What are you going to do with the faith that you’ve re-found this year? With the faith that has been re kindled this year?
I hear talk of When things get back to Normal… But I wonder if you remember that actually there never was a normal. That we started the year with Australia on fire, with the promise of Oven ready Brexits. We’ve been confronted by our own history in Black Lives Matter and realized that we have not always been the Goodies the Heroes in our History.
Things wont go back to Normal because there never was a normal. And my prayer is they wont go back to the way things were. What I would like you to ponder is What have we learned over this year that’s important to value and keep?
Things wont go back to Normal because the planet was already broken and it is still breaking, and this year it has been allowed some opportunity to breathe. That has perhaps been a positive aspect of Isolation.
The first isolation came in that first bible reading. The Snake, and Eve and Adam and the Apple. Adam isolates himself from God and from Eve – sort of – he blames her for everything going wrong – the Woman you gave me – and then he blames God. And so together they find themselves isolated from God. No easy hugs.
But God persists, with promises and hope, I will bless you, and you will be a blessing to all nations. That’s our purpose and our calling by the way – to take the blessings that God gives us and to use them to bless others. That’s the meaning of life.
And we’ve seen it this year in spades. We’ve seen Sir Tom Moore walking about his garden. We’ve clapped the NHS, we’ve done shopping runs for neighbours and donated to food banks and we have built bridges as best we can. You’ve been phoning people to make sure they’re okay. I’ve become a Tele-evangelist – and I’m still doing it (6pm Evening Prayer, 7.30am a carol earworm reflection).
So, well done. I hope that I will keep up a little exercise each day. What have you been doing, learned to do? What new disciplines have you started up?
I’ve been reading my bible more. I usually try to average about three chapters bible per day because that way it takes me a year to read the bible, but I found that I was getting really quite stressed and I found that the sheer action of dwelling in the scriptures calmed me, fed my soul, – possibly not my brain, I think there have been times this year, months, where I’ve felt a bit befuddled.
But in the bible, I have felt held, remembered. I’ve found a place to pray to give over to God my anxiety and distress, to vent my anger – Dear God what are you playing at? To cry and let God have my tears.
I hope I will keep exercising, I hope I will keep reading my bible and sometimes allow myself to read a bit more and not worry too much if it doesn’t all sink in.
We have spent the year being promised hope, a vaccine, and we’ve held out for it. When we have understood it it right – We have used this hope to do the right thing – to not hug others, to wear the mask, to wash our hands – the hope has given us resilience and strength to keep to the advice.
Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus is born, gave hope – He’d seen a great light a wonderful counsellor, the prince of peace. And Micah about the same time gives hope saying there will be a sort of Divine Shepherd and he will be born in Bethlehem.
Hope has been so important this year. And we’ve had to work hard to make sure that everyone is getting some hope. In my sermons I’ve urged you to phone six people in the hope that most people would get checked on.
‘How are you doing?’ And most people I’ve spoken to have said “I’m Fine” because we’re English and that’s what we say. We’re not good at asking for help.
Some of us have struggled with Loneliness – and no a phone call isn’t the same as a hug but it’s a lot better than no phone call. And that’s why we’ve been writing to people in the Church family who don’t do internet. To at least get a letter, a reminder that you’ve not been forgotten.
I’ve been encouraging people to write Christmas cards this year. For years and years we’ve been doing less and less cards – and we did it on grounds that it’s a bit silly and I will see you over Christmas anyway and we can have a hug and things – but this year I think its more important than ever.
So I am using my Christmas card list as a prayer list, and I am using the cards that people send me to pray through and ask for God’s blessing upon them.
Mary bursts into her Magnificat song when she visits counsin Elizabeth, shortly after the Angel Gabriel has said his bit – and that’s because she, all of God’s people, have felt forgotten and suddenly here’s the hope, the Good News or at least it is the beginning of Good News.
Mary gets an angel, Joseph gets a dream, the shepherds get a whole choir of angels, the Magi get the star. Different quantities and qualities – but enough for each to get going, to grow in faith, in hope, in love.
I wonder who has been an Angel to you? Who has been there for you? Who has spoken hope and faith and love to you? For me it has been all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.
And I wonder who have you been an Angel to? Who have you been A guiding star for? Who have you been able to help, encourage, enable them to face tomorrow.
The sheer act of spotting glimpses of angels, of noticing when you have been blessed, has been wonderful. And the sheer act of getting involved, in helping others, has been so good for our mental health.
Its been fun seeing how many of you have tried. You’ve tried You tube, face book, zoom. You’ve responded to our call for help with Tech – thank you. You’ve responded to our call for prayer for the Messy Churches we had over half term. Thank you.
So many people have said to me – I’m not religious but I have seen some of your services, I’ve joined you for a prayer.
I’m not religious but I’ve been praying on my walks. I’m not religious but I’ve been reading a gospel. I’m not religious but is there anything I can do to help, to give?
I think maybe you have more faith than you give yourself credit for. What do you think Us Religious Types get up to all day? Maybe you should cut yourself some slack and say Its okay, I maybe I am a little religious, maybe I have found a little faith, that this prayer thing, this helping and giving, and connecting to each other and to my soul to God – has been good.
The choir are going to sing my favourite carol next. Its got this lovely line in it – Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today
I want to sing really loudly, but that’s not going to happen, tonight, but in this new style of worship, where others sing and we hear it, there’s a space for us to really hear the words and to let them become a prayer.
Your faith has grown this year. Its grown in your soul, its grown in your actions and in your character. It has flushed out of us all sorts of emotions and struggles, all sorts of distresses and sorrows – we have seen our hopes and fears.
May you pray Dear Jesus what you have begun in me this year, rekindled in me this year, please keep going. Help me to know you more and follow you more and to love you more and to find that The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Amen.