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 not uniformity!

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 prophecy.

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 task.

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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