Sermon preached by Archdeacon Trevor Harrison at the Midnight Mass of the Nativity 25 December 2019 It’s a marvellous, wonderful,... read more
I am a fan of Winnie the Pooh? Are you? Like many so called children’s books, the ‘House at Pooh Corner’ is really a book for adults. Today on Trinity Sunday which for me is the climax of the Church’s festivals, I'd like to read the poignant ending from the ‘The House at Pooh Corner’.
Christopher Robin is beginning to, as we say, ‘grow up'. And soon he will be going to school. It is a time of transition and change. He takes his cuddly toy bear Pooh off for a walk to an enchanted place at the top of the forest:
‘What do you like doing best in the world Pooh?’
‘Well’, said Pooh,’ what I like best-‘and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have; and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, ‘What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘what about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘well I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet?’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.’
‘I like that too,’ said CR, ‘but what I like doing best is Nothing.’
‘How do you do Nothing?’ asked Pooh
‘well it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘what are you doing CR?’ and you say ‘Oh nothing.’ And then you go and do it.’
‘Oh, I see', said Pooh
'this is a nothing sort of thing we’re doing now.’
‘Oh I see’, said Pooh
Then suddenly CR called out ‘Pooh’
‘Yes?’ said Pooh.
‘When I’m – when- Pooh!’
‘I’m not going to do nothing anymore.’
‘Well not so much. They don’t let you.’
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again,
‘Yes, CR?’ said Pooh helpfully.
‘Pooh, when I’m-you know-when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?’
‘Will you be here too?’
‘Yes Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be Pooh.’
‘That’s good’, said Pooh
‘Pooh promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.’
Pooh thought for a little.
‘How old will I be then?’
‘I promise,’ Then with his eyes on the world, CR put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.
‘Pooh,’ he said earnestly, ‘if I – if I’m not quite’ –he stopped and tried again –‘Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand won’t you?’
‘Oh nothing.’ He laughed and jumped to his feet. ‘Come on!’
‘Where?’ said Pooh.
‘Anywhere’ said CR
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of a forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing [From the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne from page 309, 314, 315].
To all of us who still have our bears, I’m sure you will know something of the importance of the relationship we had with them when we were children. My son, who will be 40 this year, has a little dog called Sam which has been a special friend of his since he lay in his cot. I can assure you that Sam is still in good health and being well looked after.
I have a real sense of joy when I think of these two stories of loving relationships. And joy is a really deep emotion, stronger than happiness I think
What has all this to do with Trinity Sunday and the beginning of a stewardship programme? Well for me because this great feast of the church reveals the meaning of our existence. And that is that we humans, made as we believe in the image of God, made in love, exist only in terms of relationships. Love cannot love unless it is expressed and experienced within relationships. God wants us to experience joy in the depths of our being, the joy of receiving and giving love. And it is the quality and value of our relationships that is part of our expression, experience and yearning for life.
The Genesis story at the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures catches this truth as God creates out of the darkness and the void – relationship, light, being. Out of the void God creates that which forms relationship with God. 'In the beginning was the word'. Yes? In the book of Proverbs there is a lovely passage where this Word, the wisdom of God, is personified [in the female gender I might add] and we hear this lovely verse
‘Here I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually, playing on the earth, when he had finished it, while my delight was in humanity’. Not mere happiness. What joy
Yes here is holy wisdom, Sophia, the spirit of god, the ruach, the breath of god – dancing amongst, between and alongside God and God’s creation. Here already is Trinity – God in relationship with God’s creation and the delight and love, and breath of life which ignites and offers more than one and one. The creator, the creature, and the energizer which brings the promise of more –that is - 1 and 1 make 3! What joy is this.
When you think with your heart about how much God means to you, and all the many blessings and comforts he gives to us through good times and not so good, I don't know about you, but my heart is filled with tears of thanksgiving and joy. 'Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless God's holy name! Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all his benefits' [Ps 103]. And this is joy, rather than happiness. For joy is deeper well of emotion. In fact joy is a serious business! What else can I do but give thanks and dedicate my life and all that I am to the God who gives me and you so much!
Today we begin a three week programme which is asking us to consider our commitment in time talents and money to the operating costs of our cathedral ministry and mission.
We are at a pivotal moment in the history of St Mary's. The future of our cathedral and our cathedral community is in our hands! We are seeking to flesh out the God given vision we have been praying about and shaping over these last years and months for our cathedral and all that its means to this parish, this city and province, and indeed this nation. It is a vision which honours our past and is building our future as we continue to be the spiritual heart of Taranaki, a flagship of the Spirit of God, and we pray a growing contributor to peace, reconciliation, justice and love – 'being Christ in our community.'
We have the opportunity to do all we can to move out of deficit in our operational budget as well as working with so many amazing members of the wider community who cherish this building and what it stands for as we raise the money we need to complete the Cathedral Project. No small task, no small challenge which I pray we are embracing with joyful recognition of God's blessings which he showers upon us.
CR and Pooh; James and his dog Sam. These are stories of relationships filled with a deep joy, rather than merely happiness. We talk of the joy of receiving God's blessings. What a different feel that has to it than saying we are receiving the happiness of receiving God's blessings!
Happiness for most of us comes and goes. As I said, joy is a serious business! Joy is an emotion which comes for the very depth our who we are, our hearts and minds and every fibre of our beings. It is, how can I describe it, something that is so deeply personal to each one of us, so close to experiencing the closeness of God, of the mutuality of my relationship with him and those I most deeply love. It is a knowing, a trusting, an inner peace and deep contentment, embraced in such a love by God, that I need never be afraid.
I give this blessing often - 'May the love of the Lord Jesus draw you to himself; may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen you in his service and may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your hearts'. Not quite the same if I said 'may the happiness of the Lord Jesus fill your hearts'.
What else can I do as I reflect on the extraordinary grace of God who is with me in the best and the worst of times, but be filled with that deep sense of joy in a love that will not let me go; what else can I do but give my self in body, mind and spirit, all that have and am in his service.
Over the next few weeks one of the members of our parish community will share how they are experiencing the joy of generosity. Today Kathi Egli…