Sermon for the 2nd of July

Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:37-42

 

Last Sunday morning about fifteen of us went down to Broomhall to support our Muslim neighbours as they celebrated Eid prayer on the Springfield school playground.

I had been in touch with a couple of my friends during the week to find out whether there was anything going on which we could join in with, if I’m honest I was probably thinking about shared food…  But what came back was an appetite for something very different.  In the light of recent attacks on Muslims and following on from serious tensions within Broomhall, Burngreave and Spital Hill, local people were anxious about praying in an open space.  About 200 were due to gather to pray in Broomhall, from different parts of the city, and there were some very genuine concerns.

 

As we gathered I spoke with Kaltum, one of my friends who helped set this up.  She was laughing saying that some of the leaders had said to her that they didn’t need our help, Allah would protect them.  She had replied, yes, Allah will protect us, and Allah gave us brains!

 

As people arrived we wished them “Eid-Mubarak”, a blessed festival and they thanked us many faces beamed.

I wonder how we would react if, as we arrived at church on Christmas day we were greeted by Muslims wishing us a Happy Christmas…?

 

As prayers began we were formally welcomed by the Imam and thanked for solidarity.

Standing on the outside of a group of people at prayer felt such a huge privilege.  Although we were clearly divided, in many ways, this felt intimate, a precious connection overcoming fear…

 

After the formal prayer there was a sermon, given in Arabic, English and Somali.

The Imam spoke of how the great teachers of all faiths, our prophets, teach us to love one another, as we are loved by our God.

I hadn’t expected to feel included in this way and it was profoundly moving.

 

As people left the enclosure and made their way home to continue their celebrations several of us found ourselves in conversation, with people we knew and with people we’d never met before.  A father, whose sons are at a local school, was deeply moved by our presence and told us how he had been here with the school and had been impressed by our openness.  He said, with feeling, that he looked forward to coming here again.

 

I met several of the women again at the Broomhall Centre on Friday and they were keen to tell others how much they had appreciated what we had done.  It was such a simple thing to organise, but it was so WORTHWHILE.

 

This morning’s Gospel reading made me think about what makes something worthwhile – what is worthy of Jesus.

 

It begins by saying that if we love our mother, father, son, daughter more than Jesus then we are not worthy of him…  What does that even mean?

How can we know what it means to love God except by loving those with whom we share our lives?

 

I was at a Soup Run meeting yesterday afternoon and it became very clear that, as well as providing much-needed food, simply being there to talk and listen is also worthwhile.  People who are hungry for food are also craving the company of those who recognise our common humanity.

 

Our Gospel continues:

 

40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,

and whoever welcomes me

welcomes the one who sent me.

Radical hospitality turns on its head the generosity of the giver and reminds us that the one who gives needs to be welcomed by the one who receives.

There is a beautiful reciprocity at the heart of hospitality.

As we open ourselves to the vulnerability of giving and receiving so we enter into the simplicity of God’s generosity.

 

In her work on the Benedictine way, Joan Chittister considers the hospitality of the monastic lifestyle:

“Hospitality is one form of worship,” the rabbis wrote.

Benedictine spirituality takes this tendency seriously. The welcome at the door is not only loving – a telephone operator at a jail can do that.  It is total, as well.  Both the community and the abbot receive the guest. The message to the stranger is clear. Come right in and disturb our perfect lives. You are the Christ for us today.

(Joan Chittister OSB, The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages)

 

When we come together to worship God we make ourselves vulnerable.  We come knowing that, in some ways we feel unworthy,

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,

but only say the word and I shall be healed”

We bring with us the things we know that we have done which we ought not to have done and the things we have not done which we ought to have done…

But we come before a God who takes away the power of our failures and offers us, again and again, the grace to be free, to remember our true worth in a God whose love knows no bounds; a love which makes us vulnerable that we may show love to one another, to rediscover our humanity reflected not only in those we are called to serve but also in those who are called to serve us.

 

On Friday evening St Mark’s and the CRC hosted an evening with Kim Rosen, who had us exploring the nature of poetry as sacrament.  At one point in the evening she invited us to gaze into the face of the person sitting next to us…

I have to admit that it wasn’t easy…

 

But as I moved beyond my embarrassment – both at being looked at in this way and of looking into another’s face so intently, I moved beyond my fear and discovered the sacred gift of being seen without being judged, of being loved without being adored, of being vulnerable alongside another’s vulnerability.  Such intimacy is rare.  And I didn’t even know this person’s name!

 

It made me think again about the nature of WORSHIP – giving praise to God and knowing our true worth reflected back at us that we may leave this place so filled with love that it overflows to those we meet.  At some point during this service, you might like to imagine yourself gazing into the face of the divine knowing that God is gazing back at you, with love.

As our Muslim neighbours recognised their vulnerability last weekend as they gathered together to pray, may we know our vulnerability, our need of God, as we gather together this day.  May we not be so confident in our securities that we forget our need of God and of one another.

 

May we take time to re-consider what has the greatest value in our lives, what we spend most of our money on, how we spend our time.

 

If this is of God

let it be

let it stay

let it grow…  Amen

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