Sermon Easter 6 2017
St Magnus and St Colman
At Synod recently we reflected on the content of the Diocesan Profile. As well as making important changes to it in that it now reflects the life of the Northern Isles more prominently than it did before we also reflected on the phrase “the Dream of God for Aberdeen” a choice of words which was remarked as unfortunate.
Someone spoke about understanding the phrase “the will of God”, but the “dream of God” was something else!
Personally speaking, though I have heard the expression “will of God” more, I am still left puzzled about what t may mean.
Some people seem to use it in a way that makes me at least feel very unconnected to God.
People often ask me how it is that I know God has called me to be a priest…. I am sure the question can and should be used for any activity for that matter…. How do we know God wants us to do something… or to be something?
The answer does not in the end lie with the individual but in the community. Each of us plays a part in helping us hear God’s will.
Jesus poses us today a very uncomfortable challenge….. If you love me you will keep my commandments…. I cannot fail to hear this in a similar way to a mother saying to a child, if you do this then this will follow…
However I am not sure this is a helpful way of hearing wat Jesus is saying to us. I do not find it all that helpful to use the carrot and stick method of discipleship.
If we look more closely the “If you love me…” comes with a promise attached…. Jesus is not leaving us alone.
Jesus at the same time as saying “ If you love me…” also reminds us that Something of God is deep within us and always encouraging us.
As we move in the church calendar to Ascension and Pentecost, that time when it may be tempting to see Jesus leaving his disciples after the resurrection…. So graphically portrayed for us at Ascension Day when the Paschal Candle is removed, we need to remind ourselves of that important thing which Jesus reminded his disciples in today’s Gospel, that something of God truly remains with us and is indeed within.
So often when facing difficulties and stresses of any kind it is so tempting to think we face things on our own, without recognising or taking the time to recognise that we are not all alone after all.
I was reminded very much of this when walking along the beach the other day when I noticed the footprints in the sand. I reminded myself of that famous poem: ……
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you.”
This is an important thing to remember because feeling alone can be totally devastating for some people.
Furthermore the Gospel paints a picture of being drawn into God and the feast of the Ascension (on Thursday) is one way we picture this happening not just for Jesus but for us too.
We are Drawn into God, we are God’s offspring as Paul says in the court of the Areopogus in Athens. Let us not treat God or think of God as if he were apart from us… he is not above or away…. He is not something made of silver or gold.
God is closer than we ever really imagined so let us live with one another as if this was indeed the case, God is close to each one of us.
Footprints take 2!
Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord’s footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace.
But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns.
For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord’s, soon paralleling, His consistently.
You and Jesus are walking as true friends!
This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus’ are now walking precisely in His steps.
Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, you and Jesus are becoming one.
This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger.
Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints.
They have become one.
This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is
back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Gashes in the sand. A variable mess of prints.
You are amazed and shocked.
Your dream ends. Now you pray:
“Lord, I understand the first scene, with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You.”
“That is correct.”
“And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps, following You very closely.”
“Very good.. You have understood everything so far.”
When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way.”
“So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first.”
There is a pause as the Lord answers, with a smile in His voice.
“You didn’t know? It was then that we danced!”
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.