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Sermon for Trinity 2 (2021)

Listen to a sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity, 13 July 2021, by the Revd Stephen Buckman

What are you excited about today?

  • Something small and immediate?
  • The opportunities the future holds for you?
  • The call to love and serve in Christ’s name?

Or is today just another day?

If you are not excited about anything today, ponder for a moment the last time you tried asking yourself that question … When did you last ask yourself what it is that does give energy and enthusiasm to your life?

It is a sad reality that if we disconnect our willingness to be excited and enthusiastic we can so easily become weighed down with cynicism and despair instead.

When we get ourselves in a downward spiral of negativity we quickly find ourselves unable to see anything as positive and optimistic. If the media is to be believed, that is where so many people have found themselves after the restrictions of the last year!

Of course, it is easy for us to cite plenty of evidence that suggests that we live in a world that is, at heart, cynical, bitter and negative … Isn’t that what seems to drive the whole ‘news’ industry?

At various times in my working life I have been required to attend training courses. At one such training day, the attendees were asked to complete this sentence: The thing that is wrong with most organisations is …

After a few minutes of observing a room full of people trying to come up with a profound and snappy ending to that sentence, the trainer said this:

The answer you have just given is your ‘perceptual screen’ … it is what you will be looking for before you begin to work in or with any group. Unless you are especially careful, you will simply waste your life looking for evidence to justify the conclusion you have already reached.

What a brilliant lesson for so many who belong to this great organisation … The Church of Jesus Christ!

When I first arrived in this Benefice (5½ years ago!) I was told …

  • Nobody in any part of our benefice has any interest in what the Church has to offer … NOT TRUE!
  • Nobody will ever be prepared to put themselves out to engage with the mission of the Church … NOT TRUE!
  • Nobody will support you in anything that isn’t just a blind repetition of what has been happening over the last ten years or so … NOT TRUE!

Sadly, that list goes on and on!

Those statements – which were a direct contradiction of what the parishes in this Benefice had written about themselves in their Parish Profile – showed me something very sad, and worrying … Those who were relaying those doom-laden messages had lost their way – their Christian calling to a life of optimistic, positive and joyous faith had become distracted and weighed down by cynicism and despair.

Jesus lived out his earthly life with a perspective that was markedly different from most of those with whom he came into contact.

Jesus’ perspective is, in fact, an invitation to view self, others and the world in the light of God’s love, power and justice.

Jesus looked behind the superficial and the negative. Jesus looked at possibility, rather than impossibility!

Jesus viewed others, not so much in terms of what they were, but rather in terms of what they could become through the liberating power of God’s love:

  • An ordinary fisherman became the rock on which the Church would be built;
  • A dishonest tax collector became a trusted friend and disciple;
  • The unclean were restored to fellowship;
  • The hopelessly sick were made well;
  • An angry Pharisee became an Apostle to the gentiles.

Those who heard and believed the good news of the Gospel were liberated from the prison of negativity, cynicism and despair.

Instead, they were given the perspective of possibility through the transforming power and liberating love of God.

When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, he is inviting us to look at the world with new eyes.

Jesus is saying: This is the way God does things. God scatters seed that may be too tiny to see … and yet, when that seed takes root, it grows beyond our wildest imaginings.

That is how it is with the Kingdom of God: the initial evidence of God’s seed of faith may be infinitesimally small, but the ultimate results can go so far beyond our wildest dreams!

Last week I preached on Jesus’ teaching that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and the need for Crazy Christians who are prepared to look at the world through Christ’s eyes, rather than their own.

In the context of that teaching, I spoke of the Diocesan plan to breathe new and sustainable life into this Diocese.

That plan is called: Resourcing Sustainable Church: A Time to Change – Together.

Both before and since preaching that sermon I have been confronted with both the negative and the despairing.

All sorts of strange arguments have been put up against the Bishops’ Plan – many by people who have never read it, or who have only read a tiny fraction of the seventy plus pages.

The reality of the situation is this. Parish contributions through the Parish Share system have fallen far short of what is required to maintain integrity and viability.

Resourcing Sustainable Church: A Time to Change – Together is the beginning of a time-limited dialogue in which we can work together to re-imagine and re-vision the way in which the Church engages with the communities we are called to serve in Christ’s name.

We have a choice …

  • either we engage and work together
  • or we pull down the shutters of our perception screens and wait for necessity to dictate our futures.

The Bishops’ Plan is not without its flaws, because it is a ‘human’ plan … but it is a great sack full of tiny mustard seeds that are being scattered across our Diocese.

Rather than trampling that seed underfoot, let us pray that we might see a flourishing, a growing and a nurturing Church that is so much stronger than it is now.

It is so easy for us to become hardened and cynical as we journey through this mortal life … It is then that the delicate, tiny mustard seeds of faith become trampled into extinction.

Thomas Merton wrote these words:

The mind that is the prisoner of conventional ideas cannot accept the seed of an unfamiliar truth … how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and an opposite desire?

Again I ask: What are you excited about today?

I pray that you are excited to have had a world of opportunity opened to you by the God who loves and guides this world. Amen.