Pew Sermon for Sunday 13th November

At the time of writing, Sunday 6th, two things happened early this morning. First, I overslept, so had to grab a sandwich in a rush, bundle into the car, and head towards Hascombe for the 8 am service, navigating the huge road-under-water puddles in Markwick Lane. 

As I did so, I was not at all concerned that this was a difficult start to the morning. Not because I am a well-balanced, calm, philosophical person (I really am not, sorry!) But because, demonstrably, everything is relative, and actually, I really was having quite a good morning, compared to some:

Because at midnight our time, the mighty South African cricket team were unexpectedly knocked out of the latest tournament by the Netherlands. The Netherlands? Yes indeed, the minnows of the first-class cricket world, this being acknowledged by everyone. Except, of course, Dutch themselves, who chose this moment to play out of their skin, and knock out one of the favourites from the tournament.

The volatile, talented but highly variable Pakistan then played Bangladesh at 4 am our time, and chose that moment to play well, and knock out their worthy rivals. And so, the Pakistan cricket team, and their huge fan club, again all the odds (they lost two games out of five) and all the running, emerged into the Adelaide evening, blinking and dazed with unbelief, that they are now in the semi-finals, having played relatively badly in most of their matches!

And so South Africa, like the hosts, Australia, find themselves going home, paper bags on heads, not even getting through to the semi-finals – having played well until then.

Cricketers and their followers are superstitious. When things go wrong, we blame it on the pitch, the umpires, the Duckworth Lewis system (the mathematical brain-twister which chooses a winner when there is a tie). Or the tournament rules, or the lack of proper preparation, or the travel or the location or the long list of injuries.

Like a schoolchild complaining ‘it’s not MY fault!’, there are always plenty of places to hide when – well, – precisely when it IS our fault!

In other words, it’s so easy to forget the basic truth: play consistently well, and win in the end. Play consistently badly – and it’s pack your bags time. As is so often the case, the unacceptable truth is precisely those two things – unacceptable and true.

So compared to both the dumb-struck 4 am winners and the midnight losers of the sporting world, I still feel I had a great morning, ducking and diving the showers and the floods, travelling to all three churches (for various reasons) and enjoying the fellowship and hospitality of all three.

Are triumph and disaster both imposters? (Yes they are! By the way!)

Which leads us to the philosophical question – is our happiness in our own hands? Is peace of mind, or success, or at least lack of failure, a matter of perception – or a product of our condition and circumstances? Does it help or hinder when the doctor’s receptionist (he or she who can diagnose things over the ‘phone) says ‘there’s a lot of it about’? Or when your most unfavourite work colleague says ‘cheer up, it may never happen’?

Well, I think there’s a difference between what is being said, and who is saying it. If it’s someone of insensitivity, saying ‘it’s all relative, cheer up’, then that can be pretty annoying. And we may retort indignantly ‘He laughs at wounds that never felt a scratch’.

But if it’s someone who has indeed felt a scratch, and a wound, and does indeed understand what we have to go through – and still says – don’t worry about tomorrow – I am with you today, and I am on your side. What then? Because wow, that is exactly how Jesus Christ speaks with us today.

Have a good week, everyone, perceived – or real!     Rutton