Why am I here? – Sermon Notes

What does it mean to be alive? Breathe, be in relationship, think, animated, lively, full of life, alert, active, energetic, vigorous, spry, sprightly, vital, vibrant, vivacious, buoyant, exuberant, ebullient, zestful, spirited, enthusiastic, eager, bouncy, bubbly, perky, sparkling; full of beans, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, bright and breezy, full of vim and vigour, sparky,…

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Desire and longing – Sermon Text

The Way It Is by William Stafford

 

There’s a thread you follow.

It goes among things that change.

But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

 

I’m wondering what thread you are following in your life?

And I’m wondering if it’s connected to the something that draws us to this place.

 

What is that something?

*

 

What is it that draws you back here week after week, in all kinds of weather? In all the different states of heart and mind….

 

Is it the company?

Feeling accepted?

Is it the desire to gather with others in worship?

Is it the services?

Some sense of duty?

The community?

Is it Simon’s cake and biscuits?!

 

Maybe you don’t know. And I say it’s ok not to know. Maybe there isn’t a clear answer. Maybe it’s just the unvoiced knowing that here is where I’m meant to be, where I belong…. where I experience some sense of belonging – a sense of home…

 

Whatever it is that draws us here – that keeps bringing us back – and I can imagine that if we were to hear each other’s responses, we would hear a range of differing yet similar answers.

And I suspect that behind the known and the not-known answers, lies a desire or longing in each of us. I think that it might be that we are each drawn here seeking connection.

Connection to a community.

Connection to each other.

Connection to our deeper selves – our better selves.

Connection to spirit.

Connection to God.

 

The American researcher, Brene Brown found that Connection is why we’re here. She says that, We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.

 

If you recognise yourself in this, then I wonder if we can also recognise ways in which we block connection? I wonder if drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, face-book, apps etc – the things we believe we do for connection, might only create the illusion of it. I suggest they may actually block us from it – hold us back. And I have to be careful here as I might sound like I’m moralising – I certainly don’t intend to.

 

Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.

 

And I wonder if this desire for connection doesn’t also run deeper than the intimate connections we make with others in our lives. If we are able to acknowledge it or not, I wonder if we don’t all carry a sense of longing? A sense that we may struggle to put into words. And I wonder if this longing might just be a longing for God in whatever your unfolding personal experience and understanding you have of the name – for it is yours and yours alone and may just be your most intimate relationship of all….

 

I long for you, O God.

Come, pierce my heart with your darts of Love.

Let me know the sweet pain of submission.

 

I long for you, O God, as the seagull longs for the updraft, that I might ride the eddies of your Love.

 

Let me find rest in you.

Short circuit my desire for revenge.

Still the stirrings of my ego.

Subdue my shortcomings.

I cannot help myself.

I succumb to the lure of finding fault with others that I might improve my own standing.

 

I long for you Beloved.

Come, break my heart – again and again, that I might learn to love again.

If this sense of longing sounds familiar to you, then I wonder if we might not call this a thirst or a hunger for God? And that this hunger or thirst calls to us by our deepest name. Herbert Alphonso maintains that each of us will hold within us at our very deepest point – some reflection of God. We will have an understanding, an experience, a connection – represented by an image, a quality or phrase or scriptural reference – that awakens within us our most personal and deeply seated connection with God. He says, that this is where we are most alive. This is where we give and surrender ourselves most naturally.

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

 

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense

*

So, I invite you into a time of meditation. Let us come together in prayerful stillness.

Close your eyes if you choose.

Direct the focus of your attention inwards.

Bringing it to your heart – penetrate its walls and breathe into it deeply.

 

With each out breath, let go:

  • of tension in your body – let it soften
  • of thoughts in your mind – let them go – don’t follow them – let them move off.

Let us linger a while in this place – breathing into our very centres….

In this quiet place, O God, help us to find quiet for our souls. For we need quietness. Shouting and tumult are always about us, and the noise of the world never dies down. Even in the night-time when we seek rest, the voices of the day go on. But in Thy presence, there is quietness. O God, let us find Thy presence now!

 

Resting in God’s presence, allow yourself to be bathed in the healing light of unconditional love – breathe it in….. breathe it out, filling the space around you with it.

*

 

Without judgement or criticism of any of it, I invite you now to look back over this day as it draws to a close. Gently recount events right up to this moment here, now.

 

And as you do this, ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are most grateful.

If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?

When were you most able to give and receive love?

When did I feel most alive?

When did I feel most connected?

When did I feel most fully myself?

 

Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so special. Breathe in the gratitude you feel and receive life again from that moment….

 

Ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are least grateful. When were you least able to give and receive love?

When did I feel most drained of life?

When did I feel least connected?

When did I feel least myself?

 

Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so difficult. Be with whatever you feel without trying to change or fix it in any way. You may want to take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are….

Give thanks for what you have just experienced.

 

*

 

Now, gently bring your attention back to your breath – be aware of its movement in and out of your lungs and bring your attention into this moment here and now – the present.

 

*

 

And when you’re ready – open your eyes.

 

*

 

Closing words from Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst

for the goodness I do not have. I walk

out to the pond and all the way God has

given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,

I was never a quick scholar but sulked

and hunched over my books past the hour

and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,

a little more time. Love for the earth

and love for you are having such a long

conversation in my heart. Who knows what

will finally happen or where I will be sent,

yet already I have given a great many things

away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,

except the prayers which, with this thirst,

I am slowly learning.

