‘Our journey’ was a sermon delivered by the Reverend Gill Barnett on 30th September 2018. This was her swansong last service with us before she moves to her new home in Rochdale.
Setting the scene
How many of you have been on holiday this year? What preparations did you make? I’ve been on 2 quite different holidays: one a walking holiday in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. The other a family holiday, 7 of us between the ages of 60 and 4 – all in one car and taking over a small B&B in Torquay. The expectations of both holidays were very different. On one holiday the phrases, “Are we nearly there yet”, “I need a wee” and “I feel sick” were heard frequently. On the other holiday, not at all. I’ll let you guess which was which.
But on preparing for these holidays, bags were packed. And around the church are some items that were packed for each of the holidays. Volunteers to bring them up and put them in the right bag.
So now we’re ready. We’re actually setting off. We know where we’re going but not quite sure how long it will take and whether we’ll have to make any diversions along the way.
Let’s have our readings and come back and think some more about this.
James 5:13-20 and Mark 9:38-50
Bags are packed and we’re off. It’s an illustration I often use at a Baptism service. Once your bags are packed and loaded into the car you don’t then just sit on the drive for a week and come back raving about what a lovely time you’ve had of it. That would be pointless. You’ve made preparations: you make the journey. And that’s what we’re here celebrating today – our journey. Whether we’ve only just begun it or we’re years into it, we’re on the same journey heading for the same destination which is heaven, where our place is assured by the sacrifice of Jesus.
However, getting there isn’t always straight forward. But that’s OