Sunday 11th August
Rev. Tom Mumford - Assistant Curate
May I speak in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In our scripture readings this morning, there is a lot of talk about this thing called ‘faith’, and so, as I begin this morning, I have a confession to make:
Sometimes I find having faith hard. Sometimes…occasionally often, I doubt.
At these moments I find prayer painstaking. I feel like, when I sit to be with God, instead of feeling as if I’m with company, I actually feel alone.
I struggle to concentrate on Him, or on what I want to pray about. Instead I worry about what I’ll have for dinner, whether I’ll have time to mow the lawn before it rains... I get frustrated with God, with myself…and I think I’ve failed – that I don’t have enough faith.
Yes, even a person like me, someone wearing all this, who’s given their life to serve God and the Church, has doubts, struggles with faith. And it’s ok if you do too…because your relationship with God, like mine, is real, and this is what real relationships are like.
“Relationship with God”, I was once told, “is quite like any important relationship in your life.” Sometimes you’ll think your best friend, your husband, wife, partner, is the best thing since sliced bread.
You will love every moment you spend with them, you’ll ‘get’ each other, conversation will flow, laughter will be non-stop…you’ll wonder how you could ever be apart.
But at other times, when the dishes aren’t done, you’re being nagged for the tenth time that day, or you’re just feeling a bit ‘off’, you’ll wonder: ‘how have we even made it this far?!’
But, more often than not, as sure as the tide always comes back in again, so will that love, that friendship, that faith. Your relationships are, after all, real.
And what’s great about our relationship with God at least, is that it doesn’t matter if, from time to time we have less faith in Him, we know in Jesus Christ that his faith in us is unceasing.
But of course, faith isn’t just about how we feel.
As St Paul describes in our second reading today, faith is also expressed in action.
For him here, it is exemplified in the action of God, giving Abraham and Sarah children and descendants, and the land that he had promised them.
For Paul it is also exemplified, in the action of Abraham, in obeying God by doing what is asked of him…
And St Paul is right.
God’s faith in us isn’t just a feeling, but a real action. An overflowing, abundant, joyful action of love and grace.
And as Abraham’s wasn’t, neither should our faith be limited to the way we feel, or even to what we say, but it should be extended to what we do and how we live our lives.
Now I am not saying for a second that what we do or how we live earns God’s love and grace. No, that is fundamentally given and free, and we see that in Jesus Christ, of that we can be sure.
But what I am saying, is that faith is more than just about belief.
Faith in God, and His faith in us, if it is true and alive, must bear fruit in the way in which we are alive.
Take praying, for example: it is one thing to pray, to worship, to offer ourselves, our hopes and our fears to God in word or in silence.
This is a sure act of faith and love, and one that as Christians we are called to do… But that cannot be the end of it. That cannot be all that faith compels us to do…
CS Lewis put’s it like this: ‘prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.’
If prayer is true then, if prayer is real, there must be an active response…there must always be an active response to that faithful relationship with God.
And this, I think, is what church is for. What we at St Gregory’s seek to stir up every week.
We are here to be prompted into response, we are here to meet God, to be filled up and sent out!
When I first became a Christian, I was shocked by the amount of people who defined themselves as Christians, simply because they came to church on a Sunday.
I was shocked because I was thinking: ‘I’m coming here because I don’t feel like I’ve really been very Christian at all…’
And similarly, I was always surprised by the people that said they wouldn’t go to church because they weren’t ‘holy enough,’ or because it wasn’t for ‘sinners’ like them.
Well you know what? I say to all those people: I go to church because I am not holy enough, I am a sinner.
Church, for me, is the place where we go when we have failed to be a Christian for the rest of the week.
We come here to pray, be fed by the scriptures, hopefully the preaching, and certainly by the Eucharist.
We come here to repent, a word meaning quite literally to ‘turnaround’, to re-orientate ourselves towards God.
We come here, knowing that God is faithful to us, and to be nourished by him.
We come to here to hear His love for us, so that we are better equipped to then go out and to be a Christian for the rest of the week, outside of this place.
And this is why, for me, the most important words in this whole service are the final ones: ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ – it is for this reason that we come here. To know God’s love and faith in us, to offer ours to him in prayer and worship, and then live out that faith out in the rest of our lives.
And so, as we continue in our prayer and worship, as we continue to turn ourselves back towards God and to approach him in the Eucharist. As we prepare to be sent out…let us ready ourselves for this week, sure in the knowledge of God’s faith in us, to live out our faith in Him.
Let us love others, let us love creation, and let us follow Christ in all we say and do...I’ll see you next Sunday.