but rather time consuming. If
I had to bargain in the Co-Op for my daily pint of milk - arguing
how many jars of pear jam should be swapped for that and a loaf
of bread - I doubt I would have time left to do all the other
things I need to. So money is a jolly useful thing. Saves us
all a lot of time. Of course we never think we have enough of
it and are always looking for ways to avoid spending it - which
sometimes also takes up a lot of needless time!
But back to the words of the
Teacher. I am interested that we are invited to throw our bread
upon the waters. What, I wonder is the point of that? I only
normally throw bread upon the water if I am feeding the ducks....
but perhaps that is the hidden message, that is the return on
our investment that we can expect! If we cast our bread on the
water, then it might attract both fish and fowl which, if we
are quick enough to catch them, can provide a tasty alternative
to plain bread and will considerably enrich the diet! Speculate
to accumulate as someone else would go on to say.
But the thought of water also
reminds me of a useful story that I remember from some time ago,
and that I will share with you this evening.
For this I want you to travel
in your imaginations to the Holy Land, to Israel/Palestine. What
is the name of the famous river that flows from north to south
in that country? Indeed it forms the border for much of its length!
And what is the name of the
big inland sea at its head in the north of Israel?
What do we know about the economy of that part of Israel from
the Bible? (Fish)
Yes the Sea of Galilee, Lake Genesaret, the Sea of Tiberias however
you call it was teeming with life. And from its southern end
the Jordan winds its way down through the wilderness, passing
through the territory which in the time of Jesus was known as
Samaria, winding down and down until it reaches another great
inland lake or sea. What is that called?
The Dead Sea - clue is in the
name. Very little grows around that stretch of water and I have
never heard of anyone fishing in it - I doubt any fish that could
survive such a hostile environment would be worth eating!
But although the water of the
Dead Sea is so saline that it cannot support life, there is nothing
wrong with the water flowing in at its northern end. Tests have
been done on the river Jordan and on the whole it is good, fresh,
sweet water that pours in. So what makes the difference? Well
partly it is that the climate is much hotter and more dry - the
lake is surrounded by desert - but that is not the only thing...
The water goes nowhere. All the water entering the Dead Sea is
held there until it evaporates away - there is no outlet. So
whereas the Sea of Galilee has water coming in and flowing out,
the Dead Sea has no outlet. Everything it receives it keeps for
itself and the result is a dreadful kind of death.
We can compare this to ourselves.
If we keep the things of God for ourselves, the good things with
which we are blessed in our life - not only our money, but our
time and our skills and abilities, then we too suffer a kind
of slow death of the soul. But if we use the things of God to
love him and to love our neighbour and to bless the world, then
we will grow and flourish too - we will indeed be strong in the
grace that is in Christ Jesus, as Paul writes to Timothy.
So yes, let us cast our bread
upon the waters, and wait to see what kind of return on our investment
that may yield - a yield that is rich in happiness and contentment.