2 before Advent
Matthew 25. 14-30
It's a funny time of year this - we are, in the church year,
still in ordinary time.... Even though the shops cannot wait
for Halloween and Remembrance to be past so that they can assure
us "It's Christmas!" (No it is not, Mr Tesco, Aldi,
M& S, Sainsbury and John Lewis - however delightful your
advertising campaign.) Advent - the time of preparation for Christmas,
is still two weeks away. So we are getting ready to get ready,
as it were. Sometimes we refer to these weeks before Advent as
the Kingdom Season - which takes its name from next week's celebration
of Christ the King... but there is a real sense of something
"just around the corner"; something that might be a
blessing or a curse; something we need to prepare ourselves or
pre-prepare ourselves for. Something to' stir us up' - as the
old collect puts it... we need stirring up just as much as the
puddings and the cakes.
Well here in this church, we
are "Digging Deeper" during these weeks before Advent
and indeed we will continue well into the New Year. And while
the financial implications of that are of course important, I
want to encourage you all to dig a little deeper into your faith
and spiritual growth. Dig Deep and Stir Up those thoughts inside.
This week we held a memorial
service for a former Parish resident and local farmer - John
Shanks. And it is no exaggeration to say that this place was
packed - close on 200 people came - which is an achievement for
anyone, but for a man of 93 is little short of amazing!
It makes you think, doesn't
it? How many will there be when it is my turn to go? And how
will they sum me up? Will I be flattered? Or furious? Or frustrated,
at how I am described? Or perhaps no-one will come at all?
Maybe I'll look back - or down
- or up (?) - from my place of knowing, and be amazed at how
we underestimate both life and death. Underestimate what treasure
has been entrusted to us - such gifts and graces... and the accountability
for what we have done with them?
Often today we do not like
to think of a God of judgement - and I don't think that God judges
us harshly for things like who we love, or how we worship; but
that does not mean that we will not be judged with the divine,
all-seeing eye of judgement and mercy. And sure enough, in heaven
the veil is removed; nothing escapes the divine examiner and
we will be called on to explain our workings out in detail.
"I entrusted you with
health and strength and a father's heart: what have you done
"And you, I entrusted
you with a good brain and a golden tongue: what have you done
"And you, - you have had
wealth, and the skill to gain more wealth: what have you done
And I will have nowhere to
hide, no one else's answers to crib from; nothing to download
from the internet or find in a book. For the first time I will
see how far short I really fall - and what might have been, and
I will be devastated - bowed by the enormity of my complacency,
and God's grace.
And then I will hear God say
"And to all of you I have offered forgiveness, my gift of
a new start, if only you dare admit your need; to all of you
I have offered my Holy Spirit, my very life in you, if only you
also bear the cross of self-forgetfulness."
The word gospel means good
news and Christians believe that, in Jesus Christ, the whole
world is offered the good news of God's love for them. But the
NT also bears witness to the fact that not everyone receives
God's love as good news.
When they look at the person
of Jesus, some feel threatened, some feel bored, some hate the
way he breaks their rules about God, and some simply do not recognize
what is on offer.
Why should the good news of
the love of God be so alarming? Perhaps because few of us actually
know how to be loved. We know how to be pampered, or to indulge
ourselves, or to whine about being misunderstood. But to be loved
with God's total, consuming, transforming and utterly perceptive
love? Are we ready for that? (I think that is what John Shanks
got right - not only did he love others, but he knew what it
was to be loved)
We are all digging deeper and
stirring things up... This weekend is the occasion for Children
in Need - when many in this country help us to restore our faith
in humanity, by digging deeper to help those vulnerable children
who are in need. As a church we too try to practise what we preach
- what we advocate for others. So some might think it strange
that at a time when we are appealing for extra funds, the PCC
is still committed to giving 10% of our voluntary income away
to other charities and good causes. But that is precisely what
we need to do - to demonstrate to God that we are not simply
burying the talent that he gives us. We are trying to use our
assets to benefit others too - in the firm belief that by demonstrating
a generous heart, we (or more correctly God) will inspire others
to be generous-hearted to us too. We all need to give back to
God what is right and not simply what is left.
We are getting ready to get
ready; to receive the greatest Gift that could possibly come
our way - so come now and receive in bread and wine that symbol
of God's love; God's very self - his son Jesus Christ. Amen.