Today my incumbent retires and she will be very missed in these parishes where she has served her entire ordained ministry. We’re celebrating her retirement with a service followed by lunch and the presentation of a few gifts from the churches and the community. We wish her well in her retirement. Here is a online copy of an album of photos that have been compiled over the last few weeks, photos of the parishioners memories.
I want to start by giving our heartfelt thanks to all those who have worked so hard setting up this flower festival, and all those who have helped keep the church open so that hundreds of visitors can come and visit this beautiful church in this beautiful place. A special thanks to Pam and Tony who continue to work tirelessly for this church.
Flower festivals are really important occasions, they are nice things to do and they help raise money for the upkeep and mission of the church. It helps bring people into the church who might not otherwise come through the door.
It provides us with a social event to come together. But most importantly it provides a chance for people to express their God given gifts and talents for creativity and to give an expression to their relationship with God.
We use these events to give glory to God, glory being the manifestation of the divine, and how appropriate for us to be gathered here, on this day, what better way could the divine be shown to us then in these beautiful displays, in this thin place, and surrounded by nature and God’s creation.
I’ve never been much good with flowers, other than being able to cut the steams down and put them in water, I wouldn’t have a clue on how to start and arrangement. So I really appreciate the talent that others have for it.
I dare not ask or count how many different varieties of flowers there are here in this church today. Nor do I want to think about the thousands plus varieties there are in this country. When we look at a flower, we may appreciate its shape, and colour, texture and smell.
There is a great and wonderful complexity and simplicity about flowers that tell us so much about our nature and our relationships.
Any scientist worth their salt would be able to say that the biological make up of any flower is complex. And I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say that the whole universe and God himself is contained within each single flower. Each single flower contains with its growth the wind, rain and sun, the breath of 1000’s of people, from all around the world. The complexity of a single flower when you start to think about it is incredible.
And yet, a flower is so simple, even the smallest of children can appreciate it. And we have a picture from earlier this week of one of our Arch Noa mums and tots babies appreciating the ‘Dragon’ display. Flowers need no explanation; they speak for themselves by their very being. And that’s one of the things we love about them.
The same could be said for us, human beings, created by God, in the image and likeness of God. We are complex beings, in every sense of the term, biologically, physically, spiritually, psychologically. We too contain the universe and God within us. In each of us is contained the total of our experiences and knowledge, all of those people who have crossed our path, influenced us and taught us about the world and ourselves. We are so complex that each of us are individual, there are no two people the same, anywhere, ever.
And again, we are simple. Are basic human needs are the same. Our desires in life and our calling from God.
Food, water, shelter, comfort and connections with others. The things we need.
And our calling, to love one another. Those who were in church this morning will remember from our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 30:9-14) and the gospel (Luke 10:25-37) of the Good Samaritan both spoke about about the law of God, ‘to love God with heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbour as ourselves’ and now, our epistle (1 John 4:7-13, 21) tells us ‘love one another, because love is from God’.
Complexity and simplicity, co-existing; in nature, in ourselves, in community, in love.
So as we view and appreciate these displays of creativity and life, and appreciate the complexity and simplicity of each flower, let us also observe ourselves within them, and within these arrangements, our communities.
We give thanks today for the complexity and simplicity of life, the complexity and simplicity of creation. For the flowers, and the talent, for each other and for the opportunity to express all these things and more to our creator.
Let us thank God for flower festivals, and all the things he teaches us within the talent and expression of these arrangements.
The story of the Good Samaritan I imagine is very well known to most of us. It’s probably one of the first stories we learn as children and one that we grow up with, we’re familiar to it, and we know what’s going to happen…
Our reading from the gospel today starts and ends with a question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’
‘Who is my neighbour?’
And we know the answer; the story for us has lost the shock factor that it would have had back when Jesus was telling it. This story really shook those who were listening because the hero of the story was not who they were expecting.
Jesus’ story had a twist, because the hero was not one of their own, the hero was not someone who was seen as good and honest. The hero was a Samaritan, a people who were separated from the main stream and looked down upon, they were the lowest, unclean and it was believed that no good could come from them. They were despised and written off.
We might question why Jesus would even mention the Samaritans when there was a good chance that his audience would just stop listening to him, why risk turning these people away?
Because they needed shaking up, Jesus needed to waken them up
Who is my neighbour?
These people would not even help one of their own in need. How could they just walk away from those who are suffering, and half dead, and let the stranger and the outsider, and even their enemies take care of them???
This is a question for us, ‘Who is my neighbour?’
Today we’re reminded of the law, reaching back from the Old Testament, and stretching into our lives today, we’re reminded ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’
‘Who is my neighbour?’
When I started thinking about what I was going to talk about this morning, I picture came into my head that I’d seen on the internet a few weeks back. It was an image of a group of African children surrounded by the green forest, all sitting in a circle with their legs stretched out in front of them. I remember first seeing this picture and how simple, but how beautiful it was, and then I remembered the story that went along with it.
An anthropologist had been studying an African tribe to learn about their culture, he’d finished his study but had some time to kill while waiting for his lift to the airport.
He’d been surrounded by the people of this tribe for weeks, and especially the children, so he thought he’d play a game with them to help pass the time.
He’d brought lots of sweets with him to the village, and had a lot left over, so he put everything in a basket with a ribbon attached and put the basket under a tree. Then he called all the kids together.
He drew a line on the floor, and told them to wait for his signal. When he shouted “GO!” they were all to run and the first one to reach the basket would win everything inside.
