Sermons



Rev. Andrew Cunnington
13th February 2022
Yet Some Of You Say There Is No Resurrection

And at last I get to the front of the queue for my ticket at the machine of the pay and display car park.

And I feel like an actor stepping out on stage uncertain of his lines.

There are keypads and slots and little instruction boxes attached to this machine and for a moment I don’t know where to start.

Have the correct money with you – no change given – one notice barks.

Insert your car registration number here – insists a flashing screen and first time off – I get the letters round the wrong way.

Already the queue behind me is getting restive.

£7.10 for three hours – pay now it tells me – and I don’t have enough coins for that much.

“Got another one pound coin lovvie” I shout out to Alison standing next to the car with an expression of one who has seen it all before.

“Look have this one” says the kindly lady next to me in the line – and I start to feed the coins in – pay more screams the display – until finally there is only £1 left to pay – but the woman’s kindly given coin – will not take – it comes rolling out of the rejected coin hole and I try again.

“Come on mate” says another bloke in the queue and I give the machine a hearty whack “I think its broken” I say rather lamely.

I try that coin again and it comes rolling out and the little instruction pad now flashes the fatal words Transaction aborted – repeat process.

Does faith ever feel like that to you? You know, you get so far with it and then at the crucial moment it lets you down. Try as you might to get things right but at the moment of “push comes to shove” it just doesn’t take.

Compare this feeling with the wonderful situation in our Gospel reading today.

The crowds come from Tyre and Sidon in the north and Jerusalem in the south – several days journeying from either direction – just to stand on the shore of Galilee and be with this man.

And Jesus does not disappoint. He is “on fire” as we say about our sporting heroes today. Not only does he heal everyone of their obvious physical ailments – but of the spiritual brokenness inside them – that maybe is not seen – but is felt as the deep seated burden we thought we were stuck with.

Jesus is pulsating with heavenly grace in a way rarely described.

It is sometimes said that some of the resurrection stories – the things that probably happened after Easter – that sometimes they get misplaced in the Gospels and end up out of order – it’s a very interesting thing to consider that the timeline of Jesus’s ministry doesn’t always conform to our expectation of how a story should be told.

That could be happening here, for this is such a powerful passage – bringing together everything that might makeJesus irresistible for you and for me.

But quite often this seems along way from our struggling faith as we try to make sense of what being a Christian is in very different circumstances. Feeding in the coins of prayer and worship and finding that it simply does not take for us.

In these three weeks we are following through one of the key passages of St Paul’s writings – 1 Corinthians 15 – which tries to make sense of the resurrection for us – but can – if we’re not careful just tie us up in more knots.

The early church is struggling to make sense of everything – they are not making the headway with their faith that they had hoped – the coins will not take – and Paul accuses them.

No wonder it’s not working for you – he cries – if you cannot accept that on Easter Day he really did rise from the dead and is with us now – if you have not yet in your heart really come to believe in that – no wonder you are floundering.

And the essence of resurrection is that everything is turned upside down. Death becomes life. Darkness becomes light. Brokenness into wholeness. Sorrow into joy. And we can become so weighed down that such a transformation feels like an impossible dream.

Jesus shows the truth of it by Galilee’s shore first in terms of actions – and then in terms of teaching – and when we get to the teaching in the second half of the reading it is a shortened version of the Sermon on the Mount.

We have heard it all before – but maybe the penny hasn’t dropped – the coin just gets returned.

Actually at one level, what Jesus says here could be seen as mildly offensive…

Blessed are the poor – really – isn’t poverty the thing we all want to be rid of – but what if this is about the gaps in your life which nothing seems able to fill.

Blessed are the hungry – we seek here at St Matthew’s to relieve people of hunger – but what if this is not about food and drink – but rather of an appetite beyond what’s for dinner- rather a restlessness inside – a deep desire for a better world – but not knowing what our part in that might be.

Blessed are those who weep – not tears of self pity or momentary pain – but because something precious has been lost and I never realised how much it meant to me. Someone in the clutches of bereavement said to me just recently – I only now know how much loving there was still to be done – and tears are the only way to show it.

Blessed are those who are hated and excluded and insulted – who are on the receiving end of another person’s anger – anger is deep seated in these days and comes spilling forth in all sorts of ways – both from us and towards us – it was this anger that Jesus took without retaliating back – onto the cross and then resolved in the Easter garden.

Some of us have been to the place in the Holy Land where maybe these healings and these teachings took place – it’s an idyllic spot it really is – but for me the church of the beatitudes there, isn’t up to much. It’s rather cramped inside and the walls are mainly made up of large windows with these words of Jesus etched on them in not very attractive stained glass – but they point out onto the world – they say to visitors – don’t linger in here – get out there and make a difference with these words as your inspiration.

Yet some of you say there is no resurrection – says Paul – or he might have said – some of you say the words but you don’t put them into action – and it is only when you do – that you will see and feel your faith taking shape.

I don’t understand these instructions. I don’t have the right coins. I think the machine is broken anyway and I’m not paying £7.10 for three hours.

Lack of faith is easily blamed on our surroundings – but we discover that it is through those very surroundings, however unpromising they appear – that the healing touch of Jesus is felt and the revolutionary teaching of Jesus is heard..and together they can turn our world upside down.

Sorry I gave you the coin from my supermarket trolley says the kindly lady in the queue – here’s the pound coin you need.

And I put it in the slot and hope for the best.

Because…
All my hope on God is founded. He doth still my trust renew
Me through change and chance he guideth – only good and only true
God unknown. He alone. Calls my heart to be His own.

1 CORINTHIANS 15: 12 -20
LUKE 6: 17-26