Come and have breakfast

Preached by Revd Dr John Smith on 10th of April 2016 at St Peter & St Paul and St Michael and All Angels. 

Up two long flights of escalators, always crowded, always chasing and up into Holborn Tube station. Despite the escalators, a better station than Covent Garden with the lifts, or Leicester Square which is always chaotic. Out into the street, is it always raining?  More people, many more but I have this sense that God is here. I don’t understand it but it is what I feel.

And then I wondered, will it always be like this? What about 1000 years from now? I don’t have the imagination for the buildings or the technology. I can only think of us – human beings, God’s children – what will we be like? Will we be even more selfish or might it be a world that has rediscovered its sense of meaning.  Will we still sense God, as I do now, or will it be non-sense – God present, but not sensed.

I stand there; no, I don’t walk on and think. It undermines it to call it a story – this story of Jesus Christ, his living and dying and rising; his loving, and loving by doing and healing and caring.

I think, this cannot be lost, it will not be lost. This Jesus, this Son of God who transforms our lives, who loves us, who gives us the responsibility, and what a responsibility:

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he sees.
Yours are the feet with which he walks.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses the world.

So let’s start with our Gospel reading. Jesus stands there by the Sea of Tiberias, looking out for the disciples – he always travels towards those in trouble. It is the third time that the disciples see him since he rose from the dead. They are still lost and floundering, back fishing and even losing their touch with that.  Fish from the other side they did, and there were fish in plenty. A foretaste of the future, perhaps. A moment of recognition, an invitation – “Come and have breakfast.” Very human but divine too.  “Join me.” It has happened before, of course – he fed the 5000 – five barley loaves and two fish and enough left over to share with the world.

And then there are those words to Peter, three times he asks, “Do you love me?” Peter, the one who ran away, left him, denied him – forgiven and given work to do – feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. These are “do something” words.  Saying “do you love me” is not enough. This is where Eliza Doolittle comes in – fed up with just words:

Words, words, I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
first from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars, burning above;
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire,
If you’re in love, show me!

Jesus wants this…doing and serving and caring is loving and kingdom stuff. Saying it is just saying it – almost meaningless. So Jesus fed, and now we do too. If you’re in love, show me.  The impulse to share food is basic and ancient, no wonder the old stories teach that what you give to a stranger you give to God. The more we are open to the stranger, whether we like them or not, we will see more and more of the Holy. Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast”, fed his disciples and us too. Jesus fed the 5000. No questions asked, no entry ticket…the insider, the outsider, the believer, the atheist, the lover and the thief are all in.

The night before he died he took bread and wine that became his body and his blood – do this in my memory and I will be there with you. And now we will take bread and wine which will become his body and his blood and we will share it too. We will not keep this to ourselves.  For this place, this church, this life of ours is a house where love is found in water, wine and wheat . This is a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone to heal and strengthen, serve and teach. This is a house whose doors are open – this church – our lives, our doors, too.  Time and time again we must say, as our Archbishop has said of God’s love, it’s extremely easy, God’s love is offered without qualifications, without price, without cost, to all people in all circumstances, always.

Help people grow and flourish into the people God’s love has called us to be. But somehow we make so many barriers, too many hurdles to jump. So, as Christians, we try to offer God’s love, but it comes with a cost: the cost of giving our time, our skills, our labour, our money. We share what we are and what we have. We crack the shell that protects us.

A tiny and very arthritic Miss Lewis went to her church every week to collect groceries, climbed the stairs – slowly, ever so slowly – went to her room – she only had one room – cooked on the hotplate, put the food into nice clean plastic containers, struggled down the stairs and gave the food to the homeless in the street.  I call that Holy Communion.  Food to people who do not belong and who people do not want.

Jesus stood by the sea and saw the disciples struggling. “Come and have breakfast”, the fire is alight. Share your food with mine. Share your lives with mine. It is a Christian call.

Listen to this prayer from Uruguay. It is said when bread and wine are brought to the altar. It calls for all of us to be involved, not just in the eucharist, but beyond these walls – not just for us but for everyone.

Let us celebrate the Supper of the Lord. Let us make a huge loaf of bread and let us bring abundant wine. Let the women not forget the salt, let the men bring along the yeast. Let many guests come: the lame, the blind, the crippled, the poor.  Come quickly.  Let us follow the recipe of the Lord. All of us, let us knead the dough together with our hands, together we knead hope.  Let us see with joy how the bread grows. Because today we celebrate the meeting with the Lord. Today we renew our commitment to the Kingdom. Nobody will stay hungry.

