Sermon given at Isham 8am 15.1.17
Readings: OT/Epistle Malachi 3: 1-5 Gospel Luke 2: 22-40
Do you ever feel “It’s time to go now. We’ve seen what we came to see”? After the excitement of the announcement, birth and blessing, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth with Jesus. There is a sense here of returning to normal life. The shepherds returned to their flocks and their daily work. And after the visit of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the Jerusalem Temple carried on in its normal way.
After the excitement and fulfilment (or perhaps the disappointment) of Christmas or any other special time, how do we prepare ourselves for what comes next? In most cases that means going back to ordinary life. What we have seen, a striking film, a longed-for holiday, or a visit to some place of significance, will remain a good memory, but perhaps won’t make any real difference
– although I have to say that I watch my most recent photos every day on the electronic photo frame sitting in my kitchen and that not only reminds me of the holiday but, because two of last year’s holidays were to communist or post-communist countries, it does make me continue to reflect on what I saw and learned – well a little anyway!!
But generally life goes on as usual. What we saw perhaps gives us new energy to carry on, until we need another break sometime in the future.
But this time, with this event, this visit to the Temple it’s different. What has been born into the world will make a radical difference to life. A seed has been planted that will soon transform human history. It will take time and there will be suffering to go through. Simeon’s words to Mary in the Temple remind us of that, but the world cannot be the same again.
This process doesn’t depend on us or on our efforts. Sometimes we think that nothing will happen unless we do it. But God has done the planting, and it will grow. The last verse of our gospel reading (Luke 2.40) reminds us of that. We cannot force a child to grow.
There is something dynamic inside the new life that produces growth and development – though we can encourage or stunt it. God’s reign of love and justice in the world grows up among us, just as Jesus grew up among the people of Nazareth.
God’s work has a dynamic of its own which brings it to fulfilment.
This is not an excuse to do nothing, but it is a reminder that signs of God’s presence that we have glimpsed are still at work in the world, even when they become less easy to discern. We can be glad for that. And be encouraged!
And just as my electronic photo frame allows me to continue to reflect on my holiday experiences, so, if we continue to journey with God, reading his word and praying regularly however we do that, so God will continue to help us learn, reflect and grow in our understanding of our Christian faith. And that in turn should affect the way we live our lives.
So let’s not get discouraged by the continuing struggle in the CofE about gay marriage that has hit the press this weekend – it’s just an example of the church continuing to learn and grow in its understanding of the Christian faith. God is in the midst of it.
Learning and growing happens on a local and personal level too – God is not just active in the national church but amongst us too!
Lent Courses are an important way of learning from God because they allow us to discuss with other people what we’re hearing and reading – which hearing sermons and reading the bible alone don’t allow us to do.
Discussing things with other people is often the way God chooses to speak to us, both individually and as a group. Gillian runs monthly bible study sessions which involve tasting too – so a great way to discuss faith with other people. And we’ve just started Christianity Explored – still time for people to join us!
And please do sign up for a Lent Course if you possibly can – even if you can’t make all the sessions, some is better than none! Don’t worry if you’re not a natural contributor to discussions – all discussion groups have members who say little but think a lot!!