Sunday next before Lent
"I can see clearly now the rain has gone"
Who can remember that song? - Johnny Nash sang the original
back in 1972 would you believe? But many will remember the version
sung by Jimmy Cliff in the film Cool Runnings - about the famous
Jamaican bobsleigh team.
And yet in our readings this
morning, it is not the rain that gets in the way of clear vision,
but the light itself. Blinding, dazzling, scary, inspiring. God
said, 'let light shine out of darkness' - and he then gives us
each a little bit of that light to help illumine a world that
can seem very dark at times. A little bit of the glory he shares
with his son, Jesus Christ.
So this morning I am going
to ask you - "What do you see, when you look at me"?
A vicar? A woman (of a certain
age!)? A friend? A boss? - oh how I hate it when I am called
that in the context of this place! Someone who is always after
your money? Or wanting you to do things in church?
A follower of Jesus? A disciple?
Certainly not someone who has
all the answers. I can assure you of that! But someone who decided
many years ago that I would try and dedicate my life to learning
more about this Christian life that we are all (at least all
of us here this morning), that we are all engaged on.
And as I learn and study, if
I can draw alongside some of you and help you to learn and study
too, to see just a little bit more clearly, just as you help
me to do the same, then I will be content.
This past week I have been
down to London again for General Synod. And on Wednesday morning
we spent some time discussing what it means to be a disciple
in today's church. Some of us quibbled about the word disciple
- because it all sounds so desperately worthy and holy somehow
doesn't it? And most of the time I certainly feel neither worthy
nor holy - so I need another word. Friend and learner might do
it. I want desperately to be a friend of Jesus and a friend to
those who also seek to follow him.
And if we know anything from
the Scriptures and from our baptism promises, it is that we are
- each of us - called to follow him; men and women called to
learn from him, to pattern our lives upon his life - for his
yoke is easy and his burden is light.
And we are called - as his
friends and disciples - into a community marked by a particular
rhythm of life. And it doesn't matter if we are rich or poor,
if we are sinners or sick, if we are disgraced or forgotten by
the world, if we are lost or weary, if we are young or old, if
we are unclean or oppressed; all are called to follow, to learn.
So we are called out of the
world and challenged to live our lives differently to others.
But at the same time, we are in the world and indeed we are sent
to the world. And our life and witness to our faith as we go
about our daily lives is intended to act like a lighthouse -
drawing other lost souls to the safety and security of God's
love and care.
It can at times seem like a
heavy responsibility and there is a cost involved - we are warned
that to take up our cross may mean losing our lives - or at least
losing our self-interest.
But we are also promised joy
and delight. We are invited to the strongest hope, the deepest
joy, the greatest fulfilment, the most authentic pattern of living,
the highest adventure known to humanity. The call of Jesus is
to have life in all its fullness - life in abundance as John's
Gospel tells us. It is truly dazzling.
So how do we nurture this deep
sense of fulfilment and joy within us? What sustains us?
Well I have already mentioned
learning - and with Lent approaching it is an ideal time to do
a little study.... we have our own lent course starting on Mondays
in Lent and at the back you will find leaflets with all sorts
of other courses offered by our partners in the Wolverhampton
West Covenant. If the course in Pattingham doesn't appeal, look
at one of the others! They are not 'heavy and holy' - they offer
a chance to learn along with other people and maybe make new
friendships in the process...
But disciples are sustained
in their Christian life, not primarily through courses, but through
worship and through action in the community. Through being with
Jesus as you go about your daily work and in relationships with
friends and family. And also by reflecting how our faith affects
our daily lives.
You have already heard a lot
about our stewardship campaign, "Digging Deeper" -
but I now want to take this a stage further. Because I think
we could all of us together dig deeper to discover for ourselves
what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century....
and I think we in the church need to be a bit more open to learning
from and supporting you as you live out your Christian witness
in your places of business, or in school, or in your leisure
activities or interests. Who agrees with me? Who feels called
to show Christ's love for the world in your work?
So when you look at me - I
hope you will increasingly see not just a Vicar - not just someone
who is always asking for more money, or more of your time (though
I probably will continue to do that too!) but someone who supports
and sustains you; who helps you to understand that God is fascinated
in and by YOU! And values all that you do to live faithfully
in his world.
"I can see clearly now
the rain has gone... it's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny
Lord, as we strive to be faithful disciples together in the places
where we live and work and play, give us a clear vision of you
and help us to follow you more nearly.