Rev. Andrew Cunnington
28th July 2019
Overflowing With Thanksgiving

Can we listen again to the idea St Paul had about how we each need to be.

He said in our reading that we need to be rooted in him.

Like the base of a chalice, firmly fixed, where we will not easily topple or overbalance. Where we know where we stand – and where we stand is in his unconditional love.

And then Paul said we need to be built up in him.

Like the stem of a chalice we need to have a stature that Has some elegance and grace. That it is our faith that gives us a standing in the world, because we are growing to see things in the way Christ sees them.

And then Paul says we need to be overflowing with thanksgiving.

Like the cup of a chalice that has plenty of room in it so that it can be filled to the brim –like the stone jars of Cana, because when we stop and look and listen – we know that it is the presence of Christ that fills us.

Rooted in belief. Built up in faith. Overflowing with thanksgiving.

A chalice… not just something we drink from and then hand back – but something we become.

Where our sense of being built up in God overrides the negatives and suspicions of times like these.

Let me take a step back from such wayward thoughts and ask you this?

Where are you with your God in the moment when the last note of the final hymn has been sung and there is just the echo of the organ in our rafters.

Where are you with Him when the command to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” has been responded to, the procession has gone out and you are left sitting there.

Time to go. Time to slip back into what we once were?

Or changing shape – just a little…

Rooted in belief. Built up in faith. Overflowing with thanksgiving.

Sitting for just a moment with the miracle of the Parish Communion. We each become in ourselves the shape of the chalice from which we have drunk.

One of the great sights in Norway where I have just been are the waterfalls.

They are everywhere. They come cascading down from unimaginable heights from hidden places within the mountains. They come thundering with great power. They crash over the rocks that get in their way and even though you stand at a distance – they will shower you with their drops.

And then there are places there where the waterfalls have almost dried up to tiny rivulets – as if the world itself is shedding a final tear because of the way people like me have treated it. Such beauty in Norway but look carefully and you will see dried up tear ducts on the face of this earth.

When I do a Baptism I like to pour in lots of water – for God’s love is generous. It overflows. It cascades into the bowl. But have you seen me when I do a Baptism at 10am out the front here and I pour the water in with my usual abandon and it hits the bottom of the shallow bowl in our portable font – and then it splashes back at me , it overflows onto the carefully laundered linen, it leaves puddles on the carpet. And the people snigger when they ought to be praying.

And do you remember what Jesus said when he had completed all that great teaching on the sermon on the Mount. He said that the grace of God will be poured into your laps until it overflowed.

Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me … remember that lovely line break me, melt me, mold me – fill me…

Make me not so much a channel of your peace… but a chalice of it.

Look do you mind if we ignore my least favourite story in the Gospels – the one we had today which is called “The friend at Midnight” –I don’t get much from that do you? Nor the bit about a father giving his son a serpent when he asks for a fish and there is another one like that of a woman nagging a judge to get justice and he gives her justice in the end – if only to keep her quiet.

These are examples of ways to pray that I don’t find helpful.

I don’t like these stories because at one level they give the impression that the love of God is a dried up sort of love. That if he answers our prayers at all – it is somewhat dispassionately and out of obligation – rather than this overflowing love – that I am going on about.

And we are not here dispassionately or out of obligation any more than God is. We are surely here because something is overflowing in us and our Christian lives, starting with our worship, spilling over into service – helps us to give vent to it.

Rooted in Him. Growing in Him. Overflowing in Him.

But you may want to say – yes, wonderful rhetoric Fr Andrew – but I simply don’t feel like that.

How can I overflow with thanksgiving when I spend half my time wondering what it is that God wants from me. That I feel him distant from me. That I wonder really if he even see me at all.

When I invite people to help with the distribution of Communion – they always have a practice and I get them to take hold of a chalice filled dangerously to the brim with wine and then I get them to practice giving communion when there is only a tiny amount left at the bottom of the cup and you have to tip and tip before anything comes out.

For when Jesus started thinking about being a chalice shaped saviour for us– it was in the Garden of Gethsemane – and he prayed that the cup might pass him by. He wondered about His heavenly father. He was unsure about his own capabilities. He knew that he had to drink first from the dregs of a poisoned chalice. He had to embrace the emptiness in himself first, really embrace it. Accept it. Walk with it and die with it.

And for many of us – that is not only our starting place, but a place we frequently return to.

But then right at the worst moment… the overflowing chalice became true of Him.
For in John’s Gospel when he was dead of all that, a soldier came up to him and pierced his side with a spear and out of it flowed blood and water….and there are icons and stained glass which have St John catching that outpouring into – a chalice.

Jesus became a chalice – rooted in the earth…raised high out of love for us and then overflowing with every ounce of his human soul.

He will meet us anywhere you like along the scale of human experience – full to the brim – down at the dregs – to be chalice shaped.

Rooted. Growing. Overflowing.

LUKE 11: 1-13