Sermon – 17th after Trinity 2018

Sermon 23rd September 2018 – Bernard Moss

Nb a linked sermon on the theme ‘The Lord is here’ was delivered on 13th January 2019

Gospel :  Mark 9 vv 33 – 50

Lift up your hearts

We lift them unto the Lord

I don’t know why but recently these powerful words of invitation – which we know technically as the sursum corda.. (when in doubt say  it in Latin !!) –  have reverberated round my  mind.  And strangely perhaps with our gospel reading this morning with its bewildering mixture of  encouragement and admonition  they have bubbled up again

Lift up your hearts

Sometimes we lift them up in gratitude

Sometimes we lift them up in service

and sometimes we lift them up in sorrow

Parents and grandparents  will know those moments when our child  or grandchild scampers out from nursery or infant school clutching what is clearly a major addition to the world of creative modern art..we receive it with admiration mixed with puzzlement … but inside our hearts of beating wildly – we burst with pride at the sheer innocent delight in the daubed artwork

We lift up our hearts  – indeed our hearts are lifted up in love and gratitude for this special moment.

And it’s the same throughout our lives.. those special moments  – those glorious moments when our hearts sing- when we know we will never be the same because our lives have been tinged with beauty, awe, mystery and love  – our hearts swell with love and pride joy and delight and who we are and who we can become is wonderfully enhanced.

It is for really good reasons that at the heart of our Christian faith is a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving.. for all God’s good gifts – for God’s blessings =- for the way he lifts us up and calls us into his friendship

and of course at the heart of it all the Cross of Christ which removed once and for all the barriers between us and our loving father…it’s breathtaking and we give thanks as we lift up our hearts to the Lord.

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We also lift up our hearts in service.

Jesus says in our reading anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name will have their reward.

There is deep within us a capacity to give –  a capacity to share and to reach out to others that is at the very heart of who we are and how we are meant to be.

A person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small parcel the old saying goes,

And it is true – we find ourselves and we become  more truly ourselves the more we can share with others and become generous in spirit

It’s not so much that giving to others makes us feel good, although that can be true. It’s that we are designed and made to share… that’s why we are here – that’s in our spiritual DNA and if we lose or deny that capacity then we become less of a person.

And in our Christian faith we see this  in our understanding of God… God is a sharing God – God shares of himself .. Father Son and Holy Spirit in that divine sharing love…A sharing God who reaches out to us in Jesus Christ and calls us into a sharing giving relationship with Him and with each other..

And also the extraordinary insight that whenever we reach out to anyone in need we are in fact reaching out to Christ and sharing in the divine generosity.

And when this happens our hearts are filled – our hearts are lifted up and we become more and more the people we are intended to be –  and who we are and can become is wonderfully enhanced

Lift up your hearts

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And then of course there is the tricky bit.

I wonder how many Mums  have wandered into their bedroom and found all their lippies and lotions and potions spread our  everywhere by some tiny unknown hand… or a secret visit to the fridge leaves a tell-tale trail of yogurt or strawberry jam on the freshly swept kitchen tiles. And mysteriously on the back of a pair of tiny trousers there are some tell-tale smears of the same as a wide eye innocent youngster proclaims loudly it wasn’t me! it wasn’t me!

Oh yes – our hearts can sometimes sink -– they can often ache.. they can sometimes break

We do mess up from time to time and there is no running away from that capacity we have, and when it happens, of course we want to hide  – put the clock back, and if it is all the same to you I’d rather not look into my heart at this moment because it’s not a pretty sight

For all its rather ruthless imagery our gospel reading this morning at least recognises this potential we have for hurting others  and the need sometimes for radical changes in behaviour which otherwise will shrink and diminish our capacity to be fully human

Which is why in our Christian faith and life we always have this realistic emphasis upon confession.. we lift our hearts to God and we say  I’ve done it again …I need your help to get this sorted and to live the life you want me to live with the mess-ups and disappointing failures.

And do you know what –  just as mum will sweep little Amy into her arms and wipe off the misplaced lippy that has been spread all over her face and neck and suggest that this doesn‘t happen again but still loves her to bits;

And just as a parent will remind little Adam that jam doesn’t really belong all over the floor, and will say look we both know you have messed up – lets clear it up and do it differently next time;

So too God knows us through and through  and in the Cross of Christ he says I still love you – lets try and clear up the mess and start again.

And so we lift up our hearts and we thank God for a fresh start and a healing sense of forgiveness.

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So we lift up our hearts –

in gratitude –

in service

and in penitence

But there is one further dimension to all of this.

Because if we are honest there are times when we don’t even feel able to do any of this – when the sheer emotional and spiritual effort of lifting up our hearts seems too much

Maybe faith has grown dim

Maybe life has kicked us in the teeth just once too often

Maybe it sometimes just hurts too much

And then – and this is where the sharing bit comes in yet again – then we need other people to lift up our hearts for us  – to sing for us when we cannot find the music within – to be alongside us and uphold us in love and prayer and say here let me help carry this load and lift up your heart to God for and with you

Which is why in our Christian faith and life we have such an emphasis upon intercession – praying for  and caring for each  other in our time of  need.. we all have our limitations which is  why being a solo Christian doesn’t work for long – It’s being part of that sharing, caring, generous-hearted community that makes the real difference where together can lift up our hearts and seek Gods blessings upon us.

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And so we these simple yet deeply profound words  which remind us of who we are and of who we can be.

But most of all they  remind us of what it means to take the love and compassion of God seriously

Of what it means to trust God when we get it wrong and to thank God when blessings flow

And so my dear friends my take home message is this

Lift up your hearts and may you respond  : we lift them unto the Lord  .