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Sermon: Choral Mattins - 6 December 2015

 
Preacher:
Julie Gittoes
Date:
Sunday 6th December 2015
Service:
Choral Mattins
Readings:
Isaiah and Matthew
Listen:
Download Recording (MP3, 2.5M) Download

Match.
eHarmony.
Love Struck.
Soulmates.

You don't have to be a pub quiz fiend to work out the connection between them: they're a handful of the dating agencies currently advertising on tube trains and in weekend supplements.  Romantic possibilities are only a click away on Google. Deep within us there is a human longing for love, commitment and intimacy.

Are you the one?

Perhaps seeking a partner has become increasingly commodified - with an online profile pic, witty tagline and  personal information serving as a personal marketing tool. 

Mobile dating apps like Tinder speed up the process of judging attraction with a quick left or right swipe across the screen. 

The Blind Date section in The Guardian uses a template of questions revealing hopes and expectations, first impressions and awkward moments, marks out of ten and the possibility of meeting again.

Are you the one?

Or are do I wait for another?

Even the BBC thriller London Spy turns, in part, on a conversation about being the one.  Weighing improbable mathematical odds disrupts a relationship which began in a chance encounter. The code is not broken by map co-ordinates, a complex formula or clues sought in the overwhelming digital life of a city. The code is broken by recollecting a conversation about soulmates.

The one. Or are we to wait for another?

That there is one person who is all that we need in life, one  person who 'completes' us is a myth.  As friends and parents we need to understand the cultural pressures of those we cherish, so that we can support and uphold them.  When it comes to love and heartbreak, being single and being a couple, life is both more complicated than that, and more hopeful. 

We don't exist as fragmented souls, but as human beings made in the image of God. We are created for companionship and shared endeavour.  We find intimacy and commitment on multiple levels, within a network of relationships.

We are to be partakers of God's Kingdom -  finding rest for our restless hearts in his love. We are to seek peace in a troubled world, finding our hope in God's purposes. He is the One to whom the prophets direct our attention. In him we live, move and have our being.

Such hope accounts for the urgency of the questioning at the heart Matthew's account of John the Baptist's question to Jesus: Are you the one?  Or are we to wait for another?

All the people from Judea and Jerusalem flocked out to see John in the wilderness. Now he's in prison - confined, condemned and silenced. He hears rumours. Jesus is teaching, healing and arousing the suspicion of the authorities. Have his hopes been fulfilled? Knowing that perhaps his time for waiting is short, he needs to know Is Jesus the one for whom he prepared the way?

 

Jesus answers by directing attention to the fruits of his ministry. He's bringing healing, freedom, renewal and wholeness to those who are brokenhearted, bowed down, marginalised and distressed. In him the fullness of God dwells. The activity of God's mercy in Jesus is more than a response to individual repentance or a series of personal transformations.

He is the one who fulfils hopes and gives meaning to communities.  He draws us into a movement that brings renewal which is revealed in changed  lives.  Where there is compassion, patience and altruism in the face of adversity, God's Kingdom breaks in.  

Are you the one? Yes. Or are we to wait for another? No.

God's Kingdom is breaking in: we are to play our part in its fulfilment moment by moment, gesture by gesture.

The prophet Isaiah draws us into the depth of longing for God: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence.  

As we cry out 'Lord, have mercy' in the wake of terror, bombings and seemingly random acts of violence, perhaps we too long for direct intervention on the part of God. 

As we cry out 'Christ, have mercy' in the face of flooding, illness, pressure and relationship breakdown, perhaps we it feels as we are fading like a leaf. 

In all this we are calling upon the name of God in our own words or in the words of psalms and canticles.  In prayer, praise and lament,  we are called back to walk in the ways of God's commandments.  Isaiah foreshadows the consistent repentance proclaimed by John and the Kingdom made manifest by Jesus.

Isaiah's words acknowledge our human frailty and fickleness.  And yet God is not far from us. In our worship, we take the step of turning back to God. We let go of the desire to do things in our own strength. Instead we are to rely on divine mercy.

In Advent, we explore what it means to pray 'thy Kingdom come'. How do we live as faithful members of God's Kingdom now? God is the one who loves justice and who establishes equity. To love him as 'the one' entails our willingness to make his priorities our priorities, for his justice to be seen in our acts.

Jesus reminds the crowds that they went out to the wilderness to see a prophet:  John is not frail or fickle. The consistency and conviction of his commitment to God's Kingdom offers a deeper comfort. The comfort of putting our trust in God. 

Are you the one?

John, the prophetic voice from the margins, both proclaims and recognises the fullness of God's Kingdom.  Like him we stand on the cusp of a new age.  The Kingdom Jesus brings is one in which violence is overcome through love; who restores hope through his peace. 

Are we to wait for another?

We aren't to live life as if we were the sole arbiters of our destiny; but to turn the Kingdom from ideal to reality through our attentiveness to God.  Dare we seek God's peaceable Kingdom as we move from worship to service?

God is the one who meets our human longing for love: who fulfils our desire for stability, intimacy, commitment, faithfulness. 

In Christ, he meets us in our hopes and expectations; he remains constant whatever the vagaries of the impression we make.

Rather than mark us out of ten, he offers to draw near to us moment by moment by the power of his Spirit.

May we be channels of that healing and reconciling love, pointing others to the one who loves us to the end.

©  Julie Gittoes 2015