Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’

One of our many activities on our holiday was fishing.
We found a great spot outside of Tuncurry where there was a little jetty on to the river.
There was a little park with sheltered seating and tables.

It was Ivy who was fishing, not me.
It is not something I have ever really enjoyed, or done that much.

My grandparents were very keen flyfishers.
There house was filled with books and pictures of fish.
They had many rods, and boxes of fly tying equipment.
It was something they did as a family often.
This was part of my childhood, going to rivers and watching my grandparents, uncles, brother standing in the middle of a river, wearing waders, fishing.

Flyfishing was my grandparents great love.
To them it was the best escape from work and domestic life.
It was more than a hobby, it was passion.

For Simon and Andrew, and James and John, it was more than a passion.
It was their life.
This was what they did.
This is how they fed themselves and their families.
This is how they earned their living.

It would have been a 6 day a week job, early rising, late finishing.
The sea would be something they feared and respected.
The sea was their environment.
Their understanding of the world, the place in it, and their understanding of God would all be interpreted in terms of the sea.
The sea would dominate their being.

When Jesus shows up at the shore,
he understands how their environment and work dominates their being.

He uses their world to ask them for their lives.

‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’

By asking them to follow him,
Jesus is asking them to give everything they know away.

He asking them to leave the environment that has made them who they are.
He is asking them to give up their livelihoods.
He is asking them to leave who they are.

Yet this is not all about abrupt change and disconnection.

He tells them they are to keep using their skills, but in a new way.

‘and I will make you fish for people.’ 

This simple sentence shows how Jesus understood humanity, the world, and how we are.

Jesus saw the men and knew them.
He understood their lives and their way of being.
He knew how to speak with them and knew what kind of language and images to use.

So while “I will make you fish for people” may seem quite a basic statement,
if not a bizarre image, in a few small words,
Jesus is able to speak directly to these men’s entire life and experience.

Now, with my lack of interest in fishing, this call would not work for me.
Jesus would have to come up with something different.
It is not an invitation I would be that keen on following up.

I dare say it would be the same for many of us.

This all tells us the importance of context,
environment and circumstance when we speak with others about Jesus.

We all change the way we speak, the words we use, the tone, pitch, pace, all those things when we speak with different types of people
Think for example the way you speak to a little baby.
This is different to how you speak to the woman at the checkout at the IGA.
You may be saying exactly the same thing, expressing the same ideas and concepts, for example “Hello, how is your day,” but they will be different.

It gets even more subtle.

The way we speak to people in church will be different to how we speak to people outside of church.
The way we speak to Christians will be different to how we speak to people of different or no faiths.

And so it is when we speak of the Gospel to people.

Jesus spoke into these men's lives,
he spoke of their experience and used that to invite them on a wonderful journey,
one that would change their lives,
and would change the world.

When we speak to people and invite them on a journey that will change their lives,
and the lives of those around them,
when we invite people to church,
to meet Christ in the word and sacrament,
we need to speak into their lives and experience.

That will look and sound different each and every time.
The message doesn't change, it is eternal, but the way we speak and be it will.

So for each encounter we have, the way we speak of God will be different each time.
God doesn’t become different,
we don’t become different,
 but our way of expressing God’s love for us, and for those we are talking to is nuanced.

As Jesus spoke about fishing to fishermen,
we too are to speak about what we observe and understand in our environments when we speak about God.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

‘What are you looking for?’ 

These are the first words Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel.

John’s Gospel is ordered, filled with symbolism,
notes about what time or day things occur,
that when we read it, we are taken into a different realm:
it is a combination of earthiness and reality and spiritual depth.

The two combine into a space that is unique in all literature.

John would have thought and prayed very carefully about what Jesus’ first words were to be in this Gospel.
Jesus must have spoken before this,
so we need not be concerned about history here,
we aren’t interested in his first words.
We are interested in what John is telling us about Jesus.

Two of John the Baptist’s disciples have heard the Baptist say
‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’
They follow Jesus as he walks past them.

Jesus must have heard them walking behind him.
He turns and asks them a question:

It is Jesus who starts things off.
They may have been in awe, or too shy.
It is Jesus who takes the first step.
Jesus will allude to this later within John’s Gospel, when he says to the disciples:

You did not choose me but I chose you. 

