"Mountain and Valley"
MINT SERMON FOR SERVICE OF CONFIRMATION
AND WELCOME OF NEW MEMBERS – 10 FEB 2013
Bonjour mes amis – thanks to all
who shared in our panto Aladdin here on Friday and Saturday.
Those who witnessed my single handed attempt
to murder the French language in the part of M. Albert from Provence will be relieved to hear that not only have I dispensed with my beret and onions, but have reluctantly decided to stick to English for this sermon.
But wouldn’t it be great if we could just hang on to Aladdin’s magic lamp
Then whenever we had a problem, we could just give a quick rub,
and “whoosh” – in a puff of well or badly timed stage smoke -
there would be a Genie (aka Vicky Abrams in a gold cloak)
ready to sort out all the problems of the world…..
No more ecological disaster, no more war, no more suffering, disease…..
Just rub the lamp!
But of course, such magic tricks only happen in pantomime.
Back in the real world. There are no genies.
Yes, God knows our wishes, and more importantly our needs,
he knows our hopes and dreams.
Indeed his Word (says the Psalmist) is like a lamp unto our feet.
Yes God will guide us & direct us & strengthen us, if we will allow him:
But no genies.
It is only through the likes of you and me that he will work –
It is only through the likes of you and me that the world of
enmity and war, sorrow and heartache
will be transformed.
Today’s Gospel tells the story of the Transfiguration.
Jesus appears to the disciples shining in glory.
Peter hopes this is a happy Pantomime fairy tale ending –
“Lord, lets build tents and stay here and live happily ever after”
No says Jesus, you’ve got to go back to the valley.
And what was true for Peter & James & John is true for us all.
For the mountain top experiences
do not mean we withdraw from the valley – quite the reverse.
The mountain top experiences of God actually drive us back to the valleys of sorrow, darkness and death.
But - that valley is different for us now –
Because we’ve been to the Mountaintop,
and we’ve had a sneak preview of the end of the story –
because we’ve seen the glory to be -
So you can go and live your dreams back in the valley.
You can face the path of the cross
when you have already seen a glimpse of resurrection glory.
In his famous speech Martin Luther King said
I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve seen the Promised Land.
But note he didn’t say – I’ve had a wonderful religious experience -
so let’s withdraw to worship and pray
well away from all the horrors of everyday life –
Quite the reverse –
he said I’ve been to the mountain top and seen a vision of a world
in which the demons of racism and injustice had been finally expelled.
God may reveal himself on the mountain top –
but the vision we have drives us back down
to care for the sick child in the valley below.
Today we will be inviting Ben, Rachel, Jisoo and Jane to come forward and kneel and be blessed and empowered by the Holy Spirit –
I hope and pray that that will be in a real sense
a mountain top experience for you –
God speaking to you, confronting and surrounding you,
strengthening you in your moment of confirmation.
God does not just reveal himself to us once in a life time –
he comes again and again to confront us, dazzle us with his presence, reassure us of his love, challenge us to reflect his glory.
We will all be coming forward later in the service -
some to reaffirm our confirmation promises
all of us to receive the body and blood of Christ.
As we do so, may we all know ourselves at one with James John and Peter –
climbing the mountain path and meeting the Lord of glory
before returning inspired to reflect that glory in the world.
Exactly 900 years ago – in February 1113 –
Pope Paschal II officially recognized the Knights of Malta,
the Knights Templar – a religious order first set up to aid the crusades.
The order still exists – indeed this month thousands will gather
to celebrate its 900th anniversary in Rome.
Reflecting on the horrors of the crusades,
its current members point out that they are still fighting –
but their battles today are thankfully no longer fought with swords,
but with "peaceful tools against disease, poverty, and social isolation".
Every member of the Church
is called to be Christ’s faithful soldier and servant.
Let us make sure we fight the right enemies,
and use the right weapons – those of love.
There are so many in need of care at the foot of the mountain -
Today we are thinking particularly about Hospiscare.
Thanks to MethAng for putting on what I am sure will be a great lunch.
Do stop and share it if you can.
And if you can’t stay, please leave a contribution before you go.
And support the Noah production also in aid of Hospiscare.
On returning from the mountain, Jesus worked a miracle -
healing a writhing convulsed boy.
When I go to the hospice and find the way
a frightened and tense sufferer has found
peace and calm, love and respect, in the midst of their troubles,
I realize that the age of miracles is not over –
but God works these miracles through the staff of the hospice.
Those who are old enough may remember the movie
“Back to the Future” first released in 1985.
I saw a screen shot from the movie this week
showing the dashboard of the time travelling car.
The dial shows the date to which the car travels –
it is set for the far distant future – 4 February 2013..
We all travel into the future – a day at a time –
the question is will the future be more Godly and holy place
because of our Godly and holy living?
Will our God given vision of the Kingdom to come
translate into a better world here and now?
To all our Korean friends – Happy New Year!
Today is the first day of a new year for you
And for all of us, today is the first day of the rest of our lives.
May we use that life to travel twixt the mount and the multitude,
experiencing mountain top glory and reflecting it in the valley below.
I leave you with this thought -
Today as you come down the aisle –
for confirmation, for welcome, for communion –
you look approach the cross, the Bible, the table -
and in so doing, we do nothing less than walk in the footsteps
of apostles and saints who have gone before us,
climbing mountains and seeing their life anew
in the light of the glory of the Lord.
These are things which as a part of the Church we are privileged to share.
And then as you walk back from the table,
you face in the opposite direction - your eyes turn to world out there –
the car park, Fore Street, the Hospice, the City,
the world with its killing fields and heartaches, its pain and sorrow…
And again we walk in the footsteps of saints and apostles
who have come down from the mountain in God’s name
These are the tasks which as a Church we are called to fulfil.
So to Ben, Rachel, Jisoo and Jane – and to all who gather here -
May we be worthy successors of those who have gone before us,
and like them may our lives reflect the dazzling glory
of God’s heavenly presence in every dark place of earth.