Sermon Notes 2019 08 04 Rev David Howells Where is the You you want to be? Pentecost 8 Yr C
*The story goes, in Hosea the prophet’s version, that God loves these people, but they run to easier relationships, more fun, less obedience. God feels like dumping them but asks, “How can I let them go?” Without anger God will wait and trust in their return.
*Paul tells the same story but from the point of view of us, trying to live inside Christ, as little Christians. He says “Let your old self go! Just hang on to all that feels like it’s what Jesus would want in you. It’s like changing your wardrobe to fit your new self-image. Dump the old gear and wear the new clothes. And on the inside, let the peace of Christ be your centre and truth.”
*Jesus is more brusque. ‘So when you die..who gets your stuff? Not you! You only get to take with you what is really in your heart. And does what is in your heart sound like Jesus?” The discipline of our faith, the project of becoming, or continuing as a disciple, is about the work of renovation of your soul. When our kids were growing we moved into a bigger house that was amazingly affordable to buy. Later we found out it had been subdivided and rented and there had been a suicide. I began to renovate. Over about 8 years we slowly turned the house into an open, bright, lovely home. We kept one upper level as an apartment to rent to people who would eat with us and be part of our family for a time in their lives. Marty, a builder, taught me how to renovate right. Marty was Dutch Reformed. They get things right! I learned how to take down a wall and yet retain the load-bearing function; how to remove knob & tube wires with a new, safe circuit; how to install a bathroom and how to replace windows. He taught me that you do the work on the things that no one will ever see, because they make the visible stuff strong and safe. We brought an old house back to its beauty and warmth as a home. The spiritual work we, as people trying to be Christ-like, are undertaking is a kind of renovation. Not of bodies, although they matter and need attention too, but of our inner selves. Hosea’ vision is that, basically, we are of God and there will always be a pull within us to return. We are made well, and wellness calls to us. Honour, dignity and peace of heart call to us. Love and trust are encoded in us, no matter how buried they may be. God waits, and calls in the evening breeze, to remind us of who, and whose we truly are. Paul says the we have all been given the sense of the peace of Christ dwelling in us. It is there. We can remember it. Even when we have given up trusting, or because we have been treated badly, or because love has hurt and broken us, nevertheless, Paul is sure, somewhere beyond, or beneath the scar tissue, knowing we are loved and knowing we can love, is there. It is waiting to be brought back to the front, to the light, to the present. Jesus puts it as a question. When you are dying, who will you be? As a priest I am in the profession of thinking about this. However, clergy are far from immune from losing the scent. Being busy, being successful, even looking holy! All of this can so easily wear away the heart/soul-based thing that brought us into ministry. It is, for most of us, as if we have moments of falling in love with God, and then we attempt to live in love. It’s not unlike marriage (A sacrament that is the “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual truth”, namely love). Keeping the love alive is the trick. The phrase, Keeping a Spiritual Discipline, sounds as inviting as regular flossing. But..... I want to suggest this to you. Here are some hints. Set aside more than 10 minutes, but less than 30, really near the start of your day. Find a quiet place to be still and undisturbed, maybe after your first cup of tea or coffee. Comfortable, but not so that you could nod off. Say the Lord’s prayer. It tunes you into the right station. Be aware that you are here for yourself and to be present to the Christ who is always present for you. Remember as kids how we were taught to say Sorry, Thank-you and Please?
1.Simply call to mind if there is anything you are carrying as a regret, and allow it to be with you for a few minutes. This is not to fix it or make plans about it, but just to hold it in Jesus’s presence. Sorry!
2.Call to mind the things that you are grateful for. Not what you should be grateful about, but what has brought you joy recently. Again, just quietly hold it up for Jesus to know. Thankyou!
3.Wonder what you really need right now, for this day or for your life. What do you long for? Hope for? Hardly dare ask for? It is hard to be honest about our deepest longings. More than anything we hide these to deflect the disappointment we fear should we never get them. But, as bravely as you can, share this truth, without expectation of any outcome. Let Jesus hold that with you. Please!
4.End with a deep breath in and out and a Thank You to God. Then go about your day.
5.Then as your day ends ask these two questions. When did I feel myself moving towards God ? And when you have pondered that, ask, When did I feel myself moving away from God ? This is about 10 minutes. You could do it as you brush your teeth even.
We are spiritually tidal. We move towards God’s love and we move away from love and from God. Slow or fast, neap and ebb tides. Having a Spiritual Practice, such as I have suggested above, is a way of being awake to our inner life. Being awake to something like love is important. And generally worth the effort! In peace David