SERMON TO CELEBRATE THE DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH
John 9: 13-22
Sermon to celebrate the Dedication of the Church.
Sunday 4th August 2019.
Readings - John 2: 13-22 – Jesus overturns tables in the Temple
Ephesians 2: 19-22
If you were asked the same question as I was the other day, I wonder how you would answer.
Someone asked me – a question I’m frequently asked – where are you from?
My first answer is always Preston.
Yet I’ve arrived here via Loughborough, Liverpool, Sussex, Turvey and Atherton.
And lived around Manchester for more time than I have lived anywhere else.
And this is where I belong now.
And it struck me how our lives are centred on identity and belonging
On who we are, where we belong, and who belongs with us.
But back to the question, ‘Where are you from?’
I wonder whether really life isn’t less about where we are from, and more about where we are going.
We’re all coming from different places, some even from Yorkshire
But ultimately we’re all going to the same place. Yes, because of Jesus.
Because of his birth, life, death and resurrection.
Its interesting where we have all come from – it brings diversity, challenge, colour.
Its important where we are from, but what’s vital is where we are going.
This church came from the desire of one family, one man, William Henry Houldsworth, to build a church that would speak to people about the majesty and immensity of God.
A Place of worship
A House of prayer
A Symbol of the presence of God in the midst of us
A Gathering place in which to learn, to be challenged, to rest, to come close to God.
Like so many of our churches it has nurtured the household of God, connected us to all those who have gone before us, and God has built us together spiritually.
It’s a huge privilege to look around it now and see
People of such goodwill in church
People of faith, doubters and searchers
All of us Members of the household of God
People who want to refashion the world until it resembles the kingdom of God.
I love that phrase of St Paul’s – the household of God.
And I believe the household if God is far bigger than the church.
Its made up of all of us who live by the gospel imperatives to feed the hungry, visit the sick, love the neighbor, welcome the stranger, and cloth the person who turns up at Foodbank with old clothing and no shoes.
The household of God is made up of people who go the extra mile, learn to forgive, stumble, mess up, say sorry, and know that they are blessed by God.
And members of the household of God need to be people wiling to overturn tables just as Jesus did, to challenge injustice, and speak out about what’s wrong.
So, where are we going?
Here, and in many of the places where you worship, We’re on our way to creating a church where everyone is welcome, encouraged and supported
Young and old:
straight and gay and bi:
black and pink and brown:
loud and quiet;
Conservative and liberal; f
aithful and doubting;
northerner and southerner –
Where we practice forgiveness and kindness.
It’s a huge privilege to be part of that.
To work with people who want to refashion the world,
pray for it,
share their skills and goods
and create a community of kindness.
The church beyond the Church, the family of God, the household of God, however you want to say it – a bunch of people being built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. We’re all created to be part of it.
So what’s so vital about where we are going?
The saints tell us:
St Richard - “may I see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly”
St Francis - “make me a channel of your peace, let me sow love, let me give;
For it is in giving that we receive, and in dying that we’re born to eternal life”
Where we’re going is following Jesus – who said
“I am the Way. You come to the Father through me”
Where we’re going is to eternal life – some of us before others, and ultimately all of us – because he came for that, he came to show us that we are all loved, all valued, all part of the household of God
and all with a responsibility to overturn tables in the face of wrong.
As that corny old bumper-sticker said - “Don’t follow me, follow Jesus”.