Rev. Andrew Cunnington
23rd June 2019
It’s a Small World After All!

Have you ever been to Disneyland – and if you haven’t, well would you like to go?

Here, this morning, with me – if only in our mind’s eye.

Let’s go to the place where Mickey Mouse characters wait to greet you on every corner of Main Street. Where Donald Duck creeps up from behind and makes you jump as he quacks into your ear. Or where you find yourself with the chance for a selfie with Mary Poppins as she skips gaily by.

But there is a ride I want to take you on. It’s not scary or anything like that. I promise you, that you will be alright.

There’s this little boat which runs on rails under the water. Don’t worry, it goes very slowly. The water’s not very deep. It will take us down this stream. Under a bridge – don’t forget to wave to the children watching. Then through a tunnel until we come out into this wonderful watery kingdom where all the nations of the world are depicted down by the waters edge.

You can see all the wonders of the world as we sail by. All the well known landmarks and as you drift magically from one land to the next.

There are groups of battery operated children – dressed in their own national costume and swaying from side to side – they sing in an ever deafening mantra…

It’s a small world…It’s a small world…it’s a small world after all.

You’ll be enchanted. To begin with, I know you will, but by the end of it – if you are at all inclined to grumpiness – you will just want it all to stop and go away.

I made a check the other day online – to see if my memory about this ride was correct – only to be told that – It’s a small world has been temporarily discontinued.

Now you and I often find ourselves greeting complete strangers don’t we and finding we have something in common and exclaim “Isn’t it a small world” – but there is in our day and age – a move to discontinue all that – to make a big world where we are becoming ever more distanced from one another.

Walls and borders and plans to break away. A never ending stream of passwords and security codes needed for access – so that our diversity and difference is something primarily to be wary of – rather than rejoice in.

But it is a small world. It is a small world after all. Says the Gospel.

Jesus is leaving home this morning. Capernaum had been his home parish and he knew everyone there. It was true that his stories and his miracles and the things he had started to say were beginning to disturb people, but it was all taking place on home ground. Round the lake. In the villages. Along the lanes.

Until today when Jesus announces to his friends – we are going to the other side of the lake.

It was like an expedition to the other side of the world for them.

There is as storm as they make that crossing and they end up somewhat spookily – in the region of the Geresenes – across the lake from Galilee.

Now those of you who have been to Capernaum will know that the land of the Geresenes is not far away. I had always imagined it as being at least like crossing the channel to France – but no – it’s really not much further – how shall we put it Reg – as from here to the parish of St Mark’s Reigate.

The feeling was that the people would be different there and Jesus must have wondered what sort of reception he would get.

This was his new parish for a short placement.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that the people of St Mark’s Reigate are akin to the foreigners of the land of the Gadarenes. Well, not really, but this was about a new start in a new place for Jesus as it will be for our dear friend Reg.

And immediately Jesus gets there and steps on the shore – this man is in his ear. A demon possessed man requiring pastoral and prayerful attention.

And I can imagine Jesus being taken aback wondering quite what to do or what to say. Like a new curate plunged into the life of a parish he knows little about.

In this new setting Jesus does three simple things and I offer them to you too Reg as a parting thought.

He asks the man his name. He listens to his story. He works out how he can bring healing.

Now no matter who we are – we each face times of letting go of one thing and taking up another.

Jobs. Duties. Relationships. Times when we each take the same old me – into a new setting and wonder what will be made of us.

To places and people that no nothing of our past. What we are good at. What we are dreadful at, and where we don’t know precisely what it is we’ll be doing.

And in this new land – this new parish Reg, note this. Jesus’s ministry was by and large rejected.

Those who stood on the edge of his ministry – when they saw the impact of him upon the way they saw things – begged him to leave their shores. To go away and never return.

The man Legion who was on the receiving end of this simple ministry – when he realised how he was changed – begged to go with Jesus. To come away with him whatever that meant.

And this is the reality of ministry Reg – sometimes you will put people off God and sometimes you will draw them close and all you can do is to be true to the God who has called you so far.

And like Jesus – to know the person’s name, to listen to the story, to see how you can bring healing.

But hold on a minute. These reflections are not just about what Jesus once did – nor personal advice for a brand new curate about to spread his wings – but each of us too.

As a result of this encounter across the lake – Jesus spreads his wings too in ways he had not imagined. He starts to see that it is a Gospel for all he has been entrusted with.

So Paul saw clearly what Jesus did not yet know.

You are all sons of God – there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male or female – all belong to Christ.

It’s a small world. It is a small world after all and the only thing that makes that true is the love of God set forth in Christ and lived out by you and me.

But today we might cower a bit at the thought of this. For we have to pit that reality of a small world at a time where so many obstacles are being set up for us to keep our distance from one another.

For Jesus it was a small step to take – a short boat ride across a lake.

For Reg it is a service of ordination followed by a journey to the next door parish.

For you and I what is the equivalent?

Where is the foreign land on your very doorstep?

The person who you might want to keep at arms length – and yet you know deep down that it shouldn’t be that way.

Where is the person whose name you do not yet know – whose story you have not yet heard – who waits for you to be that healing presence that might make all the difference in the world.

We were held prisoners until now – says Paul in our reading – locked up, that’s what we were until the fullness of faith was revealed.

Now we are set free and the bounds are limitless.

And finally here’s a thing. When you are down in the dumps. When you are hurting like mad. When you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, there is a Jesus to be found right alongside of you. Sharing his world with your world as if there were only a small space between.

He comes to you pinned to a cross – when it’s a grim time…

He comes to you dancing from an empty tomb – when it’s a great time.

It’s a small world when you let this Gospel be the focus… it’s a small world after all.

Sing the people of God in unison.

GALATIANS 3: 23-29
LUKE 8: 26-39