Sermon: What, why and how?

Dianna Gwilliams
Sunday 15th September 2013
Installation Evensong
Isaiah 60: 1-5, 19-21
John 6:51-60

Evensong - Installation Service

The big news – history made today.  Guildford Cathedral now has the shortest Dean in the Church of England.  It’s not really news, is it?  It won’t make the papers – it won’t change many lives, the fact that I am short.  It’s not really news.

So what is the news today?  What news will you, will I take with us this week?  What news will we share at school, work, at the gym, when we visit friends, this week.  What might you say in reply should someone ask, ‘What’s the news?’

Whenever news is shared it is communicated positively.  There is a confidence in the story and in the message.  Sometimes this comes from the certainty of fact.  I am short.

Sometimes it comes from the certainty of experience which has proved trustworthy.  For me that is the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who I know to be God’s Christ, who I know to have lived a fully human life, in a human family, in a human community and cultural context; who I know to have shown me, us, you, how to live a fully human life.  A life in which the security of God’s great love gives freedom to step out in service to others.  That’s the news, isn’t it?  That’s the real, life-changing news of today. That’s the ‘what’, if you like.

But why? ‘Your people’ – God spoke to Isaiah – ‘are the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified’. The ‘why’ of our news is that we have the privilege of being workers for God’s glory.  When there is transformation of whatever kind, God is glorified.  Sometimes we name it; sometimes we don’t; but look for it we must – God’s glory in the face of those who we meet, in the stuff we see each day, in the person we see in the mirror.  We are the work of God’s hands so that God may be glorified.  That’s the why. 

What do we have today?  Good news of God’s extravagant love as lived out in Jesus’ life; Good news which transforms lives and communities.

Why?  So that God’s glory can more readily be seen, as we look for it, live for it, find it and name it.

And ‘how’? In the midst of the busyness to which we will all return tomorrow; in the concerns we carry for others; for situations in the world; for our own dilemma; how will we find and be part of God’s glory?

Three things which I know help me in staying focussed on the importance of giving God glory.

The first is gratitude.  Each day is a gift.  Each person we walk alongside has the potential to change us; to be used by God to speak to us; to bless us.  Each task we are given has the potential to bless us, to strengthen us; to change us more into the likeness of Jesus.  Gratitude for little things in the midst of work gives glory to God, and in turn is a blessing.

The second is generosity.  Jesus gave everything for us.  Everything.  That’s our example.  A greater challenge than material generosity is  generosity of judgement.  The way we speak about people, the way we think about people…  Those we like and those with whom we struggle – a generosity of spirit is a high call because I’m sure it must extend to those in the public eye we all like to have a pop at – I’m working on that one.

And gratitude and generosity derive from grace.  The gift of God, freely given; when we didn’t ask for it, or think we needed it; or couldn’t understand what it could possibly add to our life – the grace of God, in which I stand; without which I am sunk; other than which, I have no news of any importance.

Gratitude, generosity and grace

When we meet someone tomorrow and they say, ‘what’s the news?’ you may not feel able to launch into an explanation of your life in Christ.  But that may well be the what of it.  The ‘why’ of it is so that God will be glorified in whatever you do say, and the way that you say it.  And ‘how’ we say whatever we say can be shaped by gratitude, generosity and grace.

A new chapter begins today in the life of this community and diocese; in the life of this Cathedral Church; in my life and the life of my family; it’s not a new book and so we won’t leave any of it behind; we’ll look back in gratitude, for without the chapters already written we would not have a new one; we will be generous with one another as we write our chapters and ours will be marked by an absolute reliance on the grace of God and a focus on giving God glory in what we do and in how we do it.

There is no more important news than the good news of God in Christ and the power to transform lives and communities.  We are all invited and we are all welcome.  We are living this news together.  So now, let’s get on with it.

May all I’ve said, and all we’ve heard be in the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen