Thursday, 13 December 2007

This Sunday's Sermon.

Here is this Sunday's sermon for you all to copy if you want!
Bottle of Gin per time.

What did you come here to find?

In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

If you go into a dark cellar and stand still, or down a dark alley in Manchester, you will hear a rustling and a scratching of tiny paws. After a while, the noise will settle down as the creatures get used to you being there. They can see you, but you cannot see them. If you then, quickly, turn on a torch, you will see what looks like a great black wave washing away, but chattering and sniffing all the while. The rats and the cockroaches, you see, are afraid of the light. If you repeated the experiment in a dark, bear infested wood, they would most likely, after looking at you for a while, kill you. Most animals are afraid of the light as they are unused to it, it is unfamiliar and it casts unwanted, strange light into their dark world where they feel comfortable.

I went to prison last week, for the first time and was amazed at the height of the fences to keep people in. The first thing that happened is that you buzz at a huge edifice of galvanised steel which, to my surprise, opened without me saying a word through the intercom. I then walked down a valley of steel, through two further doors where I provided documentation at each, then into a holding bay, then an office, then an inner staff only office, then, to my great surprise, I was given a set of keys and a map of where the chaplaincy was. The words ‘set my people free’ kept ringing in my ears, but I soon stopped when the sirens went off and the floodlights came on – an escaped prisoner – on my first day! Suddenly I felt very vulnerable as I stood, with no real idea of where I was, in a vast steel cage on my way to another vast steel cage, then another, finally to the chaplaincy. I felt as though I wanted to keep out of the light, to scuttle away like a cockroach when faced with an experience so alarming it was utterly outside of my daily life. When all had calmed down, and it was happily announced that it was only a drill, a lorry rumbled past me, going through great gates, carrying new prisoners into the assessment wing where I was to ascertain if they were of any faith. When I met them, they shied away from me, each unwilling to be seen cooperating first, trying to get as close to the wall as possible, each trying to avoid each others glances.

Why is it that we hide away from the light? The Jewish people had been waiting for the life of their race for the Messiah and then when a man came, sent from God, called John, saying ‘HE IS COMING! PREPARE HIS WAY, MAKE HIS PATH STRAIGHT! THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD IS COMING, IT WAS ALL TRUE! The crib that soon shall be there holds no totem, no plastic boy, but the light of the world, WE ARE REDEEMED’ not just saved, but redeemed, our sins washed clean, our lives given meaning, well, when he came people shied away from him, scared lest they be caught in the light as well, scared that Pilates men would shine a torch on them and question them ‘what are you doing, Jew?’ ‘oh, nothing…..apart from seeing the whole of scripture unfold in front of our eyes, apart from looking for the MESSIAH!....nothing’. And I don’t know him, what do you call him, John, no, not me’.

We are always scared of what we do not know, scuttling for the dark corners of life, afraid to be in the limelight…unless it’s to claim a prize or an award, or thanks. If it’s to say ‘yes, I believe that Christ came into the world, that He has cleansed us of all our sins and that He died and is alive again’, then we too, like rats, hide in the familiar darkness. Our lives, our souls, though, may depend on us doing something quite different. John the Baptist made his soul by testifying to the Christ. By being sent to jail, which would, I am sure have been far worse than the one I went into, but when he got there, he did not hide in the shadows, he looked straight ahead of Himself and said ‘here he comes’ he knew the words of Isaiah that we heard in todays first reading by heart, ‘look, your God is coming, He is coming to save you’. He was patient, as James tells us to be in today’s epistle, and heard, languishing in jail, awaiting death, that – and listen to this, from today’s Gospel, for it is beautiful – ‘tell John what you see, that the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed to the poor!’ Can you imagine better news?

What did you go out to see? Jesus asks His Disciples. What did you find? The Son of Man and the message of eternal life. What did you come here to find today? Ask yourself what you came here for, was it for yourself, what have you brought with you? for you need to come with love for Christ and faithful to his commandments to receive His gift to you, do not come empty handed, for like the foolish servant or the foolish virgins, you will be locked out of the wedding feast of Heaven, for ever banished to the darkness because we evaded the light of Christ. This advent crown burns to dispel darkness, week by week burning ever stronger, not weaker each week, the Easter sepulchre put there every year is there because of this coming day, foreseen by john. The stone rolled back is rolled back for all time for NOW is an end to death. NOW is the bright promise of immortality. These signs and wonders do nothing but point the way to life in the light. But we need to spend this Advent walking into that light and reflecting it ourselves or it is, truly, all in vain.

What do we come here for? To share in the life of the world, to take away the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation, flowing in our veins and burning in our heart, looking to show the love of God to those whom we meet. What have we come here to find? A reed blowing in the wind? Or the promise of the second coming, when, once again, the dead shall walk, the blind shall see, pain shall be banished – as we heard today has happened before and happens wheresoever Christ is – let us hope that when others see us, they will not see a reed blowing in the wind, but the mirror of the love of God shining brightly as we all walk in it’s light. Our souls, our lives and our faith may just depend on it.

In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.