Sermons from St
Fr Dennis Smith,Sunday, January 22nd,
Words from today’s Gospel:
The People who st in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn. She was sitting at her desk making the most of the sometimes fallow, sometimes fertile, time that comes when her son is napping. The task in hand: a prayer which had been a while in the crafting. The phone rang. She answered on automatic, still trying to find a word to rhyme with “bone”. A voice spoke, “Is that the Minister?" (Bone.. Shown…) “Yes, this is the Minister..” There was a pause... and then a question. “Did you used to be a teacher? Before you were a Minister, I mean?” She looked up from her notes, her attention grabbed at last. “Yes”, she said hesitatingly. “Do you remember an Alistair Rose? I was in your class” – “Well”, she said, sifting through the clutter that had accumulated in the years since she had left teaching, “tell me why you’d like to know and perhaps I’ll remember.” Another pause. “This is Alistair Rose” came the response. “Really?” Let me think … “Where are you now, Alistair? How old are you? What did you do when you left school? It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn”. Alistair answered a flood of questions with great patience… but with economy of information.
“I’ve been back to my old school, Miss," he interrupted. "I wanted to see a few teachers, say thank you, but I discovered they’d mostly all gone – retired or moved on. The thing is, Miss, everyone thought I was really quiet at school, but I had a lot of stuff going on. I’m trying to get my life sorted out but it’s not easy. And I just wanted to say thank you because you were nice to me.” It is she who pauses this time, and she hears herself say “That’s really kind, Alistair. The thing is, I never really felt like I was much of a teacher. I was too young, too nervous, too sincere"
“Oh, you were Miss, you were a good teacher.” It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn.
She has the feeling that all is not well in Alistair’s world, even now. Some people leave notes, perhaps others make telephone calls, But she doesn’t know what to say, how to get to the hurt, and before she knows it, he is gone - and she’s left struggling with memories of the Alistair she knew or didn’t know before the phone rang.
It seemed a lifetime ago: the ache in the pit of her stomach which drew her out from classroom to parish. Alistair found her years on, collared, but still tending that ache, because he wanted to say what he’d never been able to say before. And here was she trying to find the right words. Bone… Shown... Alone... Unknown …
It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn. A young man trying to gather what has come undone, a teacher searching for truth to share, the dimming day and a constant companion. No doubt the fishermen were well acquainted with the dimming day. Or was it a dawning? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell. Poised, patient, ready to haul in another catch, their eyes had probably become accustomed to half-light (But, then, we can all get used to just about anything, whether it’s good for us or not:)
We may wonder if they’d noticed Jesus wander past before. Whether they’d laughed at his stories, heard themselves in them, smiled wryly at yet another unexpected punch line expertly delivered.
If they’d raised an eyebrow, felt unnerved a little by his directness, the clarity with which he was the world and them in it. It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn. But the now has come. Light is breaking through. And they can do no other than respond to his call. “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Or, to put it another way, “Follow me. Open your eyes. See what you can yet be.” And they go, ready to try their hand at this new-fangled fishing–for–folk.
See what you can yet be. This can just be another way of saying, recognise what is within you.
“It’s hard to describe what it’s like finding your childhood after such a long time,” he says softly. “I struggled in the first three years of life. My family didn’t know what to do with a sick child. She gave me roots I never knew I had.” He is Morton T Kelsey, a theologian and author now in his eighties. The “she” he is describing is Clara, the young woman hired by his parents to be his nanny, though he has no memory of this.
“It’s interesting you have to be in your late seventies to discover what kind of childhood you had,” he says. Until then the memories which had prevailed from his childhood spoke only of rejection. Thinking he had, in his words, “not all his marbles”, his parents handed his care over to Clara, just a girl herself. No one had thought to test his hearing.
In his teenage years, those memories were particularly strong and painful, unbearably so, and he walked out into the hills one day with the intention of committing suicide. But as he prepared to end his life a melody came to him suddenly and inexplicably. He wouldn’t know until well into his seventies where that melody came from or why it saved him; only that it did.
One Christmas he received as letter from a woman called Clara. The name is not familiar to him, “Are you alive and are you still writing?” she asked. And in the exchange that follows he discovered that his childhood wasn’t all about rejection. In his seventy-seventh year Morton goes to the nursing home to meet Clara now in her nineties. And she sings the song she’d sung to him as a baby, the song which he’d heard that day out on the hills. She sings the song which saved him. And, at last, at last, he is home. A young man trying to gather what has come undone, a teacher searching for truth to share, an elderly gentleman finding his way home, brothers with nothing to do but go, nowhere to be than with him.
It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn. Those whose fingerprints are all over Matthew’s Gospel turned to ancient words to describe what they saw in Jesus of Nazareth. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. “ And we, whose fingerprints are all over stories we live by, are invited to turn to ancient truth too:
It can take a while sometimes for light to dawn. But it does. It always does.