Sunday, 22 August 2010

Three funerals and a wedding

Pentecost 16 year C Sermon 
Blank intro slide
I love you Lord and I lift my voice…
Love…the tie that binds…Remember that old hymn?
Blessed be the tie that binds…our hearts in Christian love…

What a promise we have… in our God’s love…
beautifully expressed in the scroll of Isaiah

Isaiah slide 1
The sun will no more be your light by day, 
       nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
       and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again, 
       and your moon will wane no more;

Isaiah slide 2
 the LORD will be your everlasting light, 
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then will all your people be righteous 
       and they’ll possess the land forever.
They’re the shoot I’ve planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendour.

Title slide
I’ve called this talk three funerals and a wedding
because this week I
left behind one widow…my mother …holding her love for my father like a candle
learning to live in its light

and in the darkness of his absence…

Last Monday as soon as I returned to New Zealand
I was immersed in the lives of two more women…
freshly widowed
last week…as they and their families
grieved their separation from the husband
and father they knew and loved.
One was our dear Annie May.

One of the things I always say at funerals…
is that the pain of separation
is inevitable…
when we surrender ourselves to love.
The pain of separation simply can’t be avoided…
as long as we live and the ones we love die
or leave us.
So the cost of loving…is paid at both funerals and weddings.

Blank slide
But we’re comforted in our Christian faith
by the belief that God’s love is stronger than death …
God’s love for his children continues
after they die…
in that sense
God’s relationship with us is eternal…
and why we call it eternal life.

The ancient Hebrew people…
simply couldn’t conceive of an end to God’s love…
that’s why they often interpreted suffering as God’s punishment…NOT as God’s rejection of them.

But the understanding of God’s love
that Jesus revealed
us…is one of grace and forgiveness. We have to look elsewhere for the causes of our misfortunes.

And not only are we comforted in our Christian faith…
we continue to have hope…even in the face of death…
and separation from the people we love

this hope springs from the certainly that our relationship with God will not and can not end even in death.
Our hope allows us in lifeto wait for God’s help without giving up or giving in or going away.

Fully mature in our faith we would fear neither loneliness …nor our own death …for we know God is with us…
in us…loving us…even when everyone else we love is gone.

Even when we have to leave behind
the ones we love.

The Bible is all about relationships of love. First the permanent relationship between God and God’s creation especially humankind…and the Bible uses the metaphors of human relationships to describe this…it talks about God and God’s unfaithful but cherished wife …Israel …about God and God’s rebellious and ungrateful children…

and it's a story of relationships
that set to continue until
everyone and everything is reconciled to God

and God is all in all.

And of course the Bible is full of the stories of human relationships with each other and with creation…
husbands and wives…parents and children…farmers and their land…faithfulness and betrayal… passion and indifference…mercy and cruelty…

For us as Christians…Jesus life and death…were and are
the fullest expression of God’s love
which ever existed
in time and space…for in
Jesusthe fullness of God
was please to dwell.[i]

the apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans that…
in turn… Jesus has made us..made our very beings
his dwelling place. So we confidently speak of this… relationship without end… eternal… everlasting  undying…

Even Jesus in his humanity…demonstrated that death is
the inevitable end for a fragile human body…

but when the Spirit of God raised Jesus to new life…
it was revealed…
that death does not have the last word.

And as the full revelation of God in time and space…
we can put our complete trust in Jesus’ teaching…especially his commandment to love one another as he has loved us.

When we take up his cross and become his disciples…
we commit ourselves as much as is humanly possible…
to extend the grace and forgiveness…the compassion and the mercy we’ve been shown… to every child of God.

As children of God’s new covenant…
with Christ dwelling in us…
we are to be a light to the world we are to sow love into the world.
Where there is injustice we are to seek justice
where there is cruelty we are to bring mercy…where there is division… we are to work for peace and reconciliation. Justice mercy compassion and peace are to be paramount in our relationships.

This is the point of the story in our Gospel reading set down for today in Luke

Luke slide
Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you’re set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. [pause]

But the leader of the synagogue…indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath…kept saying to the crowd,
"There are six days on which work ought to be done;
come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day."

But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites!
Don’t each of you on the Sabbath… untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham…
whom Satan bound for eighteen long years
shouldn’t she be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?"

When Jesus said this all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing.

Blank slide
In this and many other stories Jesus shows us… loving just relationships in action…
he casts aside religious taboos…he dismantles the religious stumbling blocks of his time…in order to touch and to heal and restore.

Jesus relationship with the woman in the story…a total stranger…is more important than the legal requirements of the synagogue.

She deserves justice and wholeness…
she deserves to be served by Jesus…more than he needs to follow the rules.

Jesus’ servant relationship with her overrides all religious considerations. In this Jesus reveals the surprising nature of God’s love.

As Paul said in his letter to the Romans
Slide words
For I’am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
that’s in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Blank slide
Tragedy struck Jesus in his human frailty
just as it strikes us…but because of him… we may look upon disaster with eyes that shine with hope as well as tears

Here beneath these mountains and beside these lakes…we gain the strength to love ourselves and others as he loved us…the strength that comes…
from the very love of God that dwells within us

so today as we give God our hearts once more in worship… may our faith be renewed and our hope restored… and sustained by the wonder of this love.

[i] [Colossians 1:19]