Sermon For Trinity 11 Yr B
From our epistle today,….
25Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil.
I have had a book on my shelves now for years and from time to time I have read it. First published in 1969, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am” John Powel explores the processes at work in each of us from time to time which prevent us being well with each other.
At the beginning of this book he quotes from Genesis, “Then the Lord God said, “it is not good for man to be alone”.
And yet he goes on to speak about the place of falsehood we all from time to time live in, and how we walk around as if we were wearing masks over the face of our real selves, and that we often play roles to disguise our true selves.
I don’t know how many of you have been to a Masque ball or similar, where you really do wear masks even if only over the eyes to disguise who you really are… it can feel quite strangely liberating, and I also wonder if it is the same principal that many experience at Up Helly Aa when so many masks are worn by the squads.
From the 60s on we have known that perhaps haunting song “The Great pretender” some of its lyrics say,
“Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell
Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I’ve played the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to grieve all alone
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal”
Something I believe about the teaching and ministry of Jesus was that he enabled authenticity. He accepted people for who they were, he loved them no matter what, and he invited them to part of the story as it unfolded.
It was clearly difficult for his society to accept this challenge as they had so many rules as to how society should work, everybody had a place and they should stay in it or be kept in it.
Questions were often asked about why Jesus was seen mixing with the outcast and unclean, and the Samaritan women at the well questioned Jesus even speaking with her and asking for a drink, before later on going with excitement to her town to invite others to come and meet the man who has told me everything about me… and it is implied of course accepted me for who I am too.
None of us want to live a life of falsehood yet we do also often hide behind the masks we hold up for protection. John Powell makes the observation that I may be reluctant to tell you who i am because you may not like who I am and yet that is all I have.
For the people who met Jesus in the narratives of the gospels it would appear the real self was loved and accepted, and indeed even healing was enabled to take place too.
We know full well, that the early church was not free from dispute and tension and difficulties. Strong personalities (including I suspect at times Paul himself) came crashing against others. People were seen leaving the less fortunate to flounder, and differences of opinion did indeed cause stress.
Yet at the same time we also know that the early church was visible in society for the way it “held everything in common, how they supported and cared for each other” and in Johns Gospel the famous words on the lips of Jesus,
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another”
Paul also writes to the church that we should bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ
Nowhere is it suggested this way of living was easy, nor is it easy today. Yet we are called to mirror this more real way of being with each other in the church today.
We have had a good number of visitors to this church over recent months. It is wholly heartening to hear that they have found us a welcoming and warm place. Some have in fact deliberately sought me out to impress upon me what a wonderful welcome they have received, and how included they have been made to feel.
We should be proud of this, and of course continue this level of welcome.
Let us also develop a growing sense of love and acceptance of each other, one that will allow and encourage us all to be able to leave our masks at the door when we come in.
“putting away all falsehood and being members one of another” is not going to simply happen. There is no magic that will cause it simply to be.
Praying deeply with one another will certainly help, spending time with one another will also help.
The early church discovered that eating and drinking together significantly helped, and from this activity we have developed “The Eucharist” when we gather around the table and share the feast of the Kingdom. We partake and share The bread of Life. It is an opportunity for God to feed us and to sustain us.
In 1 Corinthians Paul likens the Body of Christ to the Church and perhaps comically describes the foot wondering “because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body”. He says here again we are members together in the body.
How do we see each other as members of ourselves?
John Powel suggests “To refuse the invitation to interpersonal encounter is to be an isolated dot in the centre of a great circle… a small island in a vast ocean”
We know what small islands can feel like.
He also goes on to emphasise “To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage”
Again I would like to point out that the liturgy of our Eucharist gives us on many levels the tools we may need. We break, we pray , we share, we eat, we are fortified.
Let us give thanks for what we can become in Christ.