The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s123g06 Sunday 11 Holy Trinity Orange 19/6/06
"he explained everything .. to his disciples" Mark 4.34
It is just a pity they didn't write these explanations down!
There is a curiosity for me that St Paul bids us "see, everything has become new" but clearly things were hidden from those who listened to Jesus -- the disciples included -- so much so that THEY needed extra tuition -- not the people around them.
One of my "pet hates" is when the person presiding at a service says that we will now have a moment of silence to think about these words. I don't know if it is my original sin coming to the fore or the natural rebellion we all have when we are told we are going to do something, and we have no choice about it.
It is not that I mind silence at all -- in fact after a good day of visiting I do enjoy the peace and quiet of my own space. But I cannot switch into silence at the behest of someone else. I actually think that Anglicans find silence a bit daunting. And I wonder if it is a sign of the aging church -- that we want or need more time to digest things. I am not sure that this would be immediately attractive to teenagers.
Perhaps it is also the conception that there has just been a message that has been run past us that we must get. It is too important to let it slip by. My perverse mind suggests that if it actually is so important then we ought to be told what the message is, lest we actually get it wrong.
Jesus' words in the parable are all about growth, and if there is one thing about growth that is true, it is that growth cannot be forced. We can provide the right circumstances for the growth to occur -- that sufficient light, nutrients, water, air and so on are there in the right proportions -- but the growth then happens or not. We cannot either speed it up or slow it down. It happens at its own pace. So injecting a little silence (or anything else) cannot force us into growth into the Christian life. We need to be ready, we need to embrace that which is around us. Like the horse brought to water, we cannot be made to drink.
If there is something that God wants to disclose to us, then nothing at all will stop that happening.
When I look at the Anglican Church in the light of the words of St Paul: "everything has been made new" I begin to scratch my head. Certainly we here in Australia have a lovely new Prayer Book (APBA) but all the ageing congregations I have known continue really to conduct their liturgy in a similar manner to before and to engage in the old controversies -- about which teapot belongs to which group :-)
I have had cause to reflect that everyone in the Anglican Church realizes that changes have to happen if we are to survive, and we are all happy that changes happen -- provided someone else does the changing :-)
We might look to a bishop to provide the lead, but the difficulty with a bishop is that we are not all that certain if the bishop is the 'governor general' or the 'prime minister' of the diocese. In the end if the bishop doesn't support our view -- then we want him (or in time hopefully -- her) then we come to think that the bishop is a figure head like the governor general. But when we want someone else to support us, then we want the bishop to be the prime minister and get others to comply :-) One of the eternal questions is still posed to God, to the Church, to others - is that of Martha to Jesus -- 'tell my sister to help me' -- she is not allowed to choose for herself.
When I hear some people in the Church speaking, it is often about the 'faith once delivered to the saints' unaltered down the centuries, and I wonder how they interpret these words of St Paul to the Church to look for that which is new.
I wonder how they interpret the words of the prophet Joel, quoted by St Peter, the founding charter of the Church at the first Pentecost: 'I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.' Acts 2
For let us be clear, St Paul is speaking in his second letter to the Corinthians, not to the unchurched, but to the churched. It was speaking to those who would hear the letter read, people in Church. Those who didn't come to Church were hardly likely, if ever, to have an opportunity to hear them.
I am happy for the advances in liturgy that we have, but we are bidden to look at other people differently. We are bidden to have new eyes, approving eyes, not critical eyes.
If I want to see people who are regarding 'no one from a human point of view" -- I see the world now looking past the colour of people's skin, the language they speak, the traditions they hold, the gender of the person with whom they relate intimately, their social status. As my son Timothy and I worshipped at the little chapel at Bloomfield Psychiatric Hospital last Sunday, his comment was how genuine those in the congregation were. And it is true, and as such it is an inditement on the church. So often for those in the church, looking at others from a human point of view -- being critical and / or expecting others to 'toe the line' is their weekly 'spectator sport'. (This is of course the reason that I am a day late in my sermon this week).
If I want to see really new things, I have to look at the society around the church. Modern liberal attitudes, multi-culturalism, the technological revolution, a fairly high degree of affluence in Australia, people thinking for themselves, people able to express themselves, all these are good.
No, we as the church are far more adept at trying to get others to listen to the words of St Paul rather than taking them to heart ourselves, and having our Sunday morning spectator sport disturbed. We put Bibles in hotel and motel rooms, we get evangelists to go into schools, we used to send missionaries to third world countries and now third world countries are sending them here. We argue about gays and women in a show of religion, while meanwhile the world is looking on bemused -- wondering -- when will the CHURCH get the message of Jesus?
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