Gods love for us preceeds the movement of our souls toward him.

He asks them:
‘What are you looking for?’ 

This is not some meaningless small talk.
Jesus is not asking them if they are lost, or if they need direction.
Well, actually, he is, but not in a physical or ordinary sense.

Jesus looks at the men and knows why they are there.
He wants to know if they know why they are there.

‘What are you looking for?’ 

But this question goes beyond those two men.
It reaches through time and space and we are asked the same thing.
This is a question Jesus asks all who follow him.
This question touches on the most basic need of our human nature.
This question goes straight to the cause of why we turn to God.

‘What are you looking for?’ 

It goes beyond our logic,
it goes beyond our primal nature and speaks directly to the yearning in our soul.

What are we looking for?
What is that makes us come here?
What is it that makes us follow Jesus, why do we do this?

These are serious questions.

All of us will have different answers.
It may be comfort, it may be the sense of community.
It may be the hymns, the worship, the building.
It may be a sense of peace.

Ultimately, all answers will lead to one thing: God.

However we understand our relationship with God,
or however it works within us,
that is what we are looking for.
I believe everyone is looking for God.
They may not use those words, they may not even think they are looking,
but inside every human there is a longing for union with the divine.
It is in our very DNA, it is part of what makes us human.

That is what the two men who were following Jesus were looking for.

Their reply
‘where are you staying?’  
shows where they were up to on their journey toward God.
They weren’t yet disciples.
They knew that Jesus was something special,
the Baptist had referred to him as the Lamb of God.

Where are you staying, or where are you abiding
shows they wanted to speak with Jesus.
They wanted to know more.
They wanted to spend time with him.
They wanted to be with him.

As what we are looking for is God, so too do we yearn to stay with God.
We long to abide with God.
We long to abide in God.

Again, this is part of what makes us human.
Not only do all people looking for God, they also yearn to stay with him.
It is human to seek escape from temporality, change, death.
It is human to desire something that is lasting,
something that is eternal,
something that goes beyond time and space.

So while this brief question and answer between Jesus and the two followers
seems quite straightforward, it is in fact very deep.

The desires of God toward humanity
and humanity’s desires toward God are laid plain in this interaction.

Jesus’ answer is brief
Come and see.
He doesn’t explain, he doesn’t offer anything, he doesn’t offer an alternative.
He doesn’t say where he is dwelling, just ‘come and see’.

This is still the truth.
In John’s Gospel the idea of seeing is a sign of belief.
Belief or seeing won’t come by concise argument or piles of evidence.

It is only by following Jesus and by abiding in his presence that we can see him.

This is how it still works.

We do this today in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we experience the real presence of Christ.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will speak of himself as the Bread of Life.
He will say:

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

Jesus asked the first followers what they looking for.
They asked where he was staying, where he was abiding.
He only answered, Come and see.

We follow in their footsteps.
Jesus asks us what are we looking for?
We ask where we can find find him so we can be with him.
He says come and see.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Being a Dad

The whole idea of being a father has been on my mind these last few weeks.

I am not a great dad.

There are many excuses for this:
I am busy.
I work many hours.
I have no time.

None of those work while on holiday. There is no work, and plenty of time.

So why do I found being a good dad something so elusive?
Why is it something that every month or so I say I am going to sort out and become the dad I want to be, and my daughter deserves?

The point is that it is there really is no excuse.
I could blame the way I was bought up, my dad was not around.

It really worries me that time is marching on. I will always be a dad until I die, but I won't be a dad to a pre teenage girl for much longer. It's like there is plenty of time, yet it is running out. Not that long ago we used to watch Spongebob together all the time. Now, I think it is more me who wants to watch it.

I am really worried that it will all go by without me waking up and sorting it out.

And how does all this sit with God, God who I pray to as "Gracious Father," or "Eternal Father"?
How can I pray and speak of God as giving. loving, forging, caring, using the name Father, yet when it comes to my being a father, I am none of those things?

And what of my daughter? When she prays the Lord's Prayer..."Our Father...."?
What kind of image of fatherhood am I giving her? How is she to believe God the Father will love and care for her, while her father on earth doesn't do a very good job of it? I mean, they are just names, but the implications are vast.

This year I will be the father I need to be, the father I currently am.