Sermons



Rev. Andrew Cunnington
31st May 2015
Plunging in to the Reality of God

A friend of mine served his curacy in Brixton in the mid nineteen eighties and he inherited a small youth club at his church of St John Angell Town. He was amazed to find that there was one thing all the members had in common. None of them had ever seen the sea!

There was great excitement then, when a coach was booked and the date set for an outing all the way down to Littlehampton, to put this matter right.
As soon as the sea came in sight, everyone was up out of their seats, all faces at the windows amazed at what lay before them, and when the coach came to a halt, the entire youth club stampeded past my friend and his wife, ran down on to the sand and with their coats still on and their packed lunches still in their hands, plunged fully dressed into the waves whooping with joy at the joy of water and waves.

One of my favourite bits of the Easter story is when the disciples are still not quite sure if Jesus is alive or not and so they go back to work at fishermen on the Sea Of Galilee.

They are going about their usual routines, when suddenly Peter looks to the shore and recognises the man who is cooking breakfast on the sand. “It is the Lord” he cries and immediately, like those children, he springs into the sea and swims to Jesus,

And I like the bit that says “and the other disciples came along afterwards, still in the boat”, and I don’t know about you, but I think that would have been me.

Much more sedate. Much more cautious.

For in the Gospels we find two sorts of followers. Those who follow with caution and those who plunge straight in.

Nicodemus was one of the former. He came quietly to Jesus by night and was full of questions. He paces around in the background of the Gospel, never quite ready to take the plunge, not until… well, not until it was all too late.

When Jesus died, only then could Nicodemus really measure what he had lost and together with Joseph of Arimathea, he bought enough spices to sink a battleship, with which to anoint his saviour’s dead body.

I’m not sure that I would have dived fully clothed into the sea like the children from Brixton. I’m not sure that I would have swum to Jesus like Peter did and although I tend to regard Nicodemus as a bit of a cowardy custard, I wonder, if I would have been any bolder than he.

I am no swimmer. I can splash about in the sea a bit, but that’s about the end of it. There was a dreadful thing that happened to me when I was Vicar in Midhurst, and maybe today, only now, I can confess it.

Word got out that I couldn’t swim, and a family bought me swimming lessons for Christmas. Well, there was no way I was going to go, No way at all. Trying to arrange the first session, I just leafed through my diary and said I had no free time. Then I put it off and put it off again. In the end, I had to go and say… I am really sorry, I just don’t want to do this… it wasn’t long after this that I ran away to Redhill.

Because I knew the family well, it didn’t cause any offence, but please, do not get the idea that it might be fun to club together now, and see what I will do… I do not want to learn to swim.

So I think I understand when we talk of taking the plunge into a deeper relationship with God, how that can be difficult, how that can seem nigh on impossible. For God can seem as threatening to some people as swimming pools do to me.

But let me tempt you, not to take the plunge into water, but into his grace, for I have learned that this is a very different thing.

I wonder how you see God at the moment?

Is he to you still an old man in the sky with a beard? Do you see him as a static, unchanging individual, somewhere beyond us, and do you come to church to make your prayer here, towards that figure and then go your way into the rest of your life.

So it’s a sort of ring fenced Christianity we end up with.

On this Trinity Sunday, what I want to say is that we don’t have to find a clever way to explain how three people can be one person and we don’t have to have off pat sentences with which to define, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but we do have to see that the Trinity points us to exploring a God who is alive and active and moving.

A God who does not stay in one place, but wraps himself around our life’s experience.

Exactly like the sea off Littlehampton beach engulfed Brixton’s youth club.

Exactly like Peter diving into Galilee, and that Nicodemus’s questions, although cautious, were good ones. About being born again because they point towards a life made new in Jesus’s life.

It’s good to be on a journey in your faith rather than to have it all sewn up and the events of this year are pushing me away from the static God to the fluid one. My prayer is becoming less a recitation of need, and more a simple placing of myself into the stream of his grace, for each and every day.

In the game of pooh sticks, you stand on a bridge and you cast a twig down into the stream and you run to the other side of the stream to see if your twig comes sailing through. I think I see my prayer as a space to consciously do this.

Offer up the small twig that is my life and let it fall into the stream that is God’s ever flowing presence, and faith is believing that my twig, so small and fragile, does not get caught up in silt and mud and reeds, it does not get lodged immovable between a stone and a rock, but each and every day, the current of God’s grace takes hold of it and moves it downstream.

Yes it’s true, the Father creates and makes new every morning, developing and refining us for service.

Yes it’s true, the Son shares each and every experience of our daily lives and brings us into light when darkness feels like the only way.

Yes it’s true the Spirit gives each of us a unique gifting by which we can reflect his glory wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.

But don’t just hold it there, as if the Trinity is just about a concept to get straight in your mind.

But in this moving, fluid, stream like God, the main thing is to see God as an ever praying, ever supporting presence.

He goes on flowing in us and around us even when we are not conscious of it or even recognise it.

Have you ever seen the sea? I’m sure you have!

But if God were that sea and it was your first sight of him, would you stay on the shore or run for the waves.

Trinity Sunday is the opportunity to join those children, to follow Peter and plunge into his love.

 
 
JOHN 3:1-17