Saturday, 30 August 2008

What the world needs now...

Sunday 31st August 2008

Readings: John 15 v 9-17

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As you will be aware, the church is gradually awakening from its summer recess.
All the organisations are restarting and there’s beginning to be a buzz about the place again.
The biggest buzz through the summer seems to have been the weightwatchers meetings.
Make of that what you will!
Anyway, all the different organisations are getting started after their summer break.
Someone was telling me during the week how Castlehill church used to be a real hub in this community.
When they were building the houses down at Forehill and at Holmston drive – and the church was in the process of moving from the barn church to the hall church.
New folk were moving into the area.
And the way to meet folk and to get involved in things – was to come to church.
Never mind Face Book or Bebo.
In those days, Castlehill church was your real live social networking site!
I’m evoking memories this morning, not so that we can mourn what we’ve lost.
Not so that we can wonder where all those folks have gone and how we become that sort of social hub again.
But so that we can think about and celebrate all that the church still has to offer in this 21st century.
Because often, we see things simply in terms of numbers and growth of church membership.
And that’s a shame.

In our gospel this morning, Jesus doesn’t ask his disciples to go and build bigger and better churches.
He commands them to love one another.
Its not about numbers, its not about recruitment – its about loving.
In so many ways, our church, in all its guises has lost sight of that.
Sure we have to be realistic.
If folk don’t sign up.
If folk don’t commit themselves to give towards the upkeep of our buildings, then we can’t maintain them.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be church.
Because being church is about loving one another.
And in the midst of the grandest schemes.
In the midst of all our activities and organisations and programmes.
We must never forget – its all about love.
Castlehill church does not exist today.
Castlehill church has not been built up by the gifts of those in this community for the last 56 years so that we can record wonderful figures.
Castlehill church exists to love.
Darcy was baptised today in that love.
We love because first God loved us.
And the minute we are fuelled by anything other than love, we may as well turn off the lights and close the door behind us.

So, if its simply all about love.
If that’s the message we have to communicate.
Something people are constantly searching for.
If its simply all about love –
Why isn’t our church full? Why aren’t all the church’s full?
Why aren’t we bursting at the seams?

Well, I heard a story this week of a lady who read somewhere that Cod liver oil was good for dogs.
So she bought a huge bottle of cod liver oil.
Then she got a spoon, poured some of the cod liver oil on it and went to give this tonic to her dog.
Well, she chased him around the house, she wrestled him to the ground and, finally managed to force the spoon into his mouth and make him take the cod liver oil.
One day, as she was having her usual struggle, chasing her dog all around the house, struggling to get him in one place, the bottle was knocked over.
She went to get a mop to clean up the mess and, to her astonishment, there was her dog licking the cod liver oil off the floor.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like cod liver oil.
He just didn’t like the way she tried to give him it.

Today, more than at any time in history, folk want and need to know that God exists.
And more than that, they want and need to know that God loves them.
But often, in the church, we go about communicating that good news in the wrong way.

We get in the way of the good news.

A teenager came home from his church youth group really excited because the next week they were going down to a homeless centre to hand out blankets.
He told his parents: next week we’re going to the homeless centre to hand out blankets so we can tell these guys about Jesus.
His wise father corrected him.
No, next week you’re going to the homeless centre to hand out blankets because the guys are cold.
In our churches our motivation is often to make our churches bigger.
But Jesus calls us simply to love.
That love, freely given to us has to be freely passed on – no strings attached.
Folk can see through the wrapping and can tell if we are motivated simply by love – or by some other not so well hidden agenda like increasing our church membership.
We don’t go out in Jesus name to save souls.
We go out because Jesus commands us to love one another.
That’s all the motivation we need.

And unless we can see Christ in each of our neighbours – even the difficult, cantankerous old so and sos.
Unless we can see Christ in our neighbour we don’t know him as well as we thought.
Jesus calls us to love one another.
That means loving the people we encounter every day.

In one of the Charlie Brown and Peanuts cartoons, Lucy stands with her arms folded and a resolute expression on her face, while Charlie Brown pleads with her. "Lucy," he says, "you must be more loving. The world needs love. Make this world a better place, Lucy, by loving someone else." At that Lucy whirls around angrily and Charlie goes flipping over backwards. "Look, you blockhead," Lucy screams. "The world I love. It's people I can't stand!"
I’m sure all of us have been there. It's easy to love in the abstract -- the world, people in general. We have no problem with that. It's people around us that drive us crazy.
And yet it is precisely those people around us, people nearest to us, with whom we work and go to school, neighbours next door, and the people we sit next to in church, that Jesus calls us to love.

Love in action -- that's what we are talking about this morning.
Love that finds expression in kindness, courtesy, tolerance, and acceptance of those around us.
Jesus calls us to love one another and to bring that love to light in the way that we treat those around us.
It's easy to love people in general, to affirm that love is a good thing and something we all need.
But it's another thing altogether to put that love into action, to make love concrete in our attitudes and actions toward others.
As someone once put it, "We are judged by our actions, not our intentions. We may have a heart of gold, but then, so does a hard-boiled egg."

A priest overheard two boys playing church. One of them was explaining to the other what all the parts of the service were about. "Do you know what it means at the end of the service when the priest does this?" he asked, making the sign of the cross. "It means some of you go out this way, and some of you go out that way."
How right he was.
The cross sends us and scatters us out into the world.
Someone has said that the really important thing for any church is not how many it seats but how many it sends.
As we said at the start of the service, in baptism the sign and seal of the holy spirit is placed upon us.
That means that you and I are called to go and love.

Lets love one another because first, God loved us. Amen

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