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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


13th May 2007

Fr David Shepherd

Rogation Sunday

Our nation is now going through a period of leave taking – a long good bye. After months of speculation and political pressure Tony Blair has announced his departure. The process is more drawn out, and stage-managed than on previous occasions but departure it is to be.

In the Christian Calendar coincidently this is also the season of leave taking – as Easter draws to a close. We have to remember it is still Easter – I keep forgetting to use the Easter greeting! The lectionary has exhausted the supply of Resurrection appearances and now turns to St. John’s record of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. They actually come before the crucifixion but then St. John is not that concerned with linear events, rather with their meaning. He sees cross, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the spirit as a unity, unlike St. Luke who in placing them one after the other gives us the shape of the Christian year.

In today’s service we pray for healing, receiving the sacrament of anointing if we wish. The alternative Gospel with its account of the healing at the pool of Beth-zatha and Jesus’ stark question ‘Do you want to be made well?’ might seem a more obvious choice. Of course we want to be made well but sometimes it is not that simple. The cure is elusive, the miracle does not come, and the medicine is ineffective. I found myself drawn by Jesus’ words to his disciples because they take us deeper into our understanding of Christian healing with its many paradoxes. They are if you like a kind of commentary on the gospel we didn’t read.

We can pick out some key words.

  1. Love. If we love Jesus we will keep his word. In return we will know the love of God in our lives. Father & Son will come to us and make their home in us. Indwelling is the word for this. We can pray for this. Knowing God at home in our life can be a source of strength when the going gets tough.
  2. The advocate – the Holy Spirit. Jesus touches on the difficulty of not loving, of not keeping his words, especially once he his gone from his earthly disciples. We need help. It comes from the Holy Spirit, our advocate, one who acts on our behalf, one who teaches us and reminds us of all Jesus wishes to say to us.
  3. Peace. Of course in life our hearts will be troubled, by events, by what life throws at us, by daily struggles and fears. Jesus’ gift to his Church is peace. It is different from worldly peace, a cessation of hostilities or an absence of noise, peace and quiet. It is shalom, the deep peace of God, passing all understanding, something that we can know in the midst of great turmoil such as the first Christians knew.
  4. ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ A wonderful Christian paradox and something for us to rejoice about. Loving Jesus we can rejoice at his going away because it is the means by which he comes to us. It is only because Jesus is no longer with us on earth that we can know him to be at home with us in love, and that through the Holy Spirit we can know his peace – shalom. Life is inevitably about loss, the loss of loved ones, the loss of youth, the loss of physical strength, the loss of life itself. Jesus’ words about going away so that he might come to us have something very profound to say to us in our loss. They are words that suggest the possibility of a deep inner healing.

Do we want to be made well? Of course we do. Do we want to know God at home in us through love and to receive his peace even at times of loss. ‘Yes and no’, I suspect is the honest answer. The man at the pool had been there a long time – 38 years. He was institutionalised, literally unable to move forward to the possibility of healing, until Jesus said ‘Stand up, take your bed and walk.’ If we are honest we too get rather attached to our spiritual aches and pains. We are reluctant to let them go. To say yes to the healing that Jesus offers his disciples requires the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is that we can pray for when we receive the laying on of hands and anointing and that our faith tells us we receive.

Amen

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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at webmaster@stmatthewsoxhey.org.uk Last updated 11/05/2007 09:30 Author: David Shepherd