Amen

Walking with Jesus – Sermon Text

Will you pray with me

Lord, please help us to discover by these words I bring tonight the inner meaning of our faith which is always active in love. May the words I speak be acceptable to you.

In Jesus’s name  Amen.

Following on the busy Easter, we get the feeling we know, of watching a great tragedy filled with incredible scenes all those decades ago. And this week I had so many different thoughts on the way I was going to give this sermon.

My memory is not that good and I found I was trying too hard to find a modern way of explaining that reappearance of Jesus after that crucifixion.

I opened my computer on Thursday and checked my emails with my attention being drawn to an email from my local cinema The Duke of York.

Screaming out at me were the words.. The Brain sees what it wants to see!!!

This week we are very excited to present GHOST STORIES a horror stage show starring Andy Nyman as an arch-skeptic caught up in a terror-filled quest in a ghoulish playground for the undead and otherworldly.

Isn’t that what we have just been through these last few days of Easter?

We had horror…  Jesus  hung on a cross        speared by a centurian

…. jeered by a crowd …..  then carried to a cave for burial where finally He disappeared!!    They lost Him!!!  All the ingredients for a horror film.

But it didn’t end there because as you heard in our reading from Luke 24 Jesus reappeared to a pair of travelers, one named Cleopas the other maybe Mrs. Cleopas we don’t know. They were walking to Emmaus a place we know little about except it is understood it was a town with baths and was seven miles from Jerusalem…north, south, east or west something else we don’t know.

The only Emmaus I know is the charity organisation in Hove where I drop off my unwanted furnishings etc.

These two travelers had been to celebrate the Passover a religious obligation for every faithful Jewish male living within fifteen miles of the city. Something we as The Village MCC replicated at our Seger meal before the last Good Friday.

While they were walking a person joined them and started discussing Jesus of Nazareth and all the things he had done. Now, these two had been following this Jesus they were talking about for some considerable time. Wouldn’t you think that at some point on this long walk either Cleopas or his missus would have realised who he was?  Were they blind?  They had known him in Jerusalem. Was he incognito, veiled or a ghost or what?

It has been suggested that they were too grief-stricken, too shaken by what they had seen. OK sorrow can do that, make you numb to what you see. In any case, don’t you know that if you or I had been there would we have known who he was? As I get on I sometimes find I have difficulty putting a name to the face.

Have you had occasion to try and remember a name to the face you see.?

Maybe if we were under a terrific time of stress we may not even remember the face…who knows?

Jesus joined them as a stranger and asked them what they were talking about. They stop walking their faces reflecting their sadness. “Are you the only person from Jerusalem who missed the happenings in the holy city these last few days? “ they ask.  What do you mean the stranger enquires,  “ Oh we had a dream. We hoped he would be the one to set Israel free, but, the freedom we wanted was thrown away. They arrested him, tried him, convicted him and then they executed him.  Don’t you know about that?

Well, they must have discussed quite a lot more because they had walked almost seven miles and the sun was setting as they entered Emmaus. So just as any good Jewish person does Cleopas offers the hospitality of his home to this stranger who was so interesting.

Upon entering their home they invite him to dinner with the bread and the wine and as we now hear every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper  THEN  their eyes are opened and they recognise Him.

Why NOW  was it because the light from the lamp finally hit Jesus’s face at the right angle? Or because they had eaten with him before? Maybe they saw how he broke the bread and shared the wine whatever it was they finally grasped that here was the person they had seen put to death on the cross.

They then realised that here was Jesus, the man who had walked, chatting with them for all those miles but just then as if in a horror movie  … BANG he was gone!

Pretty big stuff and so with night drawing on they decided to return to Jerusalem immediately as they were so excited.

Several things are striking about this story. One of them is how incredibly NORMAL these two disciples were. How suddenly a stranger joins them as they walk and talk. They don’t recognise him, after all, Jesus is the last person they expected to see.

This story is especially significant for people like you and me. You see these disciples were not part of the original 12 apostles.. the inner core of Jesus’s followers. Yet they were central characters in what must be the most heartwarming of all the resurrection accounts. It does not matter that these two disciples were not part of the “inner circle”, what mattered was that Jesus loved them and they needed his presence. They had been broken hearted and shattered by the horror of his death on the cross three days earlier.

We are left to wonder how much of that last week of his earthly life the two walkers had been part of. Had they seen the trial, witnessed the cruelty on the hill or even known about the disappearance of the body?

Then they were on their way home, all hopes of a messiah swept away by what had happened, feeling defeated, disappointed, all dreams of a new start washed away.

 

The Lord has risen indeed and he has appeared to them. They go back to the city to tell the other disciples what they had experienced.

It was going to be the hardest thing they had to make all those others believe them.

So what does this tell us. It is not about who we are but about who God is.

Jesus came to the ordinary,  the everyday people who took time to know who he really was but when they did they had to tell everyone.

Here when we meet at The Village MCC that is what we do when we take communion..we see Jesus. The truth be told. God is not always easy to see ..even when we are looking.

Please let me repeat a verse heard some time ago.

Sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often everyday moments. The moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes, or listen with more than our ears. Reveal only…a garden, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other ordinary meal.  But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with our being, faith and imagination…what we may see is Jesus himself.

Amen