Rev. Andrew Cunnington
16th August 2020
Not For Turning

Strong words of hope from our first reading this morning.

The prophet is speaking to a people who feel far from home and long to be back.

“I will bring them to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their offerings and sacrifices I will accept on my altar. This will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples”.

As things continue to change all around us – God holds the promise of homeland in the palm of his hand.

And to the people of that day as of today as much as this day. Sometimes that must have felt a wild dream.

Holding fast to God, Not turning away. Not turning back. But going with him. However unlikely the journey might seem.

Since we last met – we have a new car in our family and when we were able to get away for a while – so we used the sat nav for the first time.

But no sooner had we set out for a bog standard run up the M25 to eventually join the M1 heading North than this new Sat Nav was ordering us home.

Only got as far as junction 10 and the new young lady inside our dashboard commanded us – leave the motorway and follow the signs to Leatherhead and then back to Gatwick.

At junction 11 – take the slip road signposted Guildford and follow directions to Reigate.

Junction 12 – head towards Staines and rejoin the motorway heading south.

This was not how you get to Northumberland – not by any stretch of the imagination.

We thought to ourselves maybe there would be a long tail back up ahead that would vindicate these crazy directions – but no everything was clear.

Similar warnings to these must have echoed in the minds of the disciples as they began to follow Jesus around without serious question. He took them all over the place. Back and forth between tiny little villages and obscure settlements. Out onto a desert road one moment and then up a mountain track the next. No seeming pattern to his travels at all. Until the time he set his face towards Jerusalem that it.

Today records the silliest of journeys. A pointless detour all the way to Tyre and Sidon. Miles off course.

That’s what the disciples would have been thinking. But also best not to say anything.

All that way and by all accounts to meet up with one woman, and let’s be honest – she was not of the type you’d expect the Son of God to rub shoulders with. A Canaanite with a daughter severely possessed by a demon. Verging on the untouchable actually.

But this miracle, far away from all the others, marks a turning point in Jesus’s ministry. Here was the point from which there would be no going back – from the cross.

For Jesus is setting his stall out for a Gospel with limitless application into the lives of all people. No longer the ever tightening lock down applied by the pharisees of the day – but a liberating standpoint – which would have them railing against Jesus with renewed vigour.

Maybe you’ve not been able to travel as far as you would have liked this summer – but I think deep down inside we will have all travelled many, many miles.

Each of us to Tyre and Sidon in our own way.

Discovering what faith might mean – when we have been unable to express it in our usual place and manner.

After this morning’s Gospel episode the people came flooding to Jesus, Beside the Sea of Galilee they came to be healed – in the wilderness they came to be fed with no track and trace as to who they were or what their background was.

Now is the time not to turn back but rather to follow Him on a journey with strange twists and turns through which we do not become distanced from him, but rather ever close as we see that there is no part of us that can be separated from his love.

Sometimes it’s in the most out of the way and implausible settings that he makes this truth become a part of us.

Staying close to him through our worship, our prayer and our compassion for others.

Defining our faith by the Christ like characteristics which never change – but not holding to the setting just because from them we derive personal comfort.

Here are words that inspire us to stick with the Lord even though the way ahead is unknown and unforeseeable.

Following Him truly – so that one thing’s for sure… at the first sign of trouble we are not turning off for Dorking.

ISAIAH 56: 1 AND 6-8
MATTHEW 15: 21-28