We, you and I, will not be hungry because we are loved.  The world will not be hungry because we love; and when we love we respect and honour and don’t hold on.

We are pilgrims on a journey
fellow travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

So let this house proclaim from floor to rafter: all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

I come up the escalator. Holborn Station, a crowded London road, Christ palpably present and thought,” what will it be like 1000 years from now?” And knew, that with Christ’s help and ours – loving one another and we are loved – all will be well in the Kingdom of God.

God’s love does make a difference if we let it. Makes a difference to their lives, helps them see the world differently because the world is different when we love and serve one another. It is the spark that sparks and endless spark. If you love, show me, fire me, do something.

Amen.

 

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blesssed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Preached by Lesley McCormack on Sunday 3rd April 2016 at St Peter & St Paul and St Michael and All Angels.

(holding up Bible) This is God’s story, the story of God’s interaction with his beloved creation.  But this is also our story, this is our song and now in the Easter season, we revel in the most astonishing and glorious part of the story of God’s dealings with his children, with the song of Miriam and Moses still ringing in our ears – “I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph, glorious his triumph! I will sing to the Lord”.

But not all are singing, it appears.  Some are in hiding, behind locked doors.  Hiding, we are told from fear of the Jews.  Yet they themselves are Jews, the one who led them was himself a Jew.  Perhaps it was the Jewish religious authorities that gave them cause to fear for Jesus had threatened the structures, purpose and the very meaning of the Jerusalem Temple at a fundamental level.  Or perhaps it was fear of the Romans, for accounts in Josephus indicate that the Romans would kill the followers as well as the leader of any Messianic group to ensure that the sedition did not spread, for holding on to power at all costs – that is what mattered to the Romans.

But mention of a locked door might also have been the means by which John was communicating something about Jesus resurrection body – a body that could still eat bread and fish and yet profoundly different, no longer constrained by the limits of time and space.

But I also wonder if they were, in a way, hiding from God – like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  For what was the last thing they did before the arrest of Jesus?  They fled, they denied knowing him, they turned their backs even though so shortly before they had said they would die for him!  But now their friend and leader, the one who had so inspired and encouraged them – he is dead, the body gone from the tomb.  And if that wasn’t enough,  Mary Magdalene has told them  that she has seen Him!    None of it makes any sense – utterly incomprehensible.

Then suddenly, into this room where fear-filled men had gathered (but also it must be remembered the fearless Mary of Magdala who had come to them with extraordinary news) into this room, even though the door is locked, Jesus is there in the middle of them.  He doesn’t say what might have been expected – it doesn’t say ‘Well, where did you all go’ or ‘Why did you abandon me when you professed such loyalty!’.  No, nothing like that – rather, he looks at them and says ‘Peace be with you’. He shows them his hands and his side, presumably with the mark of the nails and the cut of the spear and again he speaks – ‘Peace be with you’.  They are words that remind us of the words so often used by God when he introduces himself or his messengers – ‘ Do not be afraid’.

These are words that are so much more than a greeting or words of reassurance; they are words that offer release from that which binds – be it fear, or doubt; guilt or shame; or any of the many things that serve at different times to bind and paralyse. These  are words that give courage and energy; words that unlock doors.  ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ says Jesus.  The disciples are to continue the work begun in Jesus.  They cannot, must not remain behind closed doors or the resurrection will mean absolutely nothing.  John Dominic Crossan in his book The Resurrection of Jesus, says that the Resurrection is less about the exultation of Christ, and more about the transformation of the world, about collaborating with the ‘non-violent God of justice and peace’.  These people who are confused, unsure, doubting and struggling to understand are the same people that Jesus sends out to continue his work.  And he empowers them for this work he calls them to do.

There is a wonderfully intimate moment  which again resonates with Genesis, for here in Johns Gospel there is no roaring wind or tongues of fire; rather the gift of the Holy Spirit is given quietly – He breathes on them and in that moment I imagine an experience of such closeness.  The breath of the Divine inspiring, empowering, energising these disciples.  We are drawn back to that image of God in the Garden of Eden breathing life into the first human being.  Here we witness the new creation.

