Pew Sermon for Sunday 15th May

Hello again. At the time of writing the weather has turned glorious, the gardeners will be complaining about no rain, and I have just come back from 4 days in France where the weather, the Paris traffic, and a good few other thing, proved just as inconstant. The journeys were tricky, especially with two grandchildren (4 months and three years), the change of accommodation constant, and our Frangalis hopelessly inadequate! But who cares? The wedding itself was glorious, as was the day after (lazy brunch by the pool in bright sunshine – left my sunhat in Chartres, and my swimming trunks in Ash Green – grr!) but who cares? It was the people that made the difference. My daughter and son in law have beautiful friends and extended family, everyone got on well despite the considerable language barrier, and I even managed to engage no one’s favourite (very Breton) French uncle in amusing, animated and protracted conversation. Couldn’t understand much – he speaks not a singe word of English, not even hello (most of them don’t!) but my word, you can go a long way with a nod, a smile, some hand actions, and a LOT of pretending! (I think it was something about ‘God Save the Queen’ being much more ponderous, and less stirring, that La Marseilles when sung at football matches. Which of course it most certainly is – if you are a dyed in the wool Breton, complete with white top and blue horizontal stripes!)

Mind you, I felt my age a bit. I can’t take the sun, and the only hat on offer, the morning after, was a very French fancy dress red beret. I went up to a group of young people and, to complete the farce, I said ‘Listen veeery care-fully, I vill say vis oanly oance…’ only to realise that they were probably not born when some of us were watching ‘Ello ello!’ I guess it’s all Tik Tok and Instagram now… and total meltdown for them when the wireless goers down… Different times, different seasons, I guess.

So, what can you say about travel? Wonderful to do it, also wonderful to get home? Yes, I think so. Of course, we love the sights and sounds and the different cultures and experiences – that does you good. But for me, it’s the people: so very different, so very much the same, for we are all made in God’s image, and we have so much shared humanity on the things that matter the most – love, kindness, a sense of humour – and, I hope, a willingness to reach out and make friends. And thus, be rewarded.

There were, of course, huge clashes of culture, custom, language and religion in the Bible, for it records humanity over a very considerable historical and formative time. Those differences play out in may ways: both good and bad. Jesus Himself was born into the very crucible of challenge and difference: Roman, Greek, Jewish, and indeed, many different languages were spoken and currencies used. He was born at a time of foreign occupation and secret and violent political resistance and counter-resistance; a time of high double taxation (Roman and Jewish) and considerable political conflict and uncertainty.

‘When I am lifted up…’, says Jesus, ‘I will draw all people to myself.’ His healing sacrifice was as deep as the seismic fractures in both society and in human nature. But Christians believe He still holds all things together in this way.

Sermon-mode advance warning – so I had better stop there. God bless you all, and may you have a good week!