Sunday, 15 June 2008

Coming awful fast!

Well, it's been quite a week as you'll see from the sermon - which I'll post in a moment.
I am loving being 'spare granny' to Rose, tho' it brings back bitter-sweet memories of my Eleanor's birth & early weeks.
I'll try to be more ahead of myself with postings in the next weeks. Please bear with me!

Readings: Genesis 18: 1-15
Matthew 9: 35- 10:8

Father’s Day – Oaks at Mamre

I am always wary of preaching about how marvellous it is to have a child.
Some of us might know the pain of wanting children and not having them.
Some might have very mixed feelings sometimes about any children we have.
Some might feel that too much is made of Mothering Sunday – and that Father’s Day is just an invention of the card manufacturers to make more sales.

But this week has been incredibly special for me.
Grace – who was with me here 2 weeks ago – had her baby daughter on Tuesday night – just 5 days ago – and I had the incredible honour of being present at the birth, along with Grace’s mum – my friend Susan.
Together the three of us had drunk tea, walked around the hospital, talked about anything – just to keep Grace’s spirits up; made jokes; sang songs; concentrated on breathing and pushing & reassured one another that all would be well. Finally with a wonderful healthy cry, Rose came into the world, weighing in at a very respectable 7lbs, and with dark blue eyes and a little fuzz of blonde hair. It was a moment for tears, for relief for joy… and most of all for wonder at the sheer marvel of a new life.

No wonder Sarah cannot believe her ears when Abraham’s visitors tell her she is to be a mother. It is a miracle for any one of us – but for Sarah especially so. We are told she is old, she has been married for many years to Abram – the High Father – the leader of his clan. He has had a son, Ishmael, with Hagar the slave-girl: but the union between Abram and his wife has not produced children: and she is known as Sarai – mockery.

But God has made a promise to Abram – that he is to be Abraham – the father of many: and the Sarai is to be Sarah – princess: because they are to have a son together.

At one level this is a story of birth, of family, of succession. Abraham needs a legitimate son if he is to be father of a great nation: and because of God’s favour Abraham is granted an heir.
We could get very side-tracked by talking only of the God who gives a child to the childless: but God’s purposes are greater even than producing the miracle of a new life.

For this is also a story of the God who brings laughter (Isaac means 'laughter') where there has been mockery – not only through the birth of a child but in other ways too. Abraham and Sarah will produce Isaac; he will marry Rebekah and produce Esau & Jacob; Jacob will wrestle with God and become Israel – and his 12 sons will become leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel, who will enjoy the title ‘the chosen people of God’. God is interested in producing far more than just one child.

In Matthew’s gospel we heard of Jesus healing the sick – producing miracle after miracle. But he doesn’t do this only so that people will be impressed by his powers but as a sign of something greater – the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaims that God’s rule of care for all God’s children has come – so that the sick will be made well, the poor lifted up, the outcasts welcomed. He tells his disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and to proclaim to those who think that God has forgotten them that God’s love for them is like a shepherd for his sheep.
Or like a father or a mother for a child – a miracle of pure love and care.

But this isn’t a message to accept God’s care & so be wrapped up in cotton wool, untouched by the pain of the world.

The Jesus who says these words about the care of God the Father is the same Jesus who follows the will of the Father and dies on the cross. Following a crucified criminal is certainly not a guarantee of safety or security: there will be risk and rejection and what looks, to the world around, like failure.
I don’t believe for a moment that Christians should go out looking for suffering – but that we shouldn’t be surprised if it comes, and we should remember that by enduring it we can reveal the love of God, as Jesus did.

So faithful followers of the crucified Messiah hear the voice of Jesus the good shepherd and follow him: he leads them and cares for them, but this is no guarantee of being treated well by the world or of what many people would reckon ‘success’.

Not all those who long for children will be blessed with the gift of a child as Sarah was; not all bitterness can be transformed into laughter; and not all fathers show us the love of which God, our heavenly father, is the supreme exemplar.

But, to Sarah, and to the sick of Jesus; time, and to you and to me the blessing of God can come, and with it an invitation to all of us to become a part of the project of God - the kingdom of God.

So accept the invitation (to eat and drink at the lord’s table) and receive God’s blessing for your life, and may you know bitterness turned to laughter in the continuing miracle of life.
In Christ’s name. Amen.

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