Sermons from St Faith's
Light in Darkness
Revd Denise McDougall, January 26th, 2014
Thank goodness the Church of England in all its wisdom has devised
the lectionary which determines the dayís readings. Otherwise where
on earth would one begin after such a painful week, a week which has
impacted on every single person connected to SF both past and
present in some way or another. Between us, since Monday evening, we
have probably experienced every emotion possible Öfrom raging anger
to absolute numbness. I am fairly certain we are all probably still
trying to come to terms with the harsh even brutal reality of how we
have been perceived not only by Bishop Stephen Lowe but now also by
readers of the local and the national press. It is a heart- breaking
situation here at St. Faithís; we are facing turbulent times and it
is devastating for everyone involved.
The lectionary readings couldnít have been more poignant this
morning and they are as relevant now as they were all those years
ago; todayís passages continue to offer us the true meaning of
discipleship, hope for the future and the importance of unity.
Isaiah leads us into a visionary statement about Godís ultimate
victory, there is the affirmation that hope comes to the
hopeless, light comes to those living in darkness and despair and
that Godís kingdom will defeat evil.
Paulís letter talks of the troubles in Corinth and the matter which
was reported by Chloeís people highlighted a major pastoral issue.
Paulís reference to the various leaders suggests that different
groups have associated themselves around key personalities and their
teaching. How ironic that those early Christians identified
themselves with evangelists, traditionalists, feminists etc. or with
a particular preacher, teacher or personality rather than with Jesus
Christ. Paul clearly stated that the gospel message amongst
the Corinthians was not just being undermined but fundamentally
misunderstood because of the divided Christian community.
He called everyone quarrelling to remember that they belonged to
Christ; Christís death and resurrection symbolised in our baptism
which unites each one of us; and it was only a couple of weeks
ago that we all renewed our baptismal promises.
Paul knew very well that the gospel of Christ would cause the
Corinthians to feel uncomfortable just as it can disturb us today
but there was an urgent need for change. Change of course doesnít
have to mean a threat to our diverse points of view, our thinking
doesnít have to change but can be held in unity, remember unity is
However disunity is something that just isnít acceptable in Godís
eyes and Paul challenges us to reflect on that; lack of unity
indicates that we are turning our backs on Christ crucified.
Christís cross that draws us to his divine power to accept, create,
recreate and save.
And so we move to Matthewís Gospel when Jesus calls his first
disciples as he begins his ministry as fulfilment of Isaiahís
Last summer I spent a few days with a friend of mine in Spain; we
both love the sea and enjoyed a number of walks along the beautiful
coastline of the Costa Del Sol. One of my favourite walks took us
passed some boat yards where men sit, usually in glorious sunshine,
mending their fishing boats and repairing nets. I recalled the scene
when I read todayís Gospel and felt nourished by the picture of
Jesus walking along the shores of Galilee teaching and healing. I
tried to imagine what it would have been like for the fishermen when
Jesus called them to be his very first followers and decided it was
probably no more bizarre than if someone had approached one of those
Spanish fishermen last year.
Realistically no-one expects to be asked to walk away from all they
are familiar with in order to start a new life. When Jesus called
Peter and Andrew, James and John they may initially have felt
shocked and perhaps even confused; we know Jesus often played on
words and gave hidden meanings to apparently simple remarks.
Yet there was something so compelling about Jesusí instructions that
day which made the brothers respond immediately and willingly by
leaving their jobs and even their families to follow him. They
were to become part of something new but didnít know where they were
going to be led. It was easy to compare the settings then and now
but almost impossible to understand the impact of Jesusí powerful
words that made the brothers leave everything behind. They certainly
werenít offered fame, fortune or excitement but Jesus wanted them to
draw and attract others just as they had been attracted.
These men entered Jesusí consciousness and allowed the change of
mind-set and will necessary for spiritual nurturing and growth; they
were invited to turn round and see a new reality called the kingdom
of God. The fishermen had to leave their comfort zone behind and I
believe this is what Christ is asking of us today. For the disciples
then and for us now we are facing a huge challenge, an uncertain
future which demands faith, trust and commitment but being a true
disciple was and never will be simple.
Taking messages of hope and light into a land of darkness is no easy
We need to pray and work for the unity that is Godís gift to the
church and the world, beginning with ourselves and our churches here
in Waterloo, our deanery and the Diocese. Matthew would want us to
say that the Kingdom which Jesus established through his own work,
death and resurrection still presents each of us with the same
challenges today. So we need to question ourselves, am I
working to extend the kingdom of God, am I happy to remain with the
status quo or am I standing in its way, could I have acted any
differently? Am I being true to myself and God?
The brothers accepted Jesusí magnetic call without hesitation, they
were offered a mission that was both a command and a promise. The
command was to follow and the promise was they would become fishers
of people by doing Godís work. Yes, there were certainly fish to be
caught but more importantly there were people to be saved and the
nets symbolised the preaching and ministering that would draw people
into Godís Kingdom. Of course there is a huge difference between
fishing for fish and fishing for people. Fish can be caught against
their will and violently pulled from the sea but people can only be
caught if they are willing and responsive.
So if we are to journey as true disciples, Christ wants us to
exercise courage, forgiveness, perseverance, patience and
flexibility, be unobtrusive with a good sense of timing, and with
these characteristics and qualities (although Iím not
suggesting all at the same time!!) we too can then fish for
people. Itís a tall order and we have to be prepared to be risk
takers but we can do it! Jesus will continue to call disciples who
will use their gifts to continue the work that he and the original
band of four fishermen began.
Just as they used their gifts and formed the start of a core
community, I pray can we use ours to restore and rebuild what has
been so good about this awesome place. We are an extension of the
family that has been growing for over 2000 years and it is our
responsibility to share the light and the love of Christ with our
neighbours. Each one of us is called into that family and called to
do its work using the skills that we know best; we donít need any
special credentials, we just need to offer ourselves and turn as Fr.
Paul demonstrated last week, and open our hearts and minds.
We are soon to share the body and blood of Christ around Godís Holy
Table and this fully unites us with fellow Christians not only here
but the world over. So as we leave church today, together as one and
along with Godís help we can work towards a better future. A future
which will revive, will nurture and will heal us spiritually and
emotionally and then we will feel equipped to focus on what God is
calling us to do and be the people God wants us to be.
We are all members of the body of Christ and we have a role to play
and a job to do, letís go out and do it!
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