Sermon 18th June

At Breakfast church, n Father's Day we thought a little about God The Father, sharing Psalm 103 and discussed a spoken word video ( link is here... ), then at St Peter's we discussed how we learn to be good disciples wiht the lectionary readings from Matthew's gospel and Romans

Methodist Church talk;

Love is a wonderful, yet mysterious thing. It has many aspects ( there’s a musical in that), and incredibly an infinite capacity. When I fell in love with Alison and we married, I never thought there could be more love- and yet that has grown in our almost 40 years together. But as I held each of our new-born children in my arms, at that instant my capacity for love suddenly became immensely greater, and more with each child as they grew up. When people say their hearts burst with love, I know exactly what they mean when I think of or see my children, and with pride too, for who they have become and what they have achieved.


When I see tragedies, like the deaths of the two students in Nottingham this week, or the children lost at sea in the Mediterranean, I cannot imagine the grief of their parents at the cutting off of such promising beautiful lives so senselessly and cruelly, and so my heart weeps with them, not just as a compassionate human but as a father.


So when I think of God as Father, part of that one, but three mysterious Trinity of God, I recognise all of the above in him, but infinitely more. That capacity to love and love and love more as each child is born and grows up, the pride, the desires for them to do well, become the best they can be, the grief at loss, the pain of separation, the empathy at failure or struggles with life. And all because of God’s love, infinitely more than any human Father, but recognising that the love I have as a Father is a reflection of the love my Father God has for me.

So God as a perfect Father is immensely revealing- and yet reveals even more. And that is that all the qualities of a Mother are also the result of, an echo of the love of God too.

It’s why you’ll sometimes hear me refer to Mother and Father God, because we cannot gender God with our human differences, yes, we are all made in God’s image, no matter what our gender or sex, and all equally loved as his children, but loved in a way that encompasses our human father and mother love, and brother and sister love and friend and neighbour love and compassionate love we have for those who suffer whom we might never know. Because to God they are one and the same, they are part of that infinite capacity to love and find grace and mercy even, especially even, in a prodigal son.

So whether we are father or mother or neither, brother or sister, friend or neighbour may that infinite love of God graced to us be shown by us to all we meet. Because when God sent his own son, in the greatest show of love ever, to show us the most perfect way to live, to suffer, die and be raised, he showed us just how deep his father love was for us and when Jesus was raised, he commanded us to go out and tell of that love, show God’s love to all nations, that they might come to know God again and be drawn back to his arms like prodigal sons and daughters. Amen

St Peter's sermon  


As most of you know, when I get a chance, I enjoy painting, especially land and seascapes. When the Dean was over, he was looking at some of the pictures on our walls, including some of mine, (although he much preferred my daughter’s canvas) and asked how I’d come to paint. In conversation, one of the things that came up was the experience from two of my art teachers at school. Both were good artists in their own right. One showed us, her students, how to paint, correcting mistakes and giving us detailed explanations about technique, colour mixing etc. I didn’t get on too well with her, and most of her pupils seemed to produce near identical pictures, of a similar style. You could hardly tell one picture from another or say who might have painted them. Technically quite good, but not really art, in my view. The other teacher was totally different, would watch what you were doing, no matter what style you had, encourage, give hints etc. But I remember one time I was fiddling with some intricate detail with a tiny brush, and he came up and with a two-inch brush, painted right over what I was doing. Then he gave me the big brush and forbade me to use any other on the painting. It seemed harsh, but what he was training me to do was to step back and look at the whole picture and put something of me in it, as well as all he was teaching. It was a much harder struggle to learn to paint with him, but I credit him with teaching me how to try and continually develop my art and personal style, which I still try to do.


I tell you this because as I was reading the gospel we heard today, I was also thinking of the great Commission from the end of Matthew’s gospel which we heard a few weeks back and there seemed some interesting parallels. Bear with me.


