Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity
19th Jul 2020
The Sixth Sunday of Trinity Year A
Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” Genesis 28.17
The Christian always expresses a delight and a respect for material things and for our common humanity. At the same time all our readings this morning imply that God’s attentive love and his guiding Holy Spirit are always with us. Material things are set out in scripture to convey spiritual realities. In today’s Old Testament Reading the account of Jacob’s dream of a ladder ascending into heaven is deeply visionary. It stands as a testimony both to Jacob’s faith and the strong sense he has of God’s presence and purpose. This prompts him to bless the ground upon which he receives God’s vision “How awesome is this place! He says “This is none other than the house of God, this this is the gate of heaven”. These words are inscribed upon a modern east end church, St Paul’s Bow Common which has defied the outcries against 60s architecture and won a major prize recently. Its Vicar, Duncan Ross, alluded to the great promise of joy that the right use of architectural space and the play of light and darkness makes upon the individual. Jacob would have been proud!
God is always and everywhere present and always unchanging. He is not just a PART of the natural order, he IS the natural order. And when we admit this we then look to place ourselves like Jacob in right relationship to our own human being. “In every human heart there is a God-shaped space’ said Cardinal Hume. We begin to ask ourselves where our true peace is to be found. And our response is to recognise it within our own selves.
In his Letter to the Romans, St Paul describes the whole of creation and our common humanity as ‘groaning inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free’. And in the Gospel reading of the growth of the wheat and the tares Jesus develops around the relationship of God and the believer the image of the sower who plants the seed on ground full of weeds and on good grain. This is a proper image for the spiritual life, in which, as if we did not need reminding, life finds us struggling against the odds as the wheat grows with the choking weeds or tares. This current period of the gradual end to lockdown is very critical because we cannot be sure that we are doing this too quickly. At the same time we have this year experienced two spring times. Though we are now beginning Summer, spring is in the air as the curious return to the new normal sees only a gradual reopening rather than a full one. In the continuing uncertainty, The Church needs to enable people to tell their coronavirus stories. It needs now to offer the right healing resources for those for whom the experience of the past few months has taken a great toll. Our church is ready to offer God’s deep and strong peace and there will be opportunities in the coming weeks, once we are retuned to Holy Cross Church building in two weeks’ time, to put this into real practice.
For some time now at Argyle Primary School we have been teaching the final year pupils simple meditation skills. We decided to support our children at this crucial part of their schooling and when they are readying themselves to go to what so many of us call ‘big school’. We have together begun to wonder where we might find stillness and calmness when life around us becomes changing and demanding. It has been possible to draw upon the simple skill and technique of meditation to allow ourselves that proper space and critical distance from our demanding lives. It involves the practice and purposefulness of stillness and of silence. At first it seems that the idea to do this might be beyond the means of children of ten and eleven years of age. It is equally a challenge for adults. We can be so distracted! In the old days teachers were always barking at children to keep silent and even rewarding silent children as they were “seen but not heard….” But meditation is deep peace. It introduces a creative rather than an imposed silence.
In the action of meditation we are giving God our time when he gives us all his time. ST Paul reminds us that when we cry ‘Abba, Father!’ we express that calm intimacy which is God’s gift to us who seek. That act of what some have called ‘centring down’ allows us a means of embracing more deeply, even with the occasional distraction, the peace that lies both within and beyond us, and to inhabit that peace of God ‘which passes all understanding’ This is an action which allows us to become calm and responsive rather than defensive and reactive.
We may say that to bear within us the seed of the Word of God is as ‘the grain become the full wheat’. It’s to experience and then to communicate from our own inner being wells of deep creative peace. This is the peace that sets our lives, our world and ‘all the changing scenes of life’ into their true perspective. This is the peace which is transformative for our life together…As Jacob reminds us in his place of joy:
“How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven”. Here are the words of an ancient Celtic prayer for personal peace, so much needed in these challenging times:
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ be with you.
The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you…