Meanwhile, Thomas has been conspicuous by his absence, and is, it seems, not unlike many of us at times, struggling with his own doubts.  The other disciples share their experience with him, but he remains unconvinced by either their stories or their transformation from defeat to joy.  ‘No!  Unless I can see the marks of the nails and see the hole in His side made by the spear, I will not believe!’

A week passes, and then, through closed doors, ‘though no longer locked, Jesus is among them once more with those same words ‘peace be with you’ and immediately offers Thomas the opportunity to do what he said he needed to do.  But that offer was enough for Thomas; he is able to make what is the first full profession of faith in the divinity of Christ in the Gospel and proclaims ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus turns to Thomas and says ‘have you believed because you have seen me?’  Then it is as if he turns to me, to you to all of us …….’Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.’

In that moment, Jesus steps out of this story we are reading directly into our lives.  This is our story, this is our song, a song sung in the continuing hope and power of the resurrection.

The reality of the resurrection is lived out and sung in every small step that is taken to push back the darkness of violence and injustice in our world; it is lived out and sung in every small action that shines like a light in the dark places of peoples lives and the lives of communities.  The reality of the resurrection is made visible in efforts of young people like Katy Campbell who threw us a challenge to help her support Care4Calais and put together boxes of food and provisions for refugees living in camps in Calais.  It is made visible in the commitment of our volunteers who, week by week push back the darkness of injustice by making soup and providing nourishment, friendship and companionship to people who have little or nothing.  It is made visible through the love of friends, and neighbours; through the forgiveness of those we have hurt or wronged; through the constant love and support of those nearest and dearest to us; through the countless acts of generosity, kindness and compassion expressed in so many different ways in the ongoing worship, mission and ministry of this community.

Belief in the Resurrection is what drove Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter in Lampedusa to go down to the shoreline and gather wood – the broken fragments of a boat carrying Eritrean refugees wrecked at sea off the islands coast in 2011.  He went in search of the debris after meeting some of the survivors in his parish church; people grieving for their drowned relatives and friends.  At his carpenters bench he made small crosses from the salvaged wood to give to these people who had lost everything; crosses of wood that smelt of the sea and in which he recognised something of the holy.  He then made a large cross to hang in the church as a constant reminder of the suffering of refugees, but also a reminder to them, and to all who looked upon it, of their rescue.

A member of the British Museum heard Signor Tuccio describing his work; deeply moved she made contact with him and, unbeknown to the museums director Neil MacGregor, asked if he would make a cross for their collection.  Some while later, a parcel arrived.  What she unwrapped was a rough cross, bearing flakes of the blue and yellow paint that had once adorned another boat, one wrecked in October 2013 with the loss of 366 lives.

Two things happened as a direct result:  Mr. MacGregor accepted the cross as the last item to enter the collection under his supervision; and the Italian Navy initiated its Mare Nostrum sea-rescue mission.  That simple blue and yellow cross serves as a sign of the solidarity of those who, having little themselves, cannot turn away from the plight of those washed up on their shores.  That is the power of the resurrection.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Preached by Lesley McCormack on Sunday 7th February 2016 at St Peter & St Paul.

“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

Rawand Aziz and Saman Sharif are Iraqi Kurds, who fled persecution and oppression – both were granted asylum and later British citizenship.  But they are living in a tent in the cold and the mud in the Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk so that they can care for and support their wives and children in whatever way that they can – for their families have been denied British passports.

Every 90 seconds last year, a person or family in rented accommodation faced legal proceedings and 99,000 people ended up evicted, mainly due to rising rents and housing benefit cuts and Peterborough is among the worst in the country.

But…“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”

Shortly before he died, Rohith Vemula wrote in his suicide note:   “Never was a man treated as a mind, a glorious thing made up of stardust,” Rohith had been a PhD student, at Hyderabad University, but he was also a Dalit, or untouchable.  He, with four other ‘Dalit’ students,  had been suspended from classes for three months, expelled from their university residence and told they were not allowed to enter any campus buildings, eat at the mess or vote in student elections.

But ……….“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”

The World Health organisation has declared a global emergency as doctors and scientists endeavour to understand the relationship between the Zika virus and the thousands of babies born with brain damage in Brazil while on Tuesday the Israeli military demolished 23 houses in two impoverished West Bank villages, including structures that were home to more than 100 people

But…..“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”

And we do not lose heart because God in Christ shines in our world as a beacon of light and hope, holding before us always the possibility of transformation.  And that is precisely what our readings this morning point us towards.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John to the mountain top and there they experience an extraordinary moment, something almost otherworldly.  You might say that the story is in all four gospels, although John does not tell it in the same way as Matthew, Mark and Luke.  For John, as the theologian John Pridmore points out, ‘The whole story of Jesus is one of humanity transfigured, of incarnate light.  “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth”’

According to Luke, while Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face  changed, and his clothes became dazzling white!  We are also reminded just how tired Peter, James and John were after their hike up to the mountain top and one can almost imagine them, heavy with sleep,  rubbing their eyes in the face of what they are witnessing!

