Sermon All Saints Launch Service, Sunday 20th December 2015.
Main text – Luke 1:39-55
Who likes surprises?
Any children here?
I remember when I was 21, I know that may be hard to imagine,
at university in England, and my friends said I needed to go visit the Roman Catholic chaplain’s parsonage, as a guy called Andy needed to have a chat with me… and when I walked in – lights wnent on and Surprise!!!! – loads of my friends there, celebrating my birthday… Never imagined it.
Can you think of other great surprises you had?
But think of Mary – young Mary – she has seen Angel Gabriel and she alone has heard the wonderful news – as printed on our sheet – The Angel Gabriel said:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
And her response to that surprise – “I am the Lord’s Servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:35-38). What a surprise and what an amazing response.
She then, a few days or maybe a week later, goes to see her relative Elizabeth expecting a child in her old age … no one knows.
Surprise again! Mary has just called out – a greeting – and then she gets this amazing response! Elizabeth has this amazing experience – the baby leaps in her womb and she tells Mary and blesses Mary – with knowledge only God could have given her. She rejoices in the visit – she is not jealous, she acts like her son, John, will years later when he said:
“He must increase, and I decrease, I am not worthy to untie his sandles”.
Elizabeth talks of the privilege of having the mother of her Lord there… Mother of her Lord – a title normally used only for the Creator God, yet Elizabeth says – the mother of my Lord – that Jesus is God among us, God with us…
A confirmation of all she had been told by the angel but what a surprise! Can I say, I hope that in this church, we will have plenty of surprises too – surprises at what God is doing in us, through us, around us, Surprises at how the Lord is already ahead of us and has provided or prepared. Surprises that often happen when the Lord is at work! Just like these accounts were most likely shared with Luke by Mary later, and they were so vivid she remembered lots of detail, it would be wonderful in 12 months time, when are a year old, many of us will have vivid memories of good surprises caused by the Lord’s hand.
But then have you ever waited for something – children – ever really really waited for someone to come home, or perhaps adult waited for a letter to arrive, or perhaps picking up someone from the airport? And then it happens – or the first part happens – the plane finally arrives on the runway, the letter with that postmark drops on the mat, the day has come … even before the person comes through customs you are excited, even before you open the letter, you are bouncing inside. Now, think of Mary and the Jewish people. It had been over 400 years since the last prophet spoke of the Lord’s coming, and a Messiah and Saviour to come… times had been difficult since then, with occupation and oppression by different powers. But Mary knows, the time has finally come, the promises are being fulfilled, and Mary bursts into song.
For some here, it has been a long time, waiting for this day, for this service, to have a church building, to be helpful start a new Anglican church. There are different feelings – responsibility, some sadness at no longer seeing friends as often, perhaps anxiety, what will it all mean. But joy may be there too – we are here, it has started, All Saints has began!
Mary’s Song – the words she uses – called the Magnificat – it is amazing how much singing happens in the first chapters of Luke around approaching Jesus birth and when he is born and soon afterwards…It’s a musicians set of chapters. And the Magnificat is in three parts – first part, celebrates what the Lord has done for Mary. The second part declares who God is – holy is his name and his faithful love extends from age to age on those who respect and revere him – and the third part – focuses on what the birth of Jesus means for the Jewis people and the wider world, following on from the promises to Abraham.
In this service it is important we remember how the Lord has brought us to this place. Thankful for him as a new church – that he has made it possible. The resources he has provided. The growth at Holy Trinity, the good leadership at Holy Trinity being obedient to God’s directing. And we are thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness to us individually over the years. But also, we have confidence like Mary, that he will continue to be faithful in our futures as families and as a new church. He has not led us thus far to abandon us. He longs us to be a healthy, vibrant, growing church – growing in numbers and growing in spiritual depth and discipleship – a church that is helping see transformation in Amersfoort by being part of the Lord’s kingdom purposes.
A missionary I am very much inspired by – Hudson Taylor, who worked in China, said:
God’s work, done in God’s Ways, will never lack God’s resources.
Not only do we say in Communion, ‘the Lord is here his Spirit with is’, but we know that the Lord will be with us. He goes with us on this journey.
But also, we consider the image of God Mary holds – she knows of his divine power, his holiness, his mercy, his faithfulness. These are all revealed by the incarnation. But this is a passion for me – let us as a church continue in our quest our hunger to get to know our God more and more, to know his character, his power, his holiness, his mercy and his faithfulness. Let us not grow tired or satisfied, let us always look for more – as Mary reminds us : he has filled the hungry with good things. So I think my passion, is that in 12 months, we look back and say – yes I’ve grown in my understanding of who God is and what it means to follow him and live for him. A prayer I’m very fond of, sums this up, says: may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly day by day…
All Saints – a wonderful name for a new church – as we begin, we have much to learn from Mary’s surprises, her praise, her confidence in God and her knowledge of who our God is.
Shall we pray:
We thank you, Lord God, for all the benefits you have given us In your Son Jesus Christ, our most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, and for all the pains and insults he has borne for us; and we pray that, we may see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day.