Sunday 1st March – Eucharist – Rosie Addis

Vocation and Voice – 10.30am, 1st March 2020

So, here we are again – the first Sunday in Lent. What does Lent mean for you? This period leading up to Holy Week and Easter. Is it a time of oughts and should? Or is this the very first year you’ve been introduced to this season? What does it mean for this Church, that’s seen two hundred Lentern seasons?

Throughout Lent there will be an opportunity after the service to meet in the small chapel to my left and discuss the sermon….. So no pressure then ….!

I’ve tried to include some ‘hooks’ into this talk that you can catch onto and ponder.

Usually I don’t have a title for my sermons. But this week it has one – ‘vocation and voice’. And that’s something for us as individuals, but also for us as a Church, as community. What is our vocation, and what is our voice?

We all have a vocation. As human beings made in the image of God we have purpose. All of us. Our vocation is to be truly human, and for those of us who have been baptised have been commissioned to live out that vocation: welcomed into this Jesus community and asked to serve others, serve the world, and to enjoy getting to know God more and more. As human beings we are not passive – what we do and say matters, and affects those around us.

And of course in getting to know God we look to Jesus, fully God and fully human. You could say Jesus was demonstrating the ultimate vocation. Servant hood might be a more religious word for it.

And here in Matthew’s Gospel, written for a Jewish audience, there is no doubt about Jesus’ vocation.

Jesus is in the wilderness – like their ancestors the Israelites.

He’s there forty days and nights – oh, like the Israelites’ forty years wandering in the desert.

And he’s just been baptised – reminding the reader of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea to escape from slavery.

“Don’t you get it?” says Matthew, “This bloke embodies the vocation of Israel. Pointing to God, embodying God. he’s got something – well everything – to say. And there’s this time of preparation, of testing.

And the big question – is he going to get distracted from his vocation?

Because there is tension and suspense in this reading. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Jesus wouldn’t give in to temptation. Was this fully God and fully man embodiment of Israel get distracted? Wouldn’t it have been so much easier to use his divine power to escape the temptation? Why did he need to go through hardship, pain, hunger, and ultimately of course crucifixion?

But then, if he had stepped off the path, would his voice have been authentic?

And doesn’t Jesus, in speaking out, reclaim Scripture?

What language do we need to reclaim so that we have an authentic voice?

Because of course, lurking in the background is the memory of a very ancient story. Of a whispering, a twisting of language. And if you listen carefully you can still hear those soft, seductive sibilants in our everyday life, our politics, our society…. Our Church.

“Surely”, said the serpent, “These people should be called ‘economically inactive’.”

“Mmmmm. So would you call that ‘Christian marriage’?”

“Well …. A Poundsaver on Princes Street. Its all going to hell in a handcart now isn’t it? You’ll be telling me next that the Associate Rector of St John’s went to a comprehensive school….”

And of course sometimes we need to face the Lentern fact that we have become the one doing the whispering. Is that really our vocation? Haven’t we then been tempted away from what our baptism called us into?

How can our words help each other to live into our vocation? Both as individuals and as a Church?

Language is like sex – it’s a gift from God. and used in the right way, at the right time, and in the right place, it is beautiful, speaking to the soul. Building up, creating and sustaining intimacy, healing the other, showing love.

I’m aware that I’m not the world’s greatest wordsmith. So instead of trying to win you over with fluent metaphor, I will finish by reciting this poem by Nicola Slee. Its called, “With others: a statement of interdependence”, and it shows something of what St John’s vocation and voice is, and should be, and will be.

Nicola Slee – ‘With Others: A Statement of Interdependence’

I do not stand alone, but with others to support me, I will stand my ground.

I do not see the way, but with others to walk it with me, I can make a path.

I do not possess the truth, but with others to witness to what they know, I will be able to discern what is right.

I cannot master all skills, but with others who will lend their accomplishments, I can do enough.

I cannot carry every burden, but with others to share it, I may bear my own load.

I cannot meet all needs, but with others to nourish and replenish me, I will be able to give enough.

I do not have limitless free choice, but with others to consult, I will make my own choices gladly.

I will not always be consistent, but with others to laugh with me, I will regain my equanimity.

I am not invincible, but with others to reach out a hand, I may learn from my mistakes and start again.

I cannot be perfect, but with others to make up the shortfall of my imperfections, I can be content to be good enough.

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