Rev. Andrew Cunnington
22nd August 2021
The Evidence of the Past to Give Confidence for the Future

We’d wait excitedly at the water’s edge until the mighty ship put down it’s gang planks.

Then with our suitcases at the ready and together with lots of other families, we’d climb aboard the giant vessel and find a space to sit down in the sun on the top deck. Then from the steaming red funnel would come a huge horn blast and we’d be away out to sea.

It was a long journey, but there were Mars bars the size of bricks to munch upon and towering plastic containers of orange squash with their own straws, upon which you could blow and suck on to your heart’s content.

The sense of anticipation grew even more as we had sight of land ahead and then we’d clamber ashore, all us together, and right there, at the end of the pier, steam trains on each of the three platforms, ready to take us on to our holiday destinations.

Memories of the outward journey of when you go on holiday have always been precious to me for some reason and what could be finer that setting out from Portsmouth Harbour bound for the Isle of Wight.

The memories I have shared with you are from about 1960 when I was the youngest member of our family. Sixty years on and I have just returned from the same trip – this time, I’m the old boy, and you do see it all rather differently.

Everything much smaller now. Health and Safety abounding. Not quite so much magic or expectancy and yet wonderful to connect my past with my present and my present with the future.

And to wonder as I made the journey with my four year old grandson – what his memory of this time would be and would he cross this same water when he grew old and with what feelings of the present and hopes for the future.

When it comes to faith I think we are called hold the past, the present and the future together as a living whole.

The bible acts as a reminder as to how God looked after his people in past times, and when we face a challenging present and an uncertain future, we try to believe that this same abundance of blessing with be ours going forward.

The past has its place as a treasure store of blessing memories which can be drawn upon to give us confidence in the present and hope for the future.

Sometimes these places of blessing become impossible to access when the past is dominated by that which is hard and hurtful.

Have you ever thought that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer – it’s a prayer that does not linger over the past at all, but rather it pleads with God to move with us into a promising future.

Bread for the day certainly – a symbol of spiritual nourishment in many forms, I think.

Thy kingdom come – is about our part in something not yet fulfilled.

Thy will be done – what God might want of us – not yet discovered.

Forgive us our trespasses and help us to forgive others – as we go forward and inevitably make mistakes.

Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil, from tricky, dark times, not yet revealed.

Be it glory or shame that dominates our past memories, the prayer Jesus taught us is about now moving on.

But rather it invites us into a faith which promises to be better than we have known of so far.

Those who were listening to Jesus in our Gospel reading this morning would have remembered the stories they’d been told as children.

How God had looked after them when they wandered for years through desert places.

How he sent food from the sky and water from the rocks to keep them going.

How he gave them holy rules to live by, on tablets of stone quarried from the mountains.

These stories of former times had strengthened the people for generations especially when their faith tended to wobble, but perhaps they came to mean too much to them.

They came to mean that the people could not move on with their maker to this kingdom to which our Lord’s prayer seems to lure us.

And Jesus came to give the faithful a push.

So here is Jesus standing before them and us and saying, accept those great blessing moments of the past, cherish the stories, but know that now a fuller nourishment is at hand, through the gift of my very self to you.

I am the bread of life and I am enough for you in any time and any age, and the spirit of my being will come right inside you, so we can be a part of one another.

And some turned back from following – because such an intimacy seemed unbelievable, and Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away” and there must have been a pause, a tense moment of silence before Peter spoke for them all. “Lord to whom shall we go , for we have come the believe that you have the words of eternal life”

They had travelled with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry and had made the connection of the past with the reality of the present and they believed that a better future could only be had, going hand in hand with Him.

And this is what should make us stand out as people of faith now. It’s the clear intention of our best loved prayer and also of the Communion prayer that is at the heart of our worship.

When bread is broken and wine outpoured, here is the God of all time and space.

And as the prayer is prayed… where is it that your heart and mind tends to flit?

Is that prayer for you a re enactment for you of something Jesus did long ago before he went out on that self same night and offered his life as sacrifice of love. So it is a story of the past.

Or does that prayer somehow make it all present – He is the bread of life for us here and now, we are not pretending to be disciples at the last supper, as if this were some sort of play on a stage. Here is where he blesses us afresh.

Or does this prayer look beyond today, towards a time when things will not only be different but they will be better. To a time when, once the kingdom is fulfilled, we will sit and eat with him and be served by Him and be blessed again.

Is there a way in which the Lord’s Prayer is in fact a mirror dialogue with the prayer of the Eucharist.

Now there’s a thought for another time.

The past is so precious and its where we are met by the Lord, but he calls us daily away from letting that define us – to a future where we are at one with His present and His future and so enwrapped – we at last discover, there was never anything to fear.

EPHESIANS 6: 10-20
JOHN 6: 56-69