Stop me if you have never been in a situation where - in hindsight at least—you have not felt that you missed an opportunity to say something helpful and supportive to someone who needed support. If you could turn back the clock, you would have spoken gently and carefully, and maybe provided someone some room to move ahead, But you did not ….. Or maybe you stopped someone else from offering support …….
This is going to be a bit of a convoluted journey this morning, but I hope that you will find the value as we travel. On this Pentecost Sunday it has to do with being rather more open, and aware—and game. And find that it is important to be so.
Quite some years ago, I was Diocesan Youth Co-ordinator at the delicate age of late ‘50s. And one of the things that kids complained about, then, long before and long after, was ‘Pops, Church is so boring.’ My youngest daughter—married to a priest—still says the same thing. So what has gone wrong?
I suspect that part of the answer lies in that we are not at all sure quite what we are doing here. What is worship anyhow? What the hell is supposed to happen? Is this feel good stuff? Is this heart-warming? Or is it dead routine—as it seems to be for many? And all that is why this morning I follow up a pattern I engage in occasionally, and take us through the reasons for why we do what we do in Church. And to start, I take you out of Church to do it.
You will know what I am talking about when you are trying to rebuild an old relationship that has been broken by mistrust or misbehaviour. It does not matter if it was you at fault or the other person. The strain is there is it not. And you hover between total honesty and some sort of fluffing around the edges. Polite or honest. If you are trying to avoid hurt, then forget any real progress. Be polite? If you want real resolution, you will be stuck with honesty. At whatever cost. It is hard work, and sometimes quite delicate, but almost invariably, well worth the effort. And the process in worship is remarkably similar. Remember that.
Relationships are worth keeping and building on. That is what worship is all about. And that is where our form of worship almost always begins. Recognizing that there are issues that need attention
Back to Church and APBA ……… what is happening?
Almighty God to Whom all hearts are open…………. No room for bumf –read the words again. This is no witch-hunt; no standing in judgement. It is a facing of ordinary human reality, with the powerful matter of resolution totally possible. Honesty only.
Shema Israel To compare me with you is to miss the point. I need a higher canon, a loftier standard. No room to move about here with the Shema—the ultimate standard, canon, high jump. This is not to make you feel lousy or pathetic. It is there to help us face the realities. It may sound hard, but refer back to the prayer of preparation. Honesty. And steep hills to climb.
Just like in a real-life conciliation, eh?
The atmospherics of all this is wonderful: and then the facing of the truth. ‘I am responsible; I am not perfect. And that means that I need to accept that fact that others aren’t perfect either.’
Confession is not there to make your little soul sparkly again. It is to face the fact that God knows and you know and you do not have to hide from anyone. Christians cannot be blackmailed. If I have done something I ought not, I have only to say ‘Yes, that was me.’ Only when I can face the truth about myself am I able to move forward with any reality or permanence about it. It is freeing, redemptive. Yes, that is me—and now I can move on from there.
And then there is forgiveness. This is no easy step, and you will know that if you have had to forgive someone else. ‘Forgive and forget’ is pious twaddle. Never forget that.
Two things to note: forgiveness is not repeat NOT a feeling. It is a decision. It is the turning of one’s back on revenge.
If I offer repentance, I am offering my word not to repeat the failure—so don’t forget; just be careful.
Resolution. Restoration. But having taken all issues seriously and the people seriously. And now life can begin again. We can talk again to each other, and listen—and work together and learn.
No wonder the Gloria—shout of delight.
No wonder the readings—for now I can listen to the Father and relish the restored relationship.
Once all that much has been dealt with, we have the Scripture readings. We can listen to God, be open to the Spirit, and perhaps even find the sermon has some help along our way.
And dare I say it, you may find no need of a sermon sometimes, for the dialogue between you and the Father is exhilarating enough.
One final word. Only last week I had a conversation with someone who was telling me what the Lord was saying to them.
If there is one thing we need to learn, it is, as Scripture says, ‘to test the spirits.’ This week’s news about Agape Ministries (what a misnomer!!!) shows how easy it is to lead some folk up enormous garden paths to a very destructive outcome.
Test your sense of God speaking with the clear picture of Jesus in the NT. Truth does not operate outside its own parameters. Never