Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sermon for October 27, 2013

(Note: the verses to the tune of Que Sera Sera will be sung by the whole congregation)
Que sera sera, what ever will be, will be. Sounds rather fatalistic doesn't it? Sounds sort of like “well we have no control so we may as well just float along with the tide”. And I suppose that is one way to understand it. But to me that understanding leads to a lack of hope, a lack of vision, a lack of incentive to act. As people of faith we are people of hope. As people of faith we are people with a vision for how the world could be. And yet as people of faith we know that we are not in charge, God is. So it has been from the very beginning...

Bathed in the glow of Easter light
The early church shared mystery
A story to tell, would folks respond?
God said leave that to me...
Que sera sera, whatever will be will be
The Future's not ours to see
Que sera sera,
What will be, will be

In the beginning the followers of The Way had no choice but to trust in God. Imagine, a faith community with little structure, with no strategic plan, simply living out their faith and sharing it with their neighbours. Did they know what would happen? No. Did that stop them? No. They simply trusted God as they lived and shared their faith, their lives. And people responded to their honesty, their fervour, their story.

Such a time of innocence and simplicity did not last of course. As the church grew, and as the powers and principalities found in the church a willing tool to unify a fractured empire, things changed. The burgeoning community was re-formed over and over and again. Structures developed. A hierarchy grew. A focus on uniformity. Yet still there was trust in God. There was a hope that this was the new Jerusalem come to reality in their midst. Had the vision come true? Was this the way God planned it?

The centuries passed and as they did
The church rejoiced to be in pow'r
The reformers cried, we've lost our way
God help us in this hour...

Sometimes the vision gets blurred. Sometimes the writing on our hearts is hard to read. Sometimes the passing of the years calls for a new vision. So it was, and is, for the church. People, sometimes near the center, sometimes on the margins, see the vision in a new way, or hear the song of faith sung to a slightly different tune and call others to their understanding. And so the church is re-formed. The reformers of the past acted on the vision they had been given with certain trust that God was with them. They called the church to re-vision who and what it could be. They questioned “the way things have always been”. Did they know what exactly would happen? Probably not. Did they know they were taking risks? Most likely. But they did it anyway because, to paraphrase Luther, they could do no other.

Habakkuk tells of a vision that we are to write on a tablet so that a passer-by can read it. John of Patmos calls us to look for the new heaven and the new earth. Jeremiah tells us that a new covenant is coming, one where the law of love will be written on the hearts of God's people. And we continue to wait.

We continue to be in a faith community that is constantly being re-formed as the vision comes into a new focus. The danger we face is the same danger as all generations who have gone before. We fall into the trap of thinking that our understanding of the vision is the right one, that the “way we've always done it” is the proper way, that our plan is God's plan. We need to hear again the voices of re-formation. We need to be reminded that we are not the ones in charge. We need to be ready to shift from trust in “an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll” to singing with trust “I feel the winds of God today today my sail I lift, though heavy oft with drenching spray and torn with many a rift”. Can we trust in that wind? Can we let go of what was to make room for what may be?

The winds of change blow fast and strong
the sails of the world are ragged shreds
Things just aren't right, all order is gone
These thoughts they fill our heads...

It is a generalization but it often said that people don't like change. I think it is a bit more precise. People don't like change they don't control. People don't like change that feels disorderly or untidy. A month ago a church community called Forest Church had this post on their website:
It's the Autumn Equinox, and in this part of South Devon everything is looking ragged. The daisies are losing their petals, the dandelions have grown huge, the leaves of the estuary-side oaks are turning, the grasses are browning and breaking. Everything is finding its natural limit, preparing for the unseen but inevitable hunkering-down that will follow in the months ahead. If you like things to be tidy, this may not feel like a good time.
But the raggedness belongs. And in the midst of all the raggedness there is new fruitfulness. The blackberries are just beginning to come into their dark prime, the seeds of the sycamore are crisping for their swirly fall, and on the stream running through the village the water boatmen are out in force, paddling against the flow.
Learning to accept elements of our own raggedness is a key step towards maturity. We may like life to be tidy (and of course it’s feels good when it is) but the reality is that life is often not tidy. And we may wish for everything within us to be tidy, but as human persons we are frequently in an equinox state of transition. We are frequently ragged.
...The gospel-writer Matthew recounts a typical story of Jesus, rooted in the seasonal landscape. Weeds have appeared in a field of wheat, sown there we are told, by an enemy of the farmer who owns the field. A discussion ensues about rooting up the weeds, but the farmer decides to let the weeds grow with the wheat, ‘for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them’. The weeds will in time be revealed to be the weeds they are, and the wheat will be safely gathered in.
In the same way we need perhaps to accept some of the raggedness of the weeds in and around us. They are often actually just the dark or shadow side of the things that are clearly good within us. Please note that this is not to deny their raggedness. We may need to seek some sorting of our raggedness. But acceptance of our raggedness may need to come first - and in that acceptance some fruitfulness may emerge.
It’s the Autumn Equinox, and everything is looking ragged. Time perhaps to reflect on our own raggedness. Some aspects may need urgent attention, but others may actually need our acceptance for our fruitfulness to emerge. The raggedness belongs. (
The winds of change never stop blowing. Sometimes they are light, a whisper in the air. Sometimes they are gusty and powerful, feeling more like a plow-wind or hurricane, leaving upturned structures and ragged flags in their wake. Times of transition, Equinox times as Ian Adams calls them, are times when the winds are gusty and variable. They change directions and strength at random. And so life is most decidedly NOT tidy.

As people who live in this time of tempest and transition and raggedness, how will we respond? Do we seek safe harbour in the places and practises that have previously provided comfort? Or do we let the wind blow us where it will? Do we snip off the ragged threads and sew them into a neat little hem? Or do we leave them to see what happens if they unravel even further? Do we accept the disorder in the hope that a new shape, a new vision, a new heaven and a new earth will emerge? Or do we try to force the disorder into a place where it seems tidier, orderly, decent?

I think we are called to accept the disorder. I think we are called to let the winds blow, let the threads unravel, let the vision be revealed. And more importantly I think we are called to let that happen without trying to control it. God is giving us a vision. God is writing the law of love on our hearts. God is making all things new. It may not be comfortable . It may not be easy. It may mean we have to toss things into the air to see where they will land. But we are not in charge. Can we do that?

As we look forward into time
we hope the church, it still will be.
Out sharing good news, will people hear
God says leave that to me...

The future's not ours to see. Whatever will be will be. We are in a time of re-formation as individuals, as a church, as a global community. In that re-forming there are bits that seem ragged or untidy. Maybe that raggedness is transitional, waiting for new fruit to emerge. Maybe some of that raggedness IS the new fruitfulness. But we trust in God. We trust that God is making a new heaven and a new earth. We trust in the Alpha and the Omega to hold us safe as the winds blow hard and bring us to a new place. We are pilgrims whose final destination is not yet known. Can we do that? Que Sera Sera...what will be will be.

So Be It. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Well done. I am thinking a lot about the transition/transformation of the church and what it means. Not in an anxious way, just in a being open kind of way...