2nd Sunday after Pentecost 2016

Sermon Title: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost 2016
Date: 29th May 2016
Preacher: Rev Susanne Chambers
Lectionary Reading:

Today I would like to talk about the soul care of our children and their development of faith.

Like many of you here today, I was brought up going to church and going to Sunday school.  The church service and community of faith back then was a mixture of mystery and seriousness. The theology back then, was that you came to church to be with God and not to interact with others in the service. So for me as a child, they appeared to not really want the children in the service. This may not be totally true but that’s what I remember how I felt.

My Sunday school teacher, Betty Allan was a lovely, kind woman and I still thank her for being an inspiration and her care for us children! She made me feel special and that I belonged.

Relationships are important for children….for anyone! But for a child a smile goes a long way of feeling accepted.  I think that’s why I lead the services the way I do in reaction to what I was brought up with! Besides it being part of my personality!

John Westerhoff, a religious educator, writes “If our children are to have faith, we need to make sure that the church becomes a significant community of faith.”

“Faith is not something that develops in a vacuum. Having faith, understanding faith, exploring faith, and questioning faith are not solo activities.  These things are meant to be done with others who are on the same path or looking for the same path. These things are meant to be done with people older than us, the same age as us, and younger than us.” Postmodern Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith. Page 73

In both the letter from Paul to the community in Galatia and the story today in Luke’s gospel of the faith of the Centurion, show us that we have people of the past, who can give us courage for our faith journey or pilgrimage.

Paul was a prayerful, faithful Jew and a follower of Jesus. He said in the last verse of today’s reading “for I did not receive the gospel from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, through prayer…through talking with God and through deepening that relationship, Paul understood the beauty of the love of God as told by Jesus… the good news! We know that Paul didn’t have an easy time of being a Jesus follower and so his faith kept him centred on who he was and that he was a loved child of God.

The centurion surprised Jesus by his faith. Here was a man not a Jew and therefore ‘outside’ the chosen ones!  The centurion appeared to have good relations with the Jews and sent a delegation of Jews to Jesus to ask to come to heal his dear servant because he loved the Jewish people and built their synagogue. As Jesus was on his way, the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, don’t come.  We don’t know why he changed his mind but said that all Jesus needed to do was to say the word and his servant would be healed.  Jesus was amazed! Amazed, at such faith and said: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!” I don’t know where the centurion got his faith, (he wasn’t of the Jewish faith) but he certainly knew that Jesus would heal his servant.

A point to make… “I wonder how many people of other faiths we might be amazed about if we stopped to notice the good they are doing? I wonder how many people of different faith or no faith we might see differently – as God’s beloved children – if we kept this story in mind?”

Today we are baptising a baby Elliot and two young people, Felix and Rosalie.

Once they are baptised they belong to the world wide Christian community and here at St Paul’s we are just a small part of that huge community and we commit ourselves to supporting them in their faith journey.

What would you say to them, if they asked you about faith?

What would you say if any of the children ask you or even a twenty year old or an eighty year old?

I would like you to take a couple of minutes to think about your faith.

What sustains your faith? When did you begin to have faith? Where do you get fed? What practices and experiences do you have to nurture your faith? Where do you go or to whom do you go when you are questioning your faith, or trying to understand it more.

Peoples’ responses. (I have asked two parishioners to be ready to share.)

Last night we gathered over pizza to support Felix and Rosalie who will be baptised, and with James, Emma and Lexie who will be taking their first communion today. We had a wonderful conversation about faith and faith practices.

Sometimes your answer might be ‘you just know that there is something/someone we call God, mystery, the Holy One, the divine other… that you just know is there to guide and love you.’

To know and believe that we are loved and belong are the greatest gifts for us human beings.

The Lord be with you.

Post sermon:

It was wonderful that a number of people were willing and able to share what faith means to them, how they practice their faith, where their faith was developed in the beginning and what it means to them to be a man or woman of faith. I had to draw the comments to a close as they wanted to keep sharing!

It was a wonderful faith sharing experience which I hope gave all of us strength and courage for our journey.