Sermon: When the Faith is Hard to follow
My friend, Bill was a violinist with the biggest ears in the kingdom. It is not that his ears flapped much in a breeze... but he had very acute hearing. Bill was one of six music students I shared a house with in London.
Now and then we would bring out some of our LP record discs to play music, classical music. Hiding the record label from me Bill would play the record and I was expected to name the piece of music and the composer. Bill would wait to see if I could tell him which orchestra was playing or who the soloist was. He waited in vain. I would then do the same for him. Listening to the music, he gave me the name of the music and the composer, the orchestra and the conductor, the soloist if there was one. Often Bill could identify the record label (“that's a Decca disc” - or he would say “that's Deutsche Gramaphon”).
As great as Bill’s hearing was he was not so good at maintaining a faith. He told me once that he was going to take up the Christian faith. It was a trial period of six months. I'm not sure what Bill did in those six months, but at the end he said he had given it up, it's too hard!. The Christian faith is too hard, he said. Bill could have misread the faith…. perhaps he experienced it as restrictive. Perhaps he realised the faith would be challenging too much. “It was too hard”
In our Lenten pilgrimage and our Lenten study to follow we can consider what might make our wonderful faith too hard.
Faith is not a light fluffy pursuit. I believe that the Christian faith embraces the whole of life: all that is pleasant and all that is difficult. We have a faith that is earthy and real: it touches all aspects of living. The Christian faith is not an escapist religion. One of the ignorant remarks that people make about our faith is that “It is a prop for those who need that sort of thing in their life”. Faith does not tinker with life, it transform life.
Perhaps Bill had read today's gospel reading. It stands out and it shocks as much as it did in Jesus' time. It is an “0h-oh” gospel. Jesus was telling his disciples that he was to suffer, and die, and then rise again. He told his disciples that they were to deny themselves, that they were to take up their cross. Jesus uttered these uncompromising statements. As we know Peter challenged these statements and got blasted “get thee behind me Satan”.
Today's gospel is a reality gospel that tells it as it is. Our faith is not a light fluffy pursuit. Do you know that some churches (not mainstream churches) cannot cope with death and funerals?
So the Christian Faith embraces the whole of life and leads us to understand the Resurrection. I believe that we only know the resurrection when we know him on the cross. We can only appreciate Resurrection when we have a cross- when we feel something of the pain, when we know the question, and when we find the answer.
We feel we know we find. It is then we exalt in the joy of faith.
- when we let go of our proud-thin egos,
-when we have overcome the crisis.
-when we have confronted the world with the truth that God gives.
-when we have healed from the hurts of the past
- when we have said let us start again, I got it wrong.
- when we put ourselves aside to better know the other.
We have said it a thousand ways and how wonderful is the fruit: the gift of peace. Our Lenten journey leads us to the celebration of the day of Resurrection. On Easter Sunday we present tableaux - a set of scenes from Jesus' life and death and resurrection. All are presented as arrangements of still human figures. Accompanied by sound or music they permit us to know the resurrection in an enriched way. Resurrection is in a particular context, an uncomfortable context and this is reflected in the tableaux.
As the faith we hold embraces the whole of life we are led to understand Resurrection by knowing who is on the cross and his crises.
When we know this:- I believe that we can find the creative strength of faith in our own life crises . In this Lenten time we are aware of Jesus’ crisis. Jesus overcame his crises. In the same manner we accept God's love offered to us and employ a selfless love of others - and we overcome.
Last Sunday we looked at anger as a response to crisis. I said: “Ones anger must be matched by a passion to learn and discover what is behind the event that produced anger
The Christian faith engages with the whole of life
We only understand the resurrection when we know him on the cross.
We find the creative strength of faith in our own life crises.
There is a spiritual connection between the crises Jesus weathered and our own crises.
Jesus said “If any want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.
The Christian pilgrim is offered much - at each crisis there is another step on the way of Christ. I hope that my friend Bill joined the pilgrimage at some time. May we all enjoy the pilgrimage and know Christ at each step.