Sunday, June 27, 2010

God can use even the dysfunctional!

A Sermon preached on Sunday 27th June, Evening Prayer in St. Columba's Knock, Text Genesis 27:1-40

Let us Pray

Heavenly father, Take us as we are and by your word and Holy Spirit mould us to what you would have us be. This we ask in and through the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord

Our readings this evening give us an insight into relationships - Husband & Wife, brother and brother & Jesus and the community he grew up in.

If sociologists were to look into these scenarios they might indeed describe them as dysfunctional

Dictionary Definition - dys·func·tion also dis·func·tion
Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.

When we look at the Old Testament Family in todays story we see that they are not the average family.

Jacob & Esau - were twins but were competing against each other for recognition and blessing.

Their mother and father had their favorites - Rebecca favored Jacob & Isaac favored Esau.

Their father Isaac was the son of Abraham - who while he was young nearly got sacrificed on an altar, his father also lied to the king about his wife

Their mother as we read this evening was instrumental in decieving her husband

Esau was content in selling his birthright to his brother for a bowl of soup. If there was a dysfunctional family this probably was it!

If you were to create a story about the working out of God’s purposes upon earth, of how God was planning to inaugurate his kingdom would you include such people?

It is incredible how God is able to use seemingly useless people to see his overall plan come to fruition. We know that throughout the Old and New Testaments there are situations where God’s plan could indeed fall down but with a response from an individual it resumes in power.

The names Abraham, Isaac & Jacob have gone down as heroes of the faith because of how they responded to God and how their off-spring have become a numerous as the stars in the universe. God fulfilled his promise despite how they acted, despite their negative personality traits.

As we progress through to the gospel, we see that this dysfunctional streak has not gone away from people. People who are meant to have learnt how to behave. They are in the synagogue, and before them is Jesus, incarnate son of God. And what to they do? are they impressed by what he is saying? ... they do seem to be!

However, instead of responding positively to the message which Jesus is proclaiming they simply decide to do what a lot of us might (if we are honest) be inclined to do... to do a wee bit of gossipping, to ask if he is not getting beyond his station - who does he think he is to lecture us.

Our weaknesses, our failings are so evident sometimes - sometimes we do the wrong thing, think things which we know are wrong, say things we wish we had never said.

We could have one of three responses to our failures

Firstly, we could simply let it go ... learn nothing and get over it
Or we could dwell on the failing and let it impact the rest of our lives
or the most effective way to progress is to acknolwedge those failures, learn from them and resolve to do better in future.

All this talk about failure is natural, each and everyone knows what it is like to be wrong from time to time.

However there is great news in these passages.

The fact that God is someone who know that we do fail, he has taken it into consideration that we are human, that we have weaknesses, that we in our sinfulness will get it wrong sometimes, that we sometimes do not make the right decisions.

Right from early times we know that mistakes are made, however, God in his infinite wisdom, mercy and love is able to redeem those mistakes and turn them into something amazing and give us an inheritance like he did for Abraham, Isaac & Jacob

We do make mistakes, everyone does. I am sure many of us were told by our parents ... Yes you did make a mistake, learn from it and go on!

That is what we are called to as Christians, we are called to a life of joy, love and peace

we are called to a life of learning, of striving to be holy as Jesus was indeed holy.

Sometimes I am sure we are like those in our readings this evening

sometimes in our love we show favoritism
sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in cause us to lie or maybe tell half truths
sometimes we find ourselves decieving others around us for personal gain
sometimes we find ourselves chatting about things we shouldn’t be

Those things are not of God, we are called to be a holy people - a people different from the world around us. What is God trying to say to you this evening?

As I was preparing for this evenings service I came across a story about a Curate lived very close to a golf course, who one sunny, sunday morning he woke up and thought, I couldn’t be bothered going to church today, so he rang his rector and told him he wasn’t feeling too well, his rector gave him the day off. he then proceeded to head out the back door, over the fence with his golf bag onto the third tee.

as the story progress, in job like fashion satan is standing in front of God and saying to him ...

... Well God how are you going to punish that minister, he lied, he is not even in church this morning.

... Ahh said God Just you wait and see what happens at the fifth green!

So he comes to the fifth tee, (he is not a great golfer - for those who know about these things he has a handicap of around 34) the fifth is one of those hole which is very difficult, and causes many games to suffer. Imagine his great delight as he hits the ball, it flies in a straight line and lo and behold the ball not only lands on the green but runs the extra few feet right into the hole. The curate was very very pleased with himself!

Satan turns to God and says, well WHY did you do that, I thought you were going to punish him.

God says wait a while ... who could he possibly tell!

Some of our actions, some of the things which we do, we know are wrong, sometimes it looks as though we get away with them, perhaps even we think have no consequences for us or for others.

But actually, like the curate in the story, God might be subtely reminding us where we should be and what we should be doing.

God, we know can use the right decisions we make, the good things we do for his purposes. He can also use those things we get wrong, the dysfunctional things in our lives for his purposes as well as we strive to do what we can to following him ... that is great news.

Let us Pray

Review of year 1

Below is a copy of the article which appeared in our parish Magazine ... the Columban

For the Summer Edition of the Magazine, the Editor has asked me to reflect upon my first 12 months in the Parish.
To describe my first year in ordained ministry - I could use many words, but all in all it has been a privilege, a joy, a massive learning experience, a challenge and simply great!

The rich diversity of ministry here in St Columba's is humbling, busy, serious and joyful ... to be honest there is absolutely nowhere better to be. This time last year I was coming straight from college, knowing lots of theory and lots of facts. This year has indeed been a steep learning curve - from things like keeping a diary
organised to sorting out youth ministry strategy, from leading Bible
Study to preparing couples for weddings,.

It has been a pleasure this year to get to know and work alongside the Rector, who has everything a first time curate needs when they arrive in their first parish. Our Rector John is someone who is organised, dependable, approachable and who has such a pastoral heart for those whom he serve and is able to share his experiences.

For me this year has been about laying foundations - of building relationships, getting to know parishioners, of journeying with them through some dark days (in cases of funerals & illness), some fantastically life changing days (in cases of weddings), some quiet days (as I have visited many houses), some crazy friday nights (funky seaweed dance :-)).

Parish life here is busy yes,(bowling, badminton, bible study, sermons, prayers, vestry, flower festival, mag articles, marathon, staff meetings, house calls, deanery, diocese, hospitals, funerals, sunday services ...) but I cannot think of anywhere else I would rather be than here in the place where I believe God has called me to,
right at this moment in time. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all who have welcomed me, supported & encouraged me in the parish and look forward to seeing God continue in the years ahead to do His thing in this parish.

As this is the magazine after the flower festival, it would be amiss not to include it in this review … the smiles on faces, the working together as a parish team made it the success it was, from weeders to arrangers, from those who baked the scones and made the delicious strawberry jam to those who counted the money it would not have been possible without every single person. If we can pull this off and work together “to get the job done” what else is possible?

On a personal note I would also like to thank each person supported me on the day of my ordination, by their thoughts and prayers, by being there and by helping to serve most magnificent refreshments afterwards. Thank You!