Start Up Sunday

Date: 4th February, 2018
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 5th Sunday After Epiphany
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39
I was considering changing the name of this Sunday to ‘Liminal’ Sunday or ‘transition’ Sunday rather than Start up Sunday!

The reason is obvious. We are all entering liminal time.

I remember some years ago, Kate Lord said this about liminal spaces. “A liminal space is a period of time between two different realities, when we have left one reality, but have not yet arrived in the next.  Examples of liminal spaces include getting engaged, when we are no longer single, but we are not yet married: the old rules no longer apply but the new way of living has not been realised; or being pregnant: one is no longer without child (pregnant women are described as being ‘with child’), but we are not yet parents; changing jobs, moving house, going on holiday, being sick, grieving the death of a loved one. These are all liminal spaces. The old reality is gone, and we are in a state of flux.” End of quote from Kate Lord 2011

Such times may be accompanied by feelings of grief, anxiety, uncertainty of what the future may hold.  We are not the same as we were prior to entering a liminal space.

In this faith community we are in a liminal space as we say goodbye to Greg our organist today. Greg is also in a liminal space as his future with his health is not known.  We will send you on your way with our love and blessings.

Also in our faith community, Jonathan and I will be leaving at Easter. A liminal space not only for you all, but also for us as I create a ‘Sabbath break’ to discern what God and I want to do next.

What can help us in this discernment/liminal/transition time?

I believe our scriptures today from the Old Testament and the Gospel will help.

We have two pictures of God.  In Isaiah God is very large! God whose praises Isaiah sings is indeed at work, unrelentingly and indefatigably, to sustain the cosmos and strengthen the weak.

Second Isaiah which is from chapters 40-55, offers hope and encouragement to questioning Judeans who have the opportunity to return from exile.  They have questions. How do we know that God is in this experience? And the prophet says ‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.’

Within the full text we heard this morning, the prophet paints a picture of a creative, strong, “above the fray” deity.  God ‘sits’ is an image of one undisturbed, unthreatened) above the dome that forms heaven and holds back the waters of chaos (Genesis 1:6). The heavens form God’s ‘tent’, suggesting that God acted creatively and feels at home in the creation.  The creation is God’s abode…  This powerful, caring deity will provide the energy the people need for their journey back to Jerusalem.  If their experiences have sapped their strength, they can draw on God’s strength for renewal. “Charles L. Aaron, Jr.

The second picture is God who we know in Jesus. If Isaiah paints the story of God’s nature and work on the largest canvases, Mark instead focuses on a simple, single detail. Mark tells the story of the healing of a woman, unnamed except that she is identified as Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus heals her to give her back her vocation and that is a picture of discipleship… of serving which is what we are all called to do and be. As Jesus said further on in chapter 10, “For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” Mark10:45

So this unnamed woman is an example of Christian ministry, not as many has suggested to keep women in their place as servants of men!

So where do we look to find the actions of God who creation is God’s abode? By looking to the everyday acts of service, care and sacrifice we see all around us.

God continues to love and bless the world through us.

When I reflect on the prophet who offers encouragement to the exiled people to go back to Jerusalem from the far-flung regions of Babylon,  we know that in reality that they didn’t go back. They did go forward.

They cannot go back, they can only move into God’s new future.

How scary is that for all of us! Entering the unknown when we like security, the ‘known’.

If I think broadly of the world wide church as a whole, we can only move forward into an uncertain world. We may want to look ‘back’ to the good old days, but that’s not where God is leading us. It’s not easy being in the church with numbers declining, financial issues, royal commission into sexual abuse in churches, etc.

It may feel that I am abandoning you.  I can understand that in such uncertain times.

I can only return to God who knows each of us so well, and what our needs are.  And that this God really cares about each of us as an individual, like Peter’s mother-in-law, and a God who gives us creative energy to face whatever we need to face as we all move forward.

I’m sure you know these lines very well. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”  Isaiah 40:31

In this liminal time, our church community will not be the same again.

We will have some time together. To remember, to cry, to laugh, to give thanks.

You will all been commissioned this morning to ‘serve’ the Lord.

I believe you will continue to be Christ in the world as our mission statement says:  “To radiate the compassion and love of God not only in our faces but also by our actions in worship, teaching, music and outreach.”

It can be scary looking into the future. It looks uncertain… different. I admit to feeling a bit nervous going into the unknown myself, but I believe that ‘all shall be well’ as Julian of Norwich so wisely once said.

And all manner of things, shall be well.


The Lord be with you.