Rev. Andrew Cunnington
2nd August 2015
Growing to Maturity in Love

It’s my natural instinct after a baptism service to stand and the door and greet everyone as they leave and wish them a happy day of celebration. Last Sunday, I was doing this at another church and saying farewell to a congregation of visitors I had never seen before and in response to my friendly greeting, some gazed into outer space, others smiled sweetly and told me what a lovely service it had been, but one young lady, blonde and very pretty I seem to remember, in response to my “Lovely to meet you, have a good day” responded “ I love you too, bye”.

Was this love at first sight for that girl do you think?

Had she sat through that baptism service swooning inside at my good looks and natural charm. Had time stood still for her, in the way it does in films, and she only had eyes for me.

I regaled my family with these possibilities when I got home. Short shrift from my wife as you can imagine, and even my daughter, usually loyal to her old man, said, “Are you sure she didn’t have her phone up against her ear and she was actually talking to her boyfriend on line”.

The truth is, isn’t it that we use the most precious terms of endearment sometimes in the most casual sort of way.

Something deep and special, has become a throw away line to use without thinking.

“I love you too, bye”. When we speak to God in the words of our hymns and readings, we are expressing some really powerful intentions, and yet they become so familiar to us, that we reel them off without a thought.

Our readings today, ask us to look afresh at the way our faith is growing and to see if it’s stuck or not. He feeds us with the bread of life. He gives us more gifts than we can imagine. We are to flourish and mature in faith, hope and love, not to reduce our convictions, to saying the same thing over and again until familiarity breeds contempt.

In response to what he has done in Christ “ I love you too, bye”.

A couple of days before those Baptisms, we went to see the musical in London which tells the story of the singer/songwriter, Carole King “Beautiful”. I had always liked her songs in a mild sort of way and had heard the show was good, and it was very good indeed.

Not until that show, had I realised just how many songs Carole King had written, and how so many of them had formed the backdrop to growing up in the 1960’s. From the age of 16, the tunes poured out of her, like a waterfall of music. As a teenager she was married, had a baby, and was actually an unfashionable, slightly dishevelled, older than her years sort of girl. She wrote great tunes and others set the words and still others sang them.

Then there is a point where she is encouraged to sing one of her songs herself and she steps forward to the microphone in an old fashioned recording studio, tired looking, worn down by her failed marriage, slightly hunchbacked, and she sings her own song, to her own words and it’s the start of that transformation, which turned her into one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time.

Why is it that her story moves me? Because I think it is the way forward for each of us.

Living under God’s grace, we must move beyond what we thought were our limitations.

Living with the presence of His Holy Spirit, words of love and the actions that follow, speak of the wideness of His mercy, not the narrowness of our own capability.

We each make up our own tunes. They are the experiences of our lives to date. Not always comfortable. Not always easy. The Holy Spirit leads us to find our own words, but not that we might sing only into the mirror, for as disciples, moving towards maturity, He presents us with a microphone in a studio, through which we may sing out our story.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, is dominated by an exhortation that these early Christians learn to grow up a bit.

He says to the church there, you are not children, you are adults with responsibilities for faith, you need to move beyond your perceived limitations, because into the hearts of every member of your church God has poured the words and music of marvellous songs and those songs will enable you to share with the world what the true meaning of love is. And you must give voice to it. That’s what Baptism is about. That’s what worship leads to. Clearing our throats to sing of His love.

The description of the gifts listed in Ephesians seem beyond us. Daunting tasks to which we cannot aspire, but we do not sing alone, we sing together and when we do, the unity of it all will challenge those who live only to fragment, break up and destroy. The unity is that all is earthed and generated by the rhythm and beat which Christ’s song, sung through us in the Gospels.

The beat is undeniable and so is the rhythm. We confront it every week in our Parish Communion Service Green booklets. Maturity in faith is building upon it.

And this would be a pie in the sky impossibility for most of us, were it not for this Gospel.

Unusually, during this month of August, we sit with one chapter of John’s Gospel. Chapter 6 where He exhorts us to see him as the Bread of life and that we might feed off him. He offers himself daily for us, a single offering of diving life, through which we might be nourished and empowered, conformed into his likeness and literally find His presence raised up in our lives.

“I love you too, bye”. It doesn’t add up to much. It doesn’t add up to anything.

It is the greatest travesty when Christian love becomes like that. Uttered with no thought or intention at all. But if he truly feeds us, and if that feeding truly empowers us, we each have a song to sing, which will bring love to life in our unique way and that will be to the world’s blessing.

EPHESIANS 4: 1-16 JOHN 6:24-35