Saturday, 17 October 2015

Sermon for St Luke

In the Church Times  it was reported that Churches could claim that healing and miracles happen at their services if the context is spiritual rather than physical. This was the ruling of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Our first reaction to this might be that clearly it is aimed at the more charismatic churches where such strange things are claimed to go on, and that though it is interesting it doesn’t really affect us here.

You could be right on one level, but it made me sit up and think a while.

In an age when effect is everything, and an age that if we buy something and find it doesn’t work we claim our money back, then we do need to look again at what we claim about Christian Faith and /or churchgoing.

Today is St. Luke’s Day and he was a physician or doctor by tradition. Our collect makes mention of the medicine of the gospel and a power to heal.

By and large in many people’s minds the science of medicine, the skills of doctors and medicines are very much part of our world, but are not usually seen as in any way associated with the gospel. But this was not the case, and we know that from the Old Testament one of the signs that the kingdom of God was near was the healing of infirmities. John the Baptist if you remember asked Jesus if he was the one they had waited for or was there another coming, and Jesus asked them to look around and see the great things happening.

Today the mission of the 72 recorded in Luke’s Gospel attests acts of healing as a clear sign that God had come close.

So should we be so surprised that even today the issues of healing are still hovering around the church. Probably not... but we do get embarrassed about it, and I am not sure we should.

Let us start where we are... a reasonable place I often find.

Why do we come to church? What is in it for us?

We may feel we need to answer that we come to worship God, as though we were doing this for God’s sake and not our own. I am not sure I could honestly always say that myself.

We may come because we have got used to it, it is an old habit of thinking and it is hard to shake off.. and anyway it feels respectable. Sometimes that is nearer to an answer 1 might give.

We may feel that we come to offer thanks. Many people come to church because of this motive. There is also the motive of suddenly feeling the need to pray for something or someone.

It may be that from time to time we might want to answer all of the above.

However I suspect that deep down if we can be still enough to find it the reason we keep coming back week in and week out is because it suits us to do it. We get something from it. Some say it makes them feel better.

Finding the presence of God here or anywhere has always and will always make us feel better. This can happen whatever state we are in. The difficulty comes for us however in finding this presence of God.

For certain church is sometimes not the place where it is found for many people. They need to find it elsewhere, at least to start with.

Nevertheless unless we are able to say the presence of God is in this place, we may as well pack up and go home, for that is the only reason I keep coming back to it.

We need to be able to hear people attesting that they found God here. This will make them feel better, it may even bring about a miracle in their lives who knows, but God has to be seen to be here.

We need to be careful, because in our pomposity sometimes we very carefully conceal God, and we present other things instead.... Should we have a Nave altar? Are we using the right words? Why is such and such happening? What happened in that last hymn?
 We offer the state of finance and our own physical needs.

I was at a clergy gathering recently and we were asked to write down one thing we wanted to achieve in our church. Strangely two of us wrote identical things... namely to offer true and real worship.

We were asked how we would know we had achieved this?

I said we would know because people would keep coming back. People would feel that there was a real connection between what they did in their day to day lives and what they did in church.

We must aim to find this for ourselves, for then we will know that God has come close to us.
The medicine of the gospel is real, it is no placebo. Those of us who have found this to be the case need to help others to find it for themselves.

We do not have to got out of our ways to find God, for he greets us on our way, and having found us and when we have recognised this we fell better.

So let us all be willing to put on the notice boards that healing and miracles may happen here, and not be ashamed to say that God makes us feel better. Let us also be honest... sometimes the church might make us feel worse!

But if God is able to heal the sores brought on by ousrelves, then all the better!

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