He shouted “GO!”, but instead of all running, they joined hands, and ran together as a group towards the basket. When they got there they shared the sweets out equally and happily ate what they had.
After the weeks of study the anthropologist thought he knew everything there was to know about the tribe, but this behaviour surprised him, and so he asked them why they has all gone together especially when one of them could have had all the sweets to themselves.
A young girl replied “Ubuntu! (oo-boon-too) how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”
Ubuntu is a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with others and all of creation.
Ubuntu means, “I am because we are” and it’s the essence of living together as a community. I am, because we are. How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?
Who is my neighbour?
The parable of the good Samaritan allows us to think about who our neighbour is, but it also leads us to question what type of community that God has called us to be, and the type of society we want to live in?
And this, I think, brings us back to the law, ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’’
What type of community do we want here in Llanbedr, Dyffryn and Talybont? Do we want one where we divide and separate? When we leave those in need for others to care for? Or do we take the spirit of Ubuntu, and follow the will of God for us to love.
“I am because we are”
When others are happy, we will be happy.
So let us be that loving neighbour to one another.
Let us help those in need and share the happiness of life with one another.
Let us make a difference in this world that tends to be indifferent.
Anyone who has been part of my Easter activities in these parishes or kids from the school will know of my love for Lego. Here is a version of tomorrows gospel passage, its a shame that none of the churches I’m preaching in can be set up for videos otherwise I might have used it.
Many of you may know what I am about to tell you, but for those of you who don’t know what I am about to confess to you, I hope you don’t think worse of me and that none of you take offence . . . but . . . I don’t like tennis.
I don’t understand the hype, and why it’s taken up so much people’s attention this week. I don’t see the attraction in watching a two people hit a ball from one side of a net to another. I don’t understand how there can be so much money involved in sports, how players can be paid so much for playing a game.
However, saying all this, I can appreciate that some people are very talented at sports and there has to be a huge amount of motivation to train, especially when things are going well.
And I have wondered how some of them keep going when all seems hopeless and they’re failing, but I guess regular motivational speeches and pep talks, fame, glory, money and pretty much anything they want makes it much easier to carry on.
The first missionaries of the church did not have the same motivations or comforts. Today we heard in our gospel the 70 disciples being sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel to towns and villages. They are commanded to go empty handed, without basic provisions necessary for the road. They did not take money, bags or even a spare set of shoes.
Jesus knew how hazardous the work of the gospel could be, but still sent them out with very little to aid them on their way. The disciples knew they would not gain fame, or money or power for the work they were about to do but they were willing to give up their jobs and families to share in the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel.
The 70 went out in pairs into the dusty roads empowered in the knowledge that the peace they will give will be the peace of Christ.
This knowledge was all they needed. All the encouragement they needed was to know that the work they were doing was the most important thing they could do at that time.
There is something about the Christian faith that needs to be lived out to be understood.
There are some truths within the gospel that only make sense in streets, in the homeless shelter, and at the hospital bed or anywhere were people are crying out for mercy, bread, compassion and justice. Perhaps this is why Jesus sent out his followers with only the message that the kingdom had come.
At times we might disagree with this message. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the kingdom has come. When we turn on the news or open a paper and scan the headlines it is easy to come to the conclusion that we do not live in the kingdom. Wars rage with little sign of stopping, poverty and hunger claim the lives of so many while others live in great comfort without want or need. Many are unsafe even in their homes while others enjoy security behind walls and fences.
These are not the signs of the kingdom that we would expect. In fact, if the kingdom itself knocked on our door with no sandals, no food, and no money-we might be tempted to ask it to leave us alone.
But Jesus is persistent. The seventy are to proclaim to those who receive them and to those who do not that the kingdom is near. How could they do such a thing? If the kingdom has indeed come near, what are the signs of its coming?
Let’s look again at the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy missionaries: they are to enter a town, and where welcomed they are to stay-that’s Christian hospitality. They are to eat what is given to them-that’s fellowship. Then they are to cure the sick and care for the poor-that’s compassion and care. Finally, they are to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.
Could it be that in the faithful and loving ministry of the disciples the kingdom of God in fact comes near?
If we use these messages and tools in our lives and try to live them out, can we along with those first missionaries bring and live in the kingdom of God?
Many Christians in our own time speak of the kingdom of God as a idyllic symbol of life as it will never be. But this is not Jesus’ message to the seventy as he sends them out. Instead, Jesus declares that, within the mission and ministry of these believers, in their work going out into the world, the kingdom of God will come near.
There is something about the Christian faith that must be lived in order to be understood. Jesus knew this and sent his disciples out into the world with the only thing they needed.
Some Christians today can use their theology as a bludgeon with which to beat others who cannot share in the faith we have. Some believe that we can make people believe by shouting louder or speaking longer then others. Some never step out of their comfort zones and insist on being that person who shouts the loudest and beat their views into others, but how can we spread the gospel and the good news of Christ if we refuse to get our hands dirty, if we never take that step out of ourselves and share in someone else’s life, if only for a few minutes. How will we ever be able to show Gods love to those around us if we don’t take the time to share our message.
How can we show to ourselves and others that God is here, and we are living in his kingdom?
Jesus has called us to be his messengers in the world, to show the love he has for all by caring for those we meet.
He has sent us out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, but we have all we need. We are not without protection, we have all we need, we have the message that the kingdom of God has come near. Amen.