In living memory, in the days before BBC Radio One, there were only three radio stations, called the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme.
There was very little output directed at children, but they did have 15 minutes every week day for ‘Listen With Mother’, and this programme famously began with the words, “ Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin”. Those broadcasters knew how to settle their audiences down in order to pay attention. So – are you sitting comfortably? Warm enough? Can you hear ok? Is your mind here with us (with God?) or are you mentally planning next week’s to-do list? I often think (sometimes when I am listening to a sermon! ) a science fiction thought-reading machine would be interesting . . . I can’t be the only one whose thoughts wander sometimes, even in church !
This morning we are gathered, in all concentration, to set our sights on becoming Christian pilgrims: journeying towards God, coming together for worship, praise and learning is part of our journey; sometimes we are prompted by upbringing, habit or duty – and none the worse for that. We are also drawn here by a sense of fellowship, acknowledged or otherwise. And particularly in this church, in this building, we are drawn by a sense of peace, a sense of God’s presence and love. It seems to be in the stonework. There are many levels of church activities: when we consider how much time we spend fund-raising as opposed to praying, we can realise that fund-raising can be a gift to God also.
When we consider, how, collectively, our coming together on a Sunday morning impinges on the outside world we realise that what we do, we show to the outside world. Within these walls, with traffic whizzing by around and past us, we guard the warm and gentle light of sanctuary. The resounding bells and the distant sound of singing may remind the neighbours of a Godly presence: they may not be aware of it, but imagine if the church was shut - that would leave a cold hard spot on our local map. So fundraising to safeguard our Christian witness is also valuable to God. Without the building to house the numinous, where could we feel it?
We need to gather together to support each other while we explore God’s word. In the Old Testament the prophets continually define right and wrong, and define the law. The first people of God actively searched for Him, willing to see signs and wonders in burning bushes, and dreams. And yet their lives fell short of God’s hopes: He was moved to help us live a life well - lived, fit to offer to God, so he sent his son Jesus to lead us on.
To some Jesus’ teaching seemed upside down; but he never advocated abandoning the law and the prophets, but brought more to them, and urged us to go deeper into God’s will, not only to aim to do no wrong, but to aim to think no wrong. Maybe today’s world now mirrors Old Testament times? Is there one law for God, which we seek, and another for the world? One set of values from God, encouraging a daily round of prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication and intercession ------ and (modern life not seeming to value the Godly) another set of values aiming for more gadgets, ever newer machines, cars that talk? More time is spent decorating homes in the latest vogue than is spent in church; clothes are fashion items, not God-given gifts of warmth.
To aim for a life well-lived is no longer fashionable, yet we, the faithful, even against the odds, will persevere. If our personalities and abilities matched our souls at their holiest, and we lived our lives 100% according to Jesus’ teaching our church and our lives would always be full, full of a daily and unending cycle of prayer and worship, and good works. That is our Christian ideal. However, being human, 100% adherence to God’s will is not humanly possible. We could extend the Latin saying “cogito ergo sum” to “we think therefore we are, therefore we err”. Our default position, our fall back stance, is to be imperfect AND THAT’S OK: we are built that way: we make mistakes – that’s ok too, it’s how we learn. Remember a baby – aiming to be a toddler – (not, you note, at this stage aiming to be a marathon runner). The baby with much deliberation will pull himself upright, sway a bit (or a lot, depending on his sense of balance), and totter forward, thus crossing an invisible line of progress, from being an infant to a toddler. Inevitably he will soon thump back to sitting on the floor but he will always try again, although it might be a lengthy job, the child will run and jump and dance. Watching his first steps with pride his father is not broken-hearted when he falls. He would only grieve, as does our heavenly Father, if his child ceased trying.
We are made in our Father’s image; we are
part of his plan; God loves us. Maybe when we are at home this week we
can make time to study these words of Jesus again, and take some action
to show whose side we are on, God’s or Mammon’s.