Sunday, 13 May 2012

Not servants but friends

Every now and then it's good to find yourself stating what is, I hope the simple truth - the less dramatically put the better.

The whole of today's homily, preached at St. Cuthbert's and St. John's, can be found by clicking here - and this is an excerpt from the middle:

... There’s a deep truth in this story about how God relates to us. Left to ourselves we might find our lives have little direction. Who can we depend on? What sense do we make of life? What gives meaning to our existence? What can I do to make a difference to the way I live? So often we just can’t come up with the answers to these questions.

But the message of Christianity is that it is God who comes in to make the difference. Already he is watching out for us - watching over us… And in Jesus he comes to us to bring us to a new way of living and hope. When there is nothing we can do to help ourselves, it’s Jesus who comes to our aid. When we can’t earn a sense of well-being or wholeness - and our lives feel so incomplete - it’s Jesus who redeems us. He pays the way for us - with a love that takes him to the Cross. He doesn’t demand that we argue a case why he should take notice of us - he simply gives us his love… and dies for us.

He could require that we should be his servants - he could make a charge for his attention and care. But instead he calls us “friends.” As he tells the disciples in today’s Gospel reading:
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends…
I wonder if we’re very good at taking this in? Perhaps it depends on how we treat our friends… And these days people can acquire Facebook friends by the hundred - until we might wonder, just who really is my friend? Or perhaps we simply don’t consider ourselves worthy to be counted as God’s friends.

The good news from Jesus is that we don’t need to be worthy. We can’t do anything to earn God’s friendship. We need only to be loved - to know God’s love...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Last Words of Jesus...

It’s worth thinking about these words. And of course it depends which Gospel you look at. St. Mark’s Gospel doesn’t record any speech of Jesus following the Resurrection - at least if you follow the view of most scholars that the original end of his account is Mark 16, verse 8. St. Luke has two cracks at it - not only the last words of the Gospel which bears his name, but also his account of the Ascension   as we find it in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The gist here is that the disciples need to stay in Jerusalem, to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit - and to recognise that the Holy Spirit will empower them in the lives they are to lead as Christians. As we celebrate the Feasts of both the Ascension and Pentecost this month, it’s a vital reminder of how we should live - waiting on God, dependent on his power and ability to guide us.

St. John’s Gospel ends with a conversation and even a note of dispute. Here Jesus’ words are spoken not to any group of Christians or to a crowd, but to one man - the apostle Peter. But they are words that he speaks to anyone who wishes to be faithful in discipleship, “Follow me.”

Take a look at these “last words” - ask what they say to you.

I started reflecting on them myself because of the last words which St. Matthew’s Gospel records: Jesus’ assurance that he will be with his disciples “to the end of the age” - and an instruction: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” That seems to be a large part of my calling at present. We may not record any baptisms for this month of April in St. Cuthbert’s, but there were three baptisms on Easter Day in St. John’s - and more before the month’s end. And in May I’ve booked six baptisms in St. Cuthbert’s with more in St. John’s. We know that Baptism is something people want for their children. But - as people ask me - when will we see them again?

In Jesus’ last words baptising goes along with “teaching people to obey everything that I have commanded you.” I can only do my best in encouraging parents and godparents to take seriously the responsibilities they take on at Baptism. And all of us do well to reflect on what we see in Baptism. Something fundamental going to the core of our relationship with God - vows we renew at Easter and affirm in Confirmation. How can we live out the message of Baptism? - and share it with others so that they live it out with real meaning?