Clearly Peter, James and John do not grasp the full implication of what they are seeing and hearing.  But I find myself wondering whether I or indeed any one of us here this morning would have done any better are comprehending what was going on had it been us on the mountain top with Jesus.  I suspect that I would have been with Peter as he suggests building shelters, perhaps so they could stay on the mountain top, safe from possible harm – for themselves and their beloved friend and teacher.  He has missed the point entirely.

Notice, though that Luke slips in six words that we need to hear and to remember:
But since they had stayed awake……
But since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory………

We may struggle to understand and make sense of all that is happening in our world; we may even at times long to hide and protect our eyes from the pain and suffering of others; but this story reminds us of the need to stay awake, ready to see those fleeting moments of God’s glory; not moments to be held on to and bottled but moments that fill us with joy and hope; moments that remind us …..

“Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”. 

Such moments serve to strengthen and encourage us in the work we are called to do.

Michael Ramsey, reflecting on the Transfiguration, said ‘Here the Lord, as Son of Man, gives the measure of the capacity of humanity, and shows that to which he leads those who are united with him’ (The Glory of the Transfiguration of Christ).  In the transfigured Christ, we see the full glorious potential of humanity.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth is, in some ways, an anguished letter reflecting pain and deep sorrow.

The events precipitating this second letter to the Corinthians is the subject of great debate among scholars.  There is, however, a suggestion that between the time of his first letter to them (when he endeavoured to address problems involving community division and behaviour), and the second, Paul made an ‘emergency’ and sorrowful visit to Corinth, possibly the second occasion on which he visited them.  This visit did not go well and it would appear from implications in 2 Corinthians that he followed it up with another letter, a letter probably now lost, which seems only to have made the situation worse.  There is hurt, anger and pain all around as the young Corinthian church community continues to struggle with the tension between the values and power of  God’s kingdom and the transient power of what their culture can give them!

‘Remember’, Paul says to his struggling community:

All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit Therefore, Since it is by God’s mercy

that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Even when we think things can’t get any worse, we do not lose heart!

Christ calls us all, by virtue of our baptism, to be stewards of creation, to serve others, especially the poor, the marginalised, the outcast; we are called to seek right relationships with God and with each other; to be agents of God’s transfiguring, transforming love in the mess and the dirt of our wonderful yet broken world.  We only have to look at the experience of Jesus, to listen to the anguish of Paul to know that this work is not necessarily easy or pain free.  With Lent beginning on Wednesday, we are challenged afresh to reflect on how we live out God’s costly call to each one of us to be agents of His transforming Love.

BUT  since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart  – for if we look, we may glimpse God’s glory in the faith communities, individuals and organisations, teachers and healthcare workers  going to places like Grand-Synthe, offering their time and their skills to do what they can, supporting practically and emotionally, enabling people to know they are not forgotten; and to speak of the injustice and lack of humanity to the wider world.

We do not lose heart – for we look and glimpse God’s glory in voices of  scholars and students worldwide who challenge the injustice and discrimination that drove a brilliant young man to take his life.

We do not lose heart – for  we look and glimpse God’s glory in a theatre company performing Hamlet  outdoors in freezing temperatures amidst the mud and squalor of the Jungle – an act of loving solidarity that lends dignity, strength and hope to people driven from their homelands.

We do not lose heart – for we glimpse God’s glory  in our worship and in the many acts of kindness shown and expressed among us here in this place; among our neighbours and the wider community; so often quietly, unseen and unsung; we glimpse God’s glory through the continuing work of our soup kitchen.

We do not lose heart   even though the path ahead seems messy, tangled and unclear

We do not lose heart because in the cross we have seen that the glory of God cannot be extinguished by indifference and fear, injustice or cruelty and so are confident that Christ in whom we glimpse the fullness of glory, will strengthen and encourage each one of us in our continuing efforts – however great or small – to be agents of transformation who shine with the light of Christ.

Amen