 In our reading today, Jesus tells his disciples the harvest is plenty, but the worker’s few, then gives them the authority to go out and to do replicate elements of his own ministry. He told them it would be tough, he told them they might get rejected, he told them to shake the dust of their feet if they weren’t accepted, he told them he was sending them as sheep amongst wolves, that they’d be arrested, flogged, betrayed, even hated, because of him.


And at this point he tells the disciples to only go about this mission to the “lost sheep of Israel”, amongst the Jews only.

And they did, and they came back and they didn’t have an easy time of it.


And then at the end of Mathews gospel he tells his disciples to go  and make disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded of them.


All nations. Teaching them. Baptising them.


So what’s different between these two commissions.

The first time they went out they were to emulate Jesus, do as he did, a bit like my first art teacher in some respects.


The only difference, a little like my second art teacher, is he told them it was not going to be easy, difficult, and sometimes they would apparently fail and need to wash the dust of their feet, or start a new canvas perhaps.

Jesus was teaching them through their own experience of doing as he did- he sent them out, he didn’t go alongside them correcting every little error, they were to learn for themselves. And it wouldn’t be easy.


By the end of the gospel, not only had they been through that on-the job training, they had also witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and been filled with the Holy Spirit.


In worldly terms, all the familiarity of mission and ministry with and alongside Jesus had apparently been wiped out in the cruel and broad brushstrokes of the crucifixion and everything that went with it, and, as we have seen in the last few weeks, initially they cowered in locked rooms, like an artist who packs up their brushes in despair. Mission stopped, fear and uncertainty set in.


And then Jesus came and stood amongst them and said “Peace be with you”. And breathed his Holy Spirit on them.

Paul says in our reading from Romans “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Not the peace of this world but the peace that comes through that certainty in Christ, that comes through the power, courage and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The peace, that even though persecution, rejection, betrayal and hurt may be flung at us as Christ’s disciples, that inner peace, that certainty, which allows the harvest to be reaped where it is ripe, and the dust to be shaken of our feet when it is not. And, Paul says, to bring about God’s glory through suffering, for suffering brings perseverance, and through that, character and hope, because love has been poured out into our hearts.


And why? Why  that certainty and hope for us, why the difference for the disciples, from being huddled in that room, to being sent out to preach baptise and teach all nations?


The difference is the crucified and risen Christ.


No longer were the disciples going out simply trying to emulate their teacher, they’d done that, they’d learnt, they’d suffered the broad brushstrokes of human rejection, but now, justified, made righteous, purified, enabled, strengthened, encouraged, empowered by the risen Christ, they would each, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and courage, they would each become disciples with their own individual skills, gifts, characters and teaching, painting their own part of the picture of God’s kingdom that Jesus had revealed to them, but with all the elements of artistry he had taught them. And each individual disciple touched different lives in different ways, just as different styles of art connect with different personalities, yet the paint and the canvas and the brushes are all the same.

And eyes were opened to the new image, lives changed, new disciples were inspired to also paint the beauty of the kingdom, teach the ways of the ultimate artist. Slowly the world changed and the church grew, and the brushstrokes of justice and peace and mercy and hope began to paint a new picture throughout societies worldwide, a better picture in every nation.


Of course, I’m a realist (although one with vision, I hope), and there have been art thieves and vandals, those who would seek to destroy the vast canvas of this loving kingdom, and those who refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the ultimate artist or even the art. But that doesn’t stop me painting, because I have a great teacher, and I know his peace through my faith, despite any rejection from this world.


And that is what God offers, through Christ to each and every one of us. Jesus never said it would be easy, just the opposite. And that is what he asks of us as he commissions us all to preach, baptise and make new disciples in his name.


You might protest, perhaps that you’ve never been  that good an artist and could never paint like he does, but he’s given you all the tools and the teaching, and even blessed you with your own style, you just have to pick up the brush and make the first stroke.


I’m looking forward to seeing the finished picture.