Rev. Andrew Cunnington
13th November 2016
Knowing The Beloved Child Within

Not Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton. Not Theresa May and not even Jeremy Corbyn.

But Mabs Bowden, now there’s someone who might have something worth listening to.

All hats and handbags and hard of hearing, Mabs would appear regularly in my church at Midhurst, the sort of little old lady you might brush right past if you were in a hurry. If you got into conversation with her you could be stuck for hours.

There was a meeting going on in the church one day. It was all about me wanting to remove a dreadful wall painting from the church, and I was being pushed into a corner. The Diocesan Adviser for Art Work was adamant that the painting must stay, another Diocesan official was lambasting me for not following the right procedure. There were letters of objection from members of the congregation and my wardens who had said they were supporting me, now remained silent.

At that moment Mabs Bowden entered the church and called to me in a loud voice “Father Andrew, here a minute”. This was all I needed. But I detached myself from the meeting with the great and the good and marched over to Mabs. “Look Mabs, I’m in a meeting and I don’t have time to talk to you now.

“Yes, but look” she said “ look here a minute. I was saying my prayers just a quarter of an hour ago and the Lord said Mabs Bowden, get yourself down to the church and say to Fr Andrew, The Lord says – you are my beloved child. That’s all. You are his beloved child, and now, she said I will leave you to these important gentleman, and before I could say anything, there she was gone!

And I stood there for a second with those whispered words of hope ringing in my ears over and against the loud condemnation of the meeting I had come away from.

And when things get me down, which they don’t very often, I come back to that funny little encounter.

You are my beloved child.

There is one thing that strikes me as I reflect on the events of this past week and think about remembrance Sunday and contemplate the startlingly appropriate words of our Gospel reading.

People are looking everywhere for fulfilment in their lives. They are looking for meaning. They are looking for salvation, and increasingly God is side lined from that search. It’s the great holiday. It’s the expensive face lift. It’s the best investment. The finest meal and the best wine. It’s the celebrity and the image. And the more God is sidelined the more wild people’s choices become. Looking to the edges rather than the heart of the matter. A desperate search between extremes. Steps towards self destruction.

And all the while God is calling people back through his son Jesus Christ. He is calling them back with the promise of love “ You are my beloved Child”. He is calling us back.

And in these strange times we live in, we need to hear these words and know they are for us as individuals. For if we know we are loved, we will learn not to fear. And the Holy Spirit whispers this wonderful truth into the hearts of each person here this morning, if they will but stop and look and listen, and then he says to each of us, now you go and do what Mabs did. Wherever you find people are at their wits end, wherever you find struggle and suffering and brokenness, don’t collude with it, don’t walk away from it, but breathe my words into it.

“You are my beloved child” in each person who used the Foodbank, or comes into the coffee shop. In each card shop customer, winter night shelter user or casual passer by. In the person next to you right now and the person in the church you have never spoken to.

Somehow our task is to assure people of God’s love for them having first heard it for ourselves.

And if you have never heard those words addressed to you, well let me be Mabs Bowden to you.

“Hear a minute… you are my beloved child.”

And as we process to the back of the church at 11am, we shall read names out. Some will be familiar and loved by us, others will be just names. Unknown names. But each one of those fallen were beloved children of God and they are each held by God in the same way that we are. What unites us is our being loved by God and our desire to do something with our lives to demonstrate that love.

Remembrance Sunday reminds us that we are all held in the one embrace and that embrace does not lessen whether lives are given in two world wars and some terrible wars since then, or whether we think about refugees forced to trudge miles from their homeland. It does not lessen through the bluster of politicians even if our first inclination is to despise them.

And the personal drama of our own lives, which can grip us so intensely, we wonder if we matter at all.

For there can be times when we do not feel that love strongly and we need to be reminded of that love. Perhaps that’s what church is,perhaps that’s what mission amounts to.

The quiet nudge of assured love amidst the rumour of hate.

For the sake of this did Jesus die. For the sake of this were lives given as we remember them today.

LUKE 21:5-19