Rev. Andrew Cunnington
26th January 2020
Why is Nothing Happening

Joseph jabbed at the fire with a stick and watched the flames start to crackle.

“It can’t go on like this” he muttered “I shall have words with the lad when he comes in!”

Mary laid down her sewing and sighed. This was not the first time that Joseph had threatened to speak out.

“Don’t be too harsh on him” she said trying to be gentle, and then after a pause…

“You know, I’m beginning to think that we got it all wrong and that we missed something important”

They were thinking back to Bethlehem – you see – and the things that happened thirty years ago.

“Sky full of angels them shepherds said” said Joseph “I’d have liked to have seen that.”

“Great big star in the sky” said Mary “Remember those wise men telling us – the thing is I never saw that star or those angels. Not for myself”

“But you saw an angel right at the beginning of it didn’t you” said Joseph “Right here in this very house. Telling you how it was going to be with us and the boy.”

“Yes, I think I did” said Mary “But it’s so long ago, I’m beginning to wonder.”

“Well I know I had them dreams” said Joseph “Telling me how to keep the two of you safe, and then Egypt and all that.”

“Don’t talk to me about Egypt” said Mary with a shudder.

“But what was it all for Mary, all that stuff in Bethlehem and now thirty years on and nothing! Nothing from God and nothing from Him. That’s what gets my goat.

Where’s he been this last month or more – wandering around in the middle of nowhere – and now his cousin’s been taken prisoner – and he does… nothing!”

At that moment the back door opened with a quiet click.

“That’s him!” whispered Mary “So are you going to have words”

“I am my love, I am“ said Joseph “By God!, I’ve had enough of this”

And into the room where they were sitting walked Jesus of Nazareth. His hair all matted. His clothes drenched.

To put this into context, I wonder where you were and what you were doing on 26 January 1990. Thirty years ago!

Think about all that’s happened to you and around you since then, for that is the length of time of the total inactivity of Jesus from the time of his birth in Bethlehem until two weeks ago we heard about his baptism and then another disappearing act into the desert.

There is speculation of course, there are documents you can turn to, texts you can read, that will suggest Jesus did all sorts of things in these intervening years, but the evidence of scripture is thirty years of nothing very much.

Apart from a strange incident in the temple when he was twelve – nothing to distinguish him from the likes of you and me.

And so the church, in it’s liturgical year, takes less than a month to cross over from the wise men coming right into his baptism as a grown up – his temptation and then imprisonment of his cousin John – who at this stage was the real mover and shaker of things.

Our lives are lived at such a breakneck speed – we wonder if the slow plod of salvation is really keeping up. Are we in our own quiet ways shaping ourselves gradually into the likeness of Christ – has our progress ground to a halt long since.

To give us heart, the Gospels are full of long waiting interludes for all sorts of people and then out of the blue there is a trigger moment which catapults them into something new and scarcely believable.

35 years by the poolside for the lame man who could never get there in time.

5 failed marriages for the woman at the well before she met Jesus.

Labourers for the vineyard left standing idle in the market square until the final hour of the day.

Beggars at the roadside. Fishermen at the shore. A tax collector at his booth. A woman’s long and painful illness. Simeon and Anna, we’ll hear about them next week, in the temple day after day and year after year, and nothing much for any of them until…

Until the breaking in of Jesus to trigger something in all those waiting people. Raising them up one by one so they are, walking and leaping and praising. Running and following and healing. Mending and multiplying. Offering and sacrificing. Crucifying and Resurrecting.

Waiting! What a thing! What a timewaster! It can become for us a sign that no one cares. The incompetence of cancelled appointments, delayed trains, no reply to the email I sent twenty four hours ago.

And yet here we have it, the experience of Jesus, his family and his early followers, littered with quiet, still periods, when all that’s left is the daily routine – collect your water from the well, let your net down for a catch. Break a loaf of bread, Pour out some wine. And then the trigger moment.

When mayhem and chaos strikes us we may say… “all hell’s been let loose here” – but in the Gospel from today onwards, all heaven is let loose. In Him and in us and our patient, waiting response.

I can relate to the life of Jesus. I really can. Well, in one respect.

For the first 26 years of my life – nothing happened, I got on with things, I had my little view of what the future might be. I didn’t cause people too much trouble. I was content to be a face in the crowd.

But in April 1981 until now something triggered me into a very different way.

Three sets of open arms reaching out to me with their unconditional welcome.

The arms of God. The arms of the Church of England. The arms of a girl you know as Alison.

Arms not to hide away in – but to be sent out from in a way I can increasingly not quantify.

How does today find you? Waiting or triggered?

Waiting without much expectation that anything will change from the routine you find yourself in now … leaving you sort of content – or strangely restless.

Or is there too much going on – too much rushing around – your life like the Gospel of Mark on speed and immediately… and then… and straightaway… so that… and God cannot get a moment with you. To say… hold on and wait a minute.

There is a sense of fearfulness around the place that if we are waiting at all it is waiting for disaster.

Waiting for the ice cap to melt. Waiting for the virus to hit us. Waiting for a politician to be advised to do something really stupid. Waiting for our life to end.

There must be something different about people of faith than this – that our waiting is the prelude to blessing and not curse, to an opportunity to help make things better rather than observe decline from a holy distance.

For the moment when we are suddenly called to reach into the life of just one other person maybe – with the love of God… triggered by another person’s need… or a complete change of direction or tempo.

In my made up story, I have Jesus coming home fresh from his baptism in the river Jordan – still dripping wet with it all over the floor of the living room… to wondering parents on the point of giving up… triggered into action at last.

What is it that will trigger the likes of us… how can we trigger others…

MATTHEW 4: 12-23