Sunday, May 26, 2013

Something worth sharing

It has to be one of my favourite passages in the Bible … and anyone who knows me well will know why!

"Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold to be refined. 2 Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. 3 Miners put an end to darkness, and search out to the farthest bound the ore in gloom and deep darkness. 4 They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation; they are forgotten by travelers, they sway suspended, remote from people.

With a great grandfather who would hang suspended from ropes quarrying slate in Dinorwic in North Wales and a Grandfather who worked 1000 feet and more underground in the Blaenserchan colliery near Pontypool in South Wales it somehow rings true.

It’s a wonderfully evocative passage that evokes of the earth which on the surrace grows bread for grain and underneath is turned up as by fire.

That path, deep below the surface of the earth no bird of prey knows and the falcon’s eye has not see it.

It’s a wonderful passage that celebrates the incredible ingenuity and inventiveness of people – it’s a celebration of science and technology – it’s wonderful.

But then it asks a telling question.

But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?

It’s all very well knowing how things are produced, how things are made, how people can do remarkable things – but what about the question why?  What’s the meaning of it all?  What’s it all for?  How on earth can I cope with the world and its messiness?  That’s the quest for wisdom, that’s the quest for insight.

And those questions are harder to answer … and all too often the defy answer.

Then comes something of a lament –

Where shall wisdom be found?
Mortals do not know the way to it,
And it is not to be found in the land of thee living.
The deep says, “It is not in me.”
The sea says, “It is not in me.”
It cannot be bought for gold,
And silver cannot be weighed out as its price.

Where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?

One more time, the writer of this wonderful passage asks the same question

Where then does wisdom come from?

Job 28:20-28

20 "Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? 21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air. 22 Abaddon and Death say, "We have heard a rumour of it with our ears.' 23 "God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. 24 For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. 25 When he gave to the wind its weight, and apportioned out the waters by measure; 26 when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the thunderbolt; 27 then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. 28 And he said to humankind, "Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.' "

That rings true for me.  I marvel at science and am definitely looking forward to the science festival next week – 60 years ago this year crick and Watson announced the discovery of DNA – strange that the name of another member of the team has been airbrushed out of history – Rosalind Franklin’s sister will be telling the story of the key part she played as a molecular biologist in the discovery.   Great to go to Jocelyn Bell Burnell in pursuit of pulsars and black holes.

But when it comes to those deeper questions – what does it all mean?  What is it all for?  How can you cope with the messiness of this world, I find myself drawn to sensing there is something more beyond all I can see that for me begins to give meaning, answer those questions and helps me to cope.

Hymn:  Immortal, invisible God only wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.

It is the sheer mystery of God beyond all our understanding that I am drawn to.  But I don’t find a faith simply in some kind of God enough.  There’s that inquisitive nature in me that then wants to ask, so what is this God like.  In what way can this God give meanining to the world, give a sense of purpose, how can believing in God help you cope with the messiness of the world?

I’m drawn to another reading … again it’s full of poetry and there is a mystery about the words that draws me in.

John 1:1-5 and 14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

The exciting thing at the heart of the Christian faith for me is the thought that this God becomes one of us and shares in the mess and the awfulness of the world.  In the teaching of Jesus there is a way of life to follow that is built around love for God, love for neighbour, love for enemy too.  Where people hurt Jesus bring healing: that’s the task for us to follow seeking.  He goes to his death, senses the awfulness of being God-forsaken on the cross.  But death does not get the better of him – in resurrection there is a victory over death that we too may share.

I want to dig away at the story of Jesus – it’s something we can get to know through reading the Gospels, setting the story against the  backdrop of the world of Jesus’ day.  And then sense the presence of the risen Christ coming alongside us … to inspire and to fill us with his love.

Another hymn …
Jesus is Lord!  Creation’s voice proclaims it.

Where is this love of Christ made real in today’s world.  This is the season of Pentecost – last Sunday we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit, that unseen, yet very real presence of God let loose in the world.  And what happens on that Day of Pentecost is it seems to me significant.  As the friends of Jesus tumble down those stairs on to the streets of Jerusalem people are amazed at what they see and hear.  Peter explains all that has happened.  And that day 3000 people become followers of Jesus.  It is thought of as the birthday of the Church.

It is in the coming together of people who share that sense of the mystery of God and share that conviction that it is in Christ that that myserry is made known, that the presence of God is made real in the world today.  For it is the Church that is the body of Christ in the world.
Not many organisations attempt to do what ‘church’ does – in bringing together people of all ages, of all kinds, to be a support to one another.  The network of care and love that is at the heart of the church’s life is something that can make a difference to individuals, in families in the community at large.

There’s a wonderful picture of what it takes to be church in Colossians 3:12-17

Colossians 3:12-17

12 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

At the heart of church is the power of love, the love that is the very nature of God, the love that is seen in all its fullness in Christ.

It is the power of love to make a difference – in 1 John 4 John speaks of the perfect love that is in God and is made known by Christ – this perfect love casts out fear.

Try it out in one instance this week.

There is a gut reaction that everyone of us is prone to in the wake of what has happened this week.

The manner of that killing on the streets of Woolwich this week does not bear thinking about.  The terrorist is about the business of sowing the seeds of fear in people’s deep psyche.  What needs to  be done in return – yes, of course, there needs to be security, there needs to be full investigation … but what those bent on terror aim to put into communities is fear – for terror breeds terror.  The insight at the heart of our Christian faith is to inject into that situation ‘love’.  There needs to be not a revulsion at the ‘threat’ of Islam – but a longing to bring love to bear into the community we are a part of  – that is willing to stand alongside all people of all faiths in rejecting the awfulness of that violence.    Just think what’s going on deep inside – is it revulsion, is it fear, is it terror of another religion … or is there a reawakened call by God’s spirit to seek to bring love into that community – love for Muslims as much as anyone else.

Wherever we are church makes a difference – that’s also part of my conviction.  It’s great to be sharing a vision and working together to make it happen here at Highbury, where we seek to make a Highbury a place to

share Christian friendship,
Explore Christian faith and
Enter into Christian mission
With Christ at the centre
And open to all.

To make church wherever we belong the kind of place where people can meet with God, sense the presence of Christ and find meaning, purpose and a very real help in the task of coping with a world that can be so messy.

A mystery made plain

Beyond all we can imagine
Deeper than the deepest depths
A mystery that defies understanding
the immortal, invisible God
Hurts healed, lives restored,
Death vanquished,
Something understandable
The Jesus who comes alongside us
Here and now we seek to be a place to
Share Christian friendship,
Explore Christian faith and
Enter into Christian Mission
With Christ at the centre
And open to all.

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