Rev. Andrew Cunnington
11th December 2016
Becoming the Facebook of God

It was an eye opening assembly with the children of Wray Common School last week.

I decided to act out in the form of a series of charades, the various ways we communicate with each other these days of social media.

I started with Facebook and moved into Twitter and then YouTube and they got them all.

Then a sea of hands went up when I asked for the ones I had missed out. Messenger. WhatsApp. FaceTime. Snapchat. Skype. Instagram. Tumblr. Chat rooms. Web sites. Children as young as 5 seemed to know the lot.

I made the point that Christmas is a time of sending messages. Not just letters up the chimney for Santa, nor even the Christmas cards we will send and receive. But through the Nativity story God is sending a message about what he thinks of us all. And what he thinks of us all is that he loves us no matter what.

The Christmas story is actually God’s own Facebook, I told them. So much does he want to show his love for us, that he became like one of us. Those who gather at Bethlehem’s crib were like having FaceTime with the Creator of the whole universe, and every time we draw near to him in the Christmas story, so do we.

Now whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. And like all the other traditional means of communication it can be used for better or for worse. The poisoned pen letter. The abusive phone call. The long email into which we all get copied in. But when I did a series of Facebook meditations in the seven days before Easter, I found my words touching the lives of almost one thousand people. Reaching people with Good News that I could never achieve here in literally a month of Sundays. And I hope to do this again for the twelve days before Christmas.

But God did not use social media, I told the children. He did not send letters or make phone calls. He used things like angels and stars and dreams, but most of all, he just used people.

That through what they became as a result of encountering Him, they would just have no alternative but to pass it on to others. Glory passing to glory to glory. Like a pass the parcel game that grows in size the more it is handed on.

Not words on a page. Not words on a mobile phone text, but the living Word escaping from your eyes and hands and mouths as the truth of his love just seeps out of you, and floods the place.

It was surely a great risk that God decided to choose John The Baptist as a prototype of this new way of messaging. For he was a surly, disagreeable type. An eccentric individual living in desert places and preaching from an uncomfortable text.

Repent! Change your ways! Come face to face with all that is wrong in you, before you come face to face with God. But because there was truth behind what he had to say, the grace just seeped out and touched lives, so that many plunged themselves into the waters of baptism.

So he uses us this Christmas time. He uses us to mirror his love in our faces. Our bodies, Our words and our actions, and that’s quite a responsibility. It means we have to be ready to speak into the emotions of utter joy and complete despair that formulate our experiences of the world in which we live.

You couldn’t have more of a contrast than in our two readings this morning.

The passage from Isaiah 35 is surely one of the most glorious in the entire bible. It promises the transformation of everything. Blossoming in the desert. Strength to the weak. The end of blindness and deafness. The losing of the limbs of those who were lame. Water in the driest of places. No more fear, but rather a clear way to the heart of God.

If this is what a Messiah will make happen, then indeed, let’s follow the rest of the world, let’s skip this Advent and take Christmas Day in both hands right here and right now.

But contrast with the Gospel. Contrast with the actual experience of our prototype messenger. If he expected liberation for himself, he had to now think again. For he who brought the Good News for others, finds himself now languishing in prison, so from that fearful dungeon, we can quite understand why he asks his disciples to just check the identity of Jesus. Are you really the one,because if so, had I not the right to expect something better.

In his reply Jesus quotes the passage from Isaiah, he praises the work and witness of John, and yet this man is locked in a prison and before long he would be beheaded.

If we are to be his messengers. If we are to be the Facebook of Jesus in our very lives, we need to be prepared to take all the best bits we experience and the worst bits too and make them part of our witness.

We have to go to the places where the glorious vision of Isaiah 35 is already a joyful reality and we have to celebrate there. But we have to go to the places that feel like John’s prison and we have to mourn there.

This has been true for me personally this year, like I think no other year.

I have veered from knowing for myself Isaiah’s great promises come home to roost in wonderful ways, to the sense of feeling captive as John did.

And if that’s true for me, I reckon it’s true for you if you will search your heart and let the experiences of your life speak to you and let all those experiences of 2016 line up behind you so that each one will help you to reach out to others, rather than withhold that help.

MATTHEW 11: 2-12