Fr David's Sermon
1st June 2003
'...leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and exalt us.'
(From today's collect)
We live in an age that expects to be comfortable. Our houses are centrally heated and well appointed, if not yet air -conditioned! We travel to work in warm cars to plush offices. We are comfortable in ways our grandparents could only have dreamed of and that we would not have expected in our own childhoods. In an increasingly materialistic society comfort is seen as almost a right and as a sign of our success.
And yet what I have just said is only really an illusion reflecting the world of advertising. The reality is that the majority in our world are not comfortable. The recent Christian Aid Week reminded us of poverty in developing countries, of Africa laid waste by corrupt governments, of continuing turmoil in the Middle East, of Asia where factories after little more than sweat shops, of the complex political and economic systems that pass by the very poor.
At home there is the problem of homelessness, asylum seekers and of lawless estates with children neglected and out of control. Others find themselves caught up in personal tragedy unknown to most but no less real. Many are just not comfortable.
The members of the early Christian communities were often very uncomfortable. Thus St. Peter told his readers to 'rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ's sufferings'. He was writing to a beleaguered church seemingly going under in the face of fierce persecution.
Luke's account of the Ascension in Acts reflects the bewilderment of the bereaved disciples. Their Lord seemed to have gone, despite his mysterious appearances; they simply did not know what was going on. Most of the time they were to be found huddled together, or returning to normality in a desperate search for comfort.
Jesus in the long discourses recorded by St. John, given before the crucifixion prepares the disciples for this. He tells of how he will go away, but also promises that his Father will send another advocate, the comforter the Holy Ghost. Most scholars now believe that the discourse come of the long prayerful reflection and experience of St. John and his community, of their experience of the comforter in adversity.
This lead us back to the collect and our prayer 'leave us not comfortless'. What then does comfort mean for the Christian and what does it mean to receive the Holy Ghost the comforter. Here are three thoughts.
Human beings like to order and to make sense, also a work of the Holy Spirit. Luke/Acts upon which we base the Christian Calendar gives cohesion and order to the story of the Paschal mystery, giving it a linear form. The reality, reflecting the complexity of human experience, was much more confused. In the Bible, there is a wealth of material to help us pray and act, to receive and share in the work of the Holy Ghost the Comforter whose feast we celebrate next week.
Let us pray.
Lord God, heavenly Father, may the Comforter who proceeds from you enlighten our minds, lead us into all truth, and make us active in your service, through Christ our Lord.
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Last updated 01/06/2003 07:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd