Notes from the sermon by Angela Coggins on 24th February 2019, the third and final part of our series “building a house / church / lives where love can dwell”
Readings are from
Its lovely to be here and to be given the privilege to preach. Thank you to Tony for letting me pinch his sermon slot at late notice. A little bit about me as I am new to All Hallows, and I’m sort of passing through. I am in my third-year training to be a Reader, which is essentially a lay minister. I was encouraged to find a church placement that was different to my own church setting, and so I grabbed the opportunity to come here as I’d heard so much about All Hallows and my church, St Michael’s East Ardsley, donates our harvest festival produce to the Rainbow Junktion Café. You may have seen me dotted about the place taking notes, as there are so many wonderful things happening here that I don’t want to lose count. This sermon will be assessed by a variety of good folks in the congregation, and if you have any comments, observations, please do pass them on, as I’m learning and need to know!
This brings me to the theme at the end of this 3-part sermon series on Building a house/church/lives where love can dwell. There is so much already been covered by Jan, and Anthea and the readings also lend themselves to further explorations, so I’m just scratching the surface. There’s so much I want to bring in, but I’m going to try and be focussed and disciplined!!!! The 3 themes of construction connectedness and community came to mind. – how do we build, how do we keep going and how do we relate to each other? Using the parable of the two builders and the passage in Ephesians describing being built together with Christ as Cornerstone.
Construction. The story of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew is so well known, some of us can probably remember the Sunday school song -the wise man built his house upon the rock ……and sometimes when we hear a parable so often we might not be fully attuned to its dramatic reception for those original hearers.
The gospel reading from Matthew 7 comes as the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount,
Let’s just pause a while – the Sermon on the Mount, the radical humanifesto of kingdom values – Jesus’s call to moral and ethical living, confronting social injustice and the abuse of power, seeking the restoration of human dignity and honour otherwise known as “entry requirements of the kingdom”. The call to be not only hearers but doers. Jesus said “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
Construction – Jesus knows about construction, the importance of foundations, He was a carpenter and therefore in the building business. Living in first century Jordan valley, sudden flash floods, sandy river beds, were features of the landscape. We have all seen enough on our news screens to have an idea of the damage effects of extreme weather, rain, streams, winds. So obviously good strong foundations are vital. Digging the foundations requires effort, application and patience. Perseverance even. Digging right down to the bedrock.
It’s fascinating to see how many times the imagery of rock, of foundations, of cornerstones are used in connection with Jesus. There are huge amounts of study to be done looking into connection with the Temple but not time here this morning to pursue. Certainly, throughout the New Testament Person replaces Building. Peter declares Christ as the living stone, Paul in Corinthians Christ as the Rock, Jesus, himself, refers to the stone which the builders rejected becoming the chief cornerstone. The cornerstone, the precious stone, in construction terms – the stability of the whole building, depended upon it. Being lined up, using it as a measure – “the Holy Spirit level” as it were.
All Hallows is facing a time of construction, the building to be repaired, refurbished. So looking at foundations and what makes up the precious cornerstone, is rather apt. Jesus as our cornerstone, by which we measure all our actions, words, doings.
So the challenge to us is to hear and do – to be like the wise man building on the rock. All Hallows leads the way!
But this has a cost – This can appear so overwhelming, can’t it, to live a life of complete integrity, living by the standards presented in the beatitudes, loving enemies, not judging, not serving two masters, not worrying, always producing ‘good fruit’? Being tested, by the storms of life, utterly exhausting after a while in our own efforts. We soon come to the end of our own resources when faced with these enormous challenges. But Person replaces Building.
Jesus replaces the Temple.
So that leads us onto Connectedness (a bit of a clumsy title – but it begins with C!) Thankfully the foundation is built on our relationship with Jesus. We are not about following some specific ethical formula but attending to a specific living person in Jesus. Who brings, through the Spirit, in union with the father and mother of us all, renewal and refreshment, who energises and replenishes. We are called into a relationship of intimacy and mutual affection, radical grace, and unconditional love. Which we live out in the power of the spirit.
Our daily challenge is to attend to this relationship, through prayer, through reading through being still before our Maker.
My weekday life I am an adult education tutor, teaching parenting, mindfulness and emotional well-being. Mindfulness is very much in vogue at the moment, learning to live in the present moment, being intentional, and paying kind attention to oneself and others. Where unconditional positive regard, non-judgemental acceptance, are recognised as vital for health, healing and wholeness. This is lots of counselling-speak for love. Where we are encouraged not to not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Sound familiar?
Our challenge is to be more mindful /still before God, to give space in stillness, to hear the Word of life, to be transformed into those Living stones where God the author of Love, can dwell. Some people find icons helpful, particularly this one representing the Trinity painted around 1410 by Andrei Rublev
The image is full of symbolism – designed to take the viewer into the Mystery of the Trinity.
Look at the colours, the gestures, the shapes,
Figures arranged with a space for viewer to complete the circle.
Hospitality, invitation, spiritual unity, mutual love, shared communion.
Come follow the Spirit up the hill of prayer.
Come, live in the shadow of the Son of God, rest yourself beneath his tree of life.
Come, journey to the home, prepared for you in the house of your Father.
The table is spread, the door is open. Come.
To connect and be made welcome. As the letter to the Ephesians says “and in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
So we move on to our final theme, Community.
The life of such a vibrant and eclectic RAINBOW community as All Hallows is amazing to behold. Have you any idea how exhilarating it is to be around such an affirming and loving and creative community??? Where one of your church wardens is 22 and chairs PCC’s with great flair? Where you provide a space for children to learn trapeze skills combined with knitting! Where your welcome and hospitality set the standard, and are what Henri Nouwen reminds us essential for healing and wholeness. The list goes on.
As an observer, there is so much to see and give thanks for. A community of ‘Living Stones’ where all are welcome, (the refrain from that beautiful hymn we sang a few weeks ago ‘All Are Welcome’ – which is like a pleasant ‘ear worm’ – I can’t get out of my head). An activist church, which hasn’t got a traditional congregation like other congregations, it has groups of friends meeting up together, so Jean described to me. A bunch of friends who meet up to share Jesus’s love. A rainbow group of friends drawn together to live out that humanifesto of Jesus, calling for social injustices to be righted, to proclaim better stewardship of this beautiful planet we call home. A safe place – just to be. A touching place. All Hallows, creating spaces where we can be reminded that we are made in the image of God, a son a daughter, never strangers but fellow citizens. Where hospitality is deeply embedded in your DNA .In community, in communion, sharing bread, sharing wine, sharing lives. Setting the table for the whole world.
What makes up community? I’ve just returned from Denmark after visiting my daughter who is studying there. I was reflecting on the description of Denmark being one of the happiest countries on earth and what constituted such a title. Something about the value and worth they give to people. Smallest pay differential in the world- from carer to doctor just over2x salary. Peoples roles are valued more. Families are supported way beyond we could ever imagine. Students are paid to go to university – because why wouldn’t you want to support young minds being stretched and challenged? The emphasis is on people meeting up around the table, sharing food and friendship amongst stylish furniture! (Even the students) Everything is ‘hyggeligt’. The land of lego and construction, Lego means to play well. Community -value -worth -sharing around the table. All Hallows has it in shedfuls. The challenge ahead as you grow and numbers increase, is to be able to sustain/maintain/ encourage this Christ shaped community to continue. All-inclusive worship, every member ministry, Rainbow groups and house groups, the Junktion café, the quiet conversations, the practical support, go a long way to establish this. Through Christ we are all intrinsically linked, we are all embraced by grace, and our prayers, like those of the Ephesians with Christ as our corner stone. “The whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”. That we may continue to be a community, connected and constructed Where love can dwell, and we can be fully human, remade in God’s image. Amen.