Thursday 28th July 2022 @ 3:23 pm
For those who have generously asked, and noted that my blogging has become less and less – perhaps I will be able to start blogging sermons! So, here, is the first sermon delivered to the churches of Larne circuit, where we as a family have landed, and are excited about the future!
So this is new!
My name is Julian Hamilton, there are those who call me Jools, just don’t do that in front of my mother! You can feel free to call me Julian, Jools, or most preferably simply what I have been trying to get my step–daughters to call me, Dr Hamilton!
Jools is fine.
You don’t know me.
I don’t know you.
I suspect this is a distinct advantage for us all ?
Heraclitus the Greek philosopher wrote it thousands of years ago, it stands true to reason:
“the only constant in life, is change.”
You have a new soul standing amongst you, a new family of souls, and together, we will be church.
We will get to know each other.
You will get to know this wee pastor standing in front of you – you will probably get to know the things which I adore and admire, and you’ll probably get to know the things which wind me up relentlessly – you’ll hear my passions and my peeves, and you’ll come to know how much I treasure this magnificent gift called Life – and, how it’s a complete derogation of this divine gift of life, to refuse to live it!
You will get to know this wee pastor’s brilliant brave and beautiful wife, you will get to know his equally brilliant brave and beautiful step–daughters – and you will get to know our wee blended family and we will get to know you and yours. And together, we will be church.
I spent my student summer in USA working in a camp of the United Methodist Church in Michigan. It is called Camp Kinawind – and in many ways it started the journey that has me standing in front of you here today. So, sharing this story, with you, at this time, is poignant and important for me.
The camp is situated on ancient native American hunting ground – the Objibwe people lived this land. In their language they had 3 words for ‘us.’
Ninway = ‘us’ over here, but not you over there
Ginway = ‘us’ here, but I am not a part of ‘us,’ I fell outside of the group
Kinway = all of ‘us’ together.
It was a profound impact learning that simple story of this camp came to be named. I was constantly aware while working there that there was an ‘us’ without whom the camp would not function. It was a team. Every week when new campers arrived to live in the woods, cook over open fires, swim in the lake and sleep out under the stars, there was an ‘us’ being built that would never again be an ‘us’ the way it was for those 6 days. I wish I had remembered and lived that truth for every group of campers I had – I know there were some ‘us’s’ (what a word) that I let down.
There was a constant beautiful challenge, to remember that in life, it’s better when it’s, ‘all of us together.’
I will, if we are living real life together, most likely at some time or other disappoint you – I’ll not mean to. Will you be Christian about it, and try to forgive me?
You will if we are living real life together, most likely at some time or other disappoint me – I promise to be Christian about it, and try to forgive you.
I will, if we are living real life together, most likely at some time or other say things which make you raise your eyebrows – and let me be clear, as a minister of the gospel of Christ, a gospel that is more deep and wide than the children’s song can express, a gospel more full, more inclusive, more accepting, more gracious, more loving, more generous, more forgiving, more hopeful, more ‘more’ than we can imagine … if I am truly heralding that gospel and opening the pages of our sacred text, and not provoking us at times, then I’ll not be doing my job as a preacher and teacher. Together we will face the challenges of the text, the challenges of inclusion and acceptance, the challenges of forgiveness and faith, the challenges of loving our neighbours whoever they are – and together, doing all that, we will be church.
And so this morning, one passage, containing one important thought for us all to journey forward with, as we continue to be church.
The first letter of John that we read from this morning, is actually written anonymously, there is no name written on it at the start saying, ‘this letter is from John.’ It is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, although 2nd and 3rd John are self–named as being written by a writer called John the Elder. Written near the end of the 1st Century, most likely some of the last letters to be written of the New Testament, and therefore leading to John the Apostle being a very old man at this stage, it is perhaps most likely that the letters were written by a ‘School of John’ – a ‘school’ in these ancient days were people who lived under the understanding, teaching and inspiration of a particular apostle, in this case John, and then living under that name, wrote in that name.
What that means, is that the words as we have them, are words that come from not just an individual, but from a WAY of life. A way of understanding how to live. A way of living that stems from the life of Christ and in some senses becomes a manifesto for life, a list of the important central things as they have been taught and passed on.
John’s first letter begins in the first couple of chapters, remember in the original Greek, there are no chapter headings, just a flow … and so it begins with the metaphor of God being LIGHT! And what does light bring? It brings Clarity, it banishes darkness … and
then the letter flows into what is central in our passage – indeed, what is central to the entire second half of this brief letter of John …
What clearly seeps through from chapters 3, 4, and 5 … God is LOVE, and we must love.
We love because God first loved us.
Sisters and Brothers, Love is central to who we are called to be as God’s people, as human beings.
That’s how we will be church together.
Love, in the midst. Of everything.
We will over the course of what our family hopes is a long time of ministry amongst you, talk a lot about love … more than that however, I hope that we get to understand that Love is a verb, it’s a DOING word – I hope that we all get to witness and be energized and inspired by the church taking constant loving actions in the name of Christ. Loving God, and loving each other.
If we, in the Christian church, are not about love, we’re not about anything.
We are first and foremost, in every way, every day, steeped in and shaped by the business of love.
That’s how we are church together. All of us Together.
Let me begin to land, by reading to you, from the Message Translation of the Bible, what is says Love is. These words may be incredibly familiar to many of you in the Authorised Version, but maybe just not so much, from The Message: why not close your eyes, and listen afresh:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3–7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
8–10 Love never dies.
Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. …
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Let there be Love.
So, sisters and brothers, now, this morning – is there any better way for us to step forward as people of love, in this life of constant change, than to feast together at the table of the lord.
The God who is love, showed the depths of what that love means most finally and fully in the cross.
Love as love from God, is love laid down.
Sacrificial, healing, forgiving,
open to all and to everyone,
there are no exceptions …
this table is not a Methodist table, it’s God’s table.
It’s a table of love laid down, that bids us gain strength, hope, healing and life in all it’s fulness.
It’s a table of love – and love bids us come.
It’s the best place for us to be church – All of us, together.
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