Yes here it is, all new and shiny, the sermon for tomorrow...
Don't tell any of my parishioners, they are all, obviously, desperate to know what i have to say....
ha ha ha ha ha
2 Before Lent Year C RCL principal
Genesis 2: 4b - 9, 15 - 25
Luke 8: 22 - 25
I don’t know about you, but I’m sure the world seems to be getting faster and busier and more frantic as the years go by. It’s not just a case of time passing quickly, which I am told seems to happen more and more as one gets older, and makes me worry that by the time I am in my fifties I will be missing whole weeks if I blink! I do think that western society is obsessed with haste and with just ‘doing’ things all of the time. There’s not very much space in our world for relaxation, rest and stillness. There are not many places where we can enjoy silence any more. There is not much time for the spiritual and emotional part of our lives to be dwelt on and reflected.
Our lives our so full and so busy – travel, visiting friends and family, work and even play – it all needs to fit into an already full schedule.
Stillness is not considered an important part of many people’s lives.
But it is for us. And it is in the life of Jesus.
Today’s story, of the calming of the storm is, like many parables, charged with meaning beyond the simple miraculous event of Jesus causing the wind and the waves to cease. There is much to reflect on and to offer us food for thought beyond the initial story.
First of all, we must consider the reason that Luke includes this story in his Gospel and where it is placed. It comes immediately after Jesus proclamation that his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and obey it, and before the account of the man possessed by demons who calls himself ‘legion’ – when the demons are cast out into a herd of pigs and proceed to drown themselves in the sea.
It is a story about Jesus authority and about who he is – the last words of this passage are ‘who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.’ We are challenged to answer that question for ourselves – do we consider him to be a miracle worker and a teacher, or do we consider him Lord, who holds all power and authority. Authority that comes from him speaking the word of God, and indeed being the Word of God, an authority that enables him to have power even over nature and over the forces of evil.
This story serves to remind us that if we claim to follow him then we must allow him to have authority over our lives and we who read these accounts two thousand years later are challenged by that authority who asks ‘where is your faith?’. Is our faith in Jesus Christ – and if so, what does that mean to us.
And part of that challenge is asking us what are we doing with our faith? And it is a very real challenge for the Church today. How are we living out our faith?
In the busy, wild world in which we live, it is easy for each of us as Christians, and as the Church, to be caught up in the rush of the world. Our services and the way the Church presents itself can become increasingly slick and modern – which is why I am glad that we have an Archbishop that is neither slick nor particularly modern – someone who seems to me to have very little ‘spin’ as they call it about him.
If we do respond to the frantic activity of the world by our own frantic activity then we are sucked into the way the world does things and we can so easily lose site of the riches of heritage and tradition that the Church has inherited. We, like the world, become more about style than substance, more about image than content. Christ has every right to challenge a church like that with the question ‘where is your faith?’.
It seems to me that to some degree, the Church is called to be ‘counter cultural’ – a prophetic voice which offers the alternative to the superficial, materialistic, often vacuous culture that surrounds us. And part of that calling is reflected in the deeper meaning of the Gospel – the calling to stillness.
For in our reading for today it is not just the wind and the waves who are called to be still – it is the disciples in the boat. In the midst of the storm Jesus sleeps – probably due to the exhaustion of the ministry he performs, but also secure in the protection his heavenly Father has given him. He is not brought to panic by the world around him. The disciples, however, are another story – they are terrified, and wake Jesus in a panic – ‘Master, Master – we are perishing’ they cry as they rouse Jesus.
It is a very natural reaction, of course – it does say in the story that the water was flooding the boat and they were in danger – and we must remember that these, or at least some of these, are fishermen – used to the unpredictable nature of the Sea of Galilee, it would have take something serious to cause them to feel in danger. They finally snap and call on Jesus, who rebukes them for their fear and goes on to perform the miraculous stilling of the storm.
In many ways we could see this as a parable for our times. The Church seems to be flooded with pressures from outside and within, struggling with issues that some think may split or swamp it. We are caught up in the busy-ness of life, trying to respond to every wind of change and the waves of challenges from without and within. Even with the years of experience that many of us have, there are plenty of things which seem to threaten to engulf us. Many of those in the Church are crying out ‘Master, Master we are perishing.’
And Jesus asks – where is your faith?
We are called to stillness in a world of noise and rush. To rest in Christ and trust him.
Of course we are not called to inaction or apathy, we are called to engage with the world around us – but not on its own terms, on Christ’s terms. And that means that we are called to offer a haven from this world.
There are many ways in which we can do this. I want to consider three:
Firstly, through our wonderful buildings – which so many consider to be a burden – are prayers in stone. They are often the only place in a village where people can go for some genuine peace, and a chance to reflect and to pray – and perhaps we should encourage that more.
Secondly, our services too need to reflect the depth of our faith. There are plenty of good reasons to have ‘all age services’ which are perhaps less formal and more lively. There are good reasons to have more lively ‘praise’ events. But there are many reasons too to hold on to the traditional liturgical worship of the Church and the space that allows us to pray and consider in ourselves the God who is often the ‘still, small voice’. We can also explore other traditions, such as those of the Taize Community or Iona Community. These type of services offer much more time for reflection and contemplation than many other types of service.
Thirdly and finally each one of us has a responsibility to resist the busy-ness which can be, quite literally, soul-destroying. We need as Christians to know that peace which passes understanding and to know the Christ who calls us to be still. Much of this comes down to the fact that we need to pray.
May God equip us, and the whole Church, to bring his peace to a world which is so in need of it. Amen.