Sunday 7 August 2016

Guest Blog - Why ALL Christians Need to be in Rev Steven Young

We're gonna do what we do every day. We're going to break bread. Yesterday the world reacted with horror at the senseless killing of another innocent man. 84 year old AbbĂ© Jacques Hamel had his throat slit as he said mass in a suburb of Rouen in Northern France by so called “ISIS soldiers”.
Just by being in church this Sunday you are making a stand. You are standing up with Christians throughout the world and saying “I will NOT be afraid.” When the forces of darkness want nothing more than for you to retreat in fear or retaliate with vengeance you are responding in precisely the way those forces of darkness hate most. You are responding with light. You are responding with love.
Because it is LOVE that we are celebrating in this place.
Whenever we gather to celebrate Mass, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the altar, we are remembering the saving acts of Christ, who offered up His life that we might live. Christ died for us, showing us that the love of God had no limits, no bounds, and no conditions. The love of God is for everyone. There are NO exceptions. There is nothing you or I have done to ‘earn’ this love. There is nothing we can ever do to “deserve it”.
The love of God is there with you in each and every moment of your life… we do not need to “journey” to God, or to wait for Him to “come down” we just need to remove the blinkers from our eyes, all the sin and shame that blinds us to His presence with us at all times, and in all places.
There is nothing that is beyond the realms of His forgiveness.
The love of God does not wait for you to be perfected, or sorted, it is freely given. It is grace. It is gift. It is for YOU. And the love of God will continue to be lavishly, yes, even recklessly, out-poured, because God's love is there for us whether or not we choose to receive or acknowledge it.
This is what makes God’s love to precious, so precarious, so vulnerable. There is no quid pro quo. More love is given to us from God than we can ever be fully return.
Awareness of how deeply, how unconditionally we are loved should give us a new sense of courage, a new sense of boldness, a new freedom to love others as recklessly, limitlessly… and without exception as Christ loves us.
Because we stand at a watershed moment in our history. There are two ways we can travel in the wake of the violence and bloodshed that is happening right now in our world.
We can do what our oppressors want. We can label. We can hate. We can curse. Or we can bless. We can forgive. We can heal from wounds.
We have a clear calling in our discipleship.
Do we dare, in all that we say, and do, and think, to point to the love of Christ on the cross?
I dare you. I dare me.
Do we have the courage to keep ON loving when the world is rough? To keep on loving when the world is tough? To make room for Christ to leap and sing in all we do? To keep travelling along with the God who called us and saved us and redeemed us even before we were born.
The journey of real discipleship is not going to be an easy road – but it’s a road none of us will ever regret taking.
A couple of months ago I was appointed as the Anglican Chaplain of North London Hospice. I remember the first time I visited. I was concerned that in a place where people go to die, it would feel empty and barren and hopeless. Instead what I encountered when I stepped through those doors for the first time was quite the opposite. It was as though every molecule in the air was filled to its fullest. As if the presence of God in that place was so strong, so obvious, that even the air around me was calling out His holy name. I cannot really describe it any other way than one of those places where the veil between earth and heaven is really, really thin.
People are dying, they are often in pain or discomfort. Their families are grieving. Trying to make sense of what is happening to their loved one. There is despair. There is anguish. There is regret. And there is God. So clearly and so abundantly in the midst of it all.
In those weeks before death, people often want to talk about how they lived their life. And you know, so far, not one person has mentioned how they wished they earned more money. Not once has anyone said they wished they spent more time at work. Not once has anyone said they wished they spent more time getting back at the person who wronged them. Instead what people talk about is the opportunities they missed to reach out to a loved one. The relationships that failed because of lack of forgiveness, or resentment or fear. The missed opportunities to make a difference. To love. To heal. To forgive.
Because when life is short, people seem to get a real perspective on what is actually important. All that can so often clamor and fill our lives of privilege, the busyness, the pursuit of perfection, wellness, affluence, the desire for this or that thing we convince ourselves we “need” goes out the window and what becomes of vital importance, of infinite value, is TIME. The time we have left to repent. The time we have left to heal broken relationships. The time we have left to love.
Because none of us know what will happen tomorrow. The time we have now. The present moment. This is only guarantee. And yes. It IS a present. Yes. It is a gift. This sacrament of the present moment is the only moment that matters because in this moment Christ is reaching out to you. He is making His love known. He is calling you to respond.
This Sunday, you and I respond by gathering around the altar. By breaking bread, by sharing wine, by remembering and giving thanks for the saving acts of Christ. And by being sent out to make this love of God known in all the world through courageous, self-giving acts of kindness and compassion. Fashioning our lives not on what we will but on what God wills. This is the life of discipleship to which you and I are called in our baptism. And I can assure you of two things. One. This life won’t necessarily be easy. But Two. When we have the courage to dare to live in accordance with God’s will for our lives – we will never regret it. God gives us the grace to die and rise with Christ each day and live our lives in accordance with His will. Because at the end of lives, when we look back, we will know that our lives were well spent. And however much of our lives have already past, there is ALWAYS time, there is always room for repentance, that is the wonder of God's grace, the possibility of making a fresh start is here for us even now, and each of us, in one way or another, need to take it.
I want to finish by sharing with you a poem that was read at a funeral I officiated at this week. It’s called “The Dash.”
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

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