Sermon at the CR Companions and Festival Day - 13 July, 2013

Once a month at the Eucharist we give thanksgiving for the Mother of the Lord and today is the day in July. Mary is perhaps one of the people in history most famous for saying ‘yes’. God asked her give herself for the sake of others and she said yes.  

Jesus often said that one of the best things you can ever do is to give yourself. It is more blessed to give than to receive; in giving ourselves we find ourselves. We find our true fulfillment through other people.

Now this giving isn’t just any old giving. We won’t find new life, probably, if we give ourselves to a wardrobe or a potted plant. The giving Jesus talks of is a giving to people, to persons – to our neighbour and to God. Every human being is made to belong  - with other people and with God.

Now, that new Brownie promise: you may have seen that the Brownie promise has been changed. "To love my God" has become “I promise that I will do my best to be true to myself and develop my beliefs”. It’s good not to force people to mouth things that they don’t believe but this new oath is a very sad thing - it is encouraging children to think of themselves as an isolated self. It reflects the fact that our society has lost a sense of what it is to belong. A better wording could have been: “I promise to do my best to help other people to be true to themselves and develop their beliefs.” Something like that would be a start in the right direction.

The notion of a single person with his or her private beliefs is not possible with Christianity. Christianity believes that we help each other to believe. We can’t believe on our tod. The Gospel is about being the People of God. Our faith is enabled by all the people who are with us, people on earth and in heaven.

This brings us to the witness of this church and Community here in Mirfield. This place witnesses to prayer. Because of the way people think in our society, people can believe that saying our prayers is some kind of private effort. “I’ll try as hard as I can and hope to get through to God”. However, it isn’t that. Prayer isn’t about what we do. It’s about giving ourselves – to God. God does the praying. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of that. In the first reading that we have just heard, we heard the Holy Spirit is in our hearts crying “Abba, Father”. Prayer is God praying in us. How? Two ways:

1.         God inside. God is nearer to us than we are ourselves. Let his voice sing in you.

2.         You can’t pray alone. You might be the only person in the room but a Christian is never alone. We pray with the Church and never without it. So the second way God prays in us is through the Church and its worship and its practices. It’s enough to say the prayers, sing the psalms, break the bread and share the cup. It all works in our deep layers. The prayer of the Church builds up in us over time, like an onion is pickled. We have to pray every day. It’s not enough just to go to church on Sundays. You can’t pickle an onion by putting it in vinegar for just one hour a week. When you or I pray, we are always praying with the Church on earth and in heaven. We are always supported and carried – and – we are helping to support and carry many other people. All the time God is doing it all in us. He enables it all to happen.

The new Brownie promise looks painfully thin when compared with that. “To be true to myself and develop my beliefs” is less than what we are meant to be as human beings, because it’s cutting out the other people who we need in order to have a self and to have beliefs.

The Christian promise is to give ourselves to the People of God and so to find our real selves. When people come out of the waters of baptism they emerges as prophets, priests and kings. Once no people, all in isolation, now they are God’s people. We reach our full potential as human beings by being with God, in God and God in us and all of us in each other.

One way of helping us sustain that sense of belonging is to belong to something like the Companions of the Resurrection. On the altar today we will be offering many people’s promises, as our Companions renew them and in a moment two people are going to give themselves to our Resurrection Family

It’s giving. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Giving is another way of saying “Yes” to the God in whom we all belong.

        George Guiver CR