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15th February 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Sunday next before Lent
Corinthians 4.3-6
Mark 9.2-9

"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 day"
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.