Sermons from St Faith's   

The Spiritual Journey

Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, 29th April, 2018

Brexit – We head towards our new destiny of being outside Europe by March next year.  Of course each one of us will have our own views on Brexit, whether it is a good or bad thing.  Either way, it will be, almost certainly a reality in less than a year’s time.  The consequences for this generation and for future generations are not yet known.
Brexit Britain will redefine our community, our relationship with the rest of Europe and the wider world.  With divisions within our own communities on whether we should or should not remain within the European Union, our internal relationships are also changed – at least for a generation and probably beyond that time as well.
How we view our own identity, as individuals and how we are viewed by others is inevitably changing as a result of this.  As British citizens, outside of the EU - our status is to change.  The impact on individuals thoughts and feelings – this is hard to predict.

All of this has relevance to John’s Gospel reading today – where Jesus defines the interweaving of the disciples’ lives with God.  He uses the chant-like description of this, as ‘the true vine’.  He tells the disciples that their relationship with God is one of total indivisibility.  Jesus is the true vine, God is the vine grower.  The disciples abide in God and God abides in them.  The disciples then bear fruit, within the vine.  All other things which do not support this are to be pruned away and burned.

How different then is the relationship of people with one another?  The answer is actually, our relationship with God is interwoven with our worldly relationships.  We cannot fully separate them.  How we are with one another directly links to how we are with God.  If we try to say that we can keep these relationships separate then we are just kidding ourselves.

It is not just about Brexit – though this will in some way affect the lives of everyone in this country, to a greater or lesser extent.  It is about every relationship we have, with everyone we encounter, however briefly.  This is implicit in the message which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel.  Everything which is not part of God’s fruitful plan must be eliminated.  We cannot let the negative or harmful sprouts to flourish, or they will suck the very life giving force away from where it is needed.

That is why it is so important to focus on God and to enter into the relationship with him as fully and whole heartedly as we can.  To always seek to do more so in the future.  The earthy nature of the vine is a reminder to us that we cannot separate our lives from the world – It is not some intellectual task that we can do in isolation from the world.  We are in the world and the world is in us – FACT!  We need to realise this and only then can we work on strengthening our relationship with God.

I know when things are out of kilter with me – I keep falling over.  It’s a way of my body and my mind telling me that something is not right.  For each one of us there may be a different tell-tale sign.  We have to listen to our bodies, not just our minds to get feedback on how we are doing in the world and with God.

It is so important to re-ground ourselves, to experience the true present, God with us in the physical and the spiritual world.  If we do this, everything is in harmony.
A few years ago I went to an inspiring spirituality day, led by Alistair McIntosh.  He is a Christian writer and thinker and has written extensively about the dynamism of spiritual and the physical forces – but within the Christian theological framework.  It was a powerful and emotionally awakening experience.  The group began the day by knotting together vines made from cloth.  We all linked up and wove our fabric vines around the chapel altar where we were congregated together.  It is hard to put into words what I discovered that day, spiritually.  I think it would be helpful to say that such is the mystery of this reality, it transcends words.

I would like to say that the spiritual journey is always an upward and progressive one, but that would be untrue.  The reality is that we are always battling with the negative growth, and frequently having to prune the destructive and the wasteful, energy sapping off-shoots.

As Lao Tzu says in his epic poem the Tao The Ching – tackle things when they are small.  Keeping on top of the pruning is best – however not always what we do!  The way to look at it though is, we may have left the pruning too long, but if we leave it even longer, then it will be even harder to do! 
We have our faith, which is more powerful than the philosophy of Lao Tzu – our real relationship with God and with Jesus gives us strength beyond our own to tackle anything
Brexit will be one of those challenges in our day to day reality which we will have to face.  God will be with us and his power transcends that of worldly politics.  Our other challenges beyond Brexit – in our daily lives, as Christians are also there to be faced.

We need to act with faith, courage and true union with God in all our actions.  Only when we are alive in the spirit, turning away from that which is evil – will we have the victory and peace which can only be realised with God and through God.

The sermons index