A sermon preached
Readings: Isa 43:1-7, Mt 5:1-10
“God says, I have called you by your name, & you are mine” (Isa 43:1)
Each year St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar
holds a service in memory of the homeless men and women
who have died during the past year.
Hymns and prayers are interspersed
with reading of the names of those who have died.
such recent service included the following prayer
beginning with our text and leading into the list of those who had died:
“God says, I have called you by your name, and you are mine”
God of love, call me by my name.
Pronounce its syllables with care.
Speak my full name,
The name the world knows me by.
Speak my private names,
Known only to my friends, my lovers, myself.
You know me from my beginning to my end.
Speak my name, and make me yours forever.
Then followed the names of the homeless who had died on the streets of the city.
we think of the homeless on our streets and the streets of the world,
let us never forget that whilst they may be anonymous statistics to some,
to God they are his beloved children –
“I have called you by name, and you are mine”
I had an email from Nigel and Lorna Collinson this
saying they are right now in the Antarctic – Nigel writes :
”We shall be thinking about you all on Sunday
and the service on Homelessness,
albeit that we are standing on a rocky beach surrounded by ice and penguins.
with our best wishes to you all, Lorna and Nigel Collinson.”
recall that across the five continents and seven seas,
we are all God’s children – he knows us by name.
week we have again recalled the horrors of the holocaust –
and most of us will have watched scenes
from the memorial service at Auschwitz Camp -
Many elderly survivors were there to share in the
One elderly woman came up to microphone
and rolled up her sleeve to reveal a number still tattooed on her arm –
"I'm number 4662," she said.
"We had no names here,
and I have a hard time calling myself with my real name here.
It's too painful."
But God says “I have called you by your name, & you are mine”
Let me take you back to that service at St Martin’s
and another meditation prefaced by another text from Isaiah –
this time Isa. 49:16:
‘God says “Your name is engraved on the palm of my hand.”’
Then this prayer –
“God of infinite tenderness,
who hurt your hand with my name?
How did my name get cut into your palm?
How did the blade wound your skin?
But when you curl your hand, my name is there,
held in your powerful, gentle hand.
Keep me safe, hold me tight,
and never let me hurt you, or anyone again”
move towards Lent, we begin to reflect afresh on the cross,
and see the marks on his hands and his feet -
the marks of God’s love for each one,
a mark of his love for each child held by name in his hands and his heart.
as God loves the needy, the homeless and the dying,
so he calls us to go and do likewise.
I remember when I worked in an office in Bristol,
I had an office at the top of the building
and from my window I could look down on Christmas Steps –
from where I sat I could see all my colleagues
coming and going to work.
On the steps there was a young fellow
with a dog and a collecting basket –
he was there every day, all day,
sitting on a piece of cardboard near our office door.
I could see all my friends pass shim by –
and most did just that – just passed him by.
But then I began to notice one of my colleagues –
every day as he reached the homeless fellow he stopped,
crouched down on his haunches, and had a chat to him,
and then went on to work.
I don’t know to this day if he was giving him money –
but I am sure that was not the main thing he did –
like someone long ago on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho,
he saw not a statistic, not a stereotype, not a number –
but a child of God, a human being, with a name
to be called and remembered,
a brother to be acknowledged and honoured.
And do we honour and remember those in need?
we come to the Lord’s table
it is a symbol of his loving acceptance of all his children.
also a symbol of the feast he bids us share
with each other and with all our brothers and sisters.
There are many ways to share that feast –
Here’s a poem about a winter soup kitchen
in George Square, Glasgow
We did not bring a lot:
soup in a plastic cup,
tasty and thick and hot.
Shaking you drank it up.
We sniffed the winter air,
that evening in the square.
also had some bread
donated by a store.
”That’s grand, that’s grand” you said,
and seemed to ask for more;
which we were glad to share,
that evening in the square…..
….We brought no cup of wine
blessed by the Son of Man.
Making no sacred sign
we loaded up the van;
but Christ was surely there,
that evening in the square.”
John Coutts, “A Winter’s Eve in George Square Glasgow”,
“Worship Live” 27 Autumn 03)
whose hand holds us and feeds us,
bids us hold and feed others in his name.
remember this –
whoever and whatever and wherever we may be in this life –
none is ultimately homeless -
we all share one heavenly home.
is my neighbour?
My neighbour is everyman and everywoman –
travelling the same road home.
is always moving to visit a hospital or a hospice
and pray with those facing death
and looking forward to next part of life’s journey beyond the grave.
So often you go to comfort those approaching death
only to find that their faith is comforting and strengthening you –
a faith which knows that this life is but part of the journey home.
At Martin Luther King’s funeral, Mahalia Jackson sang
us thank God that he calls us by name,
Let us thank God that he holds us in the palm of his crucified hand
Let us thank God that he brings us safe home.
And lets pray in God’s name
that we may love and care
for all our sisters and brothers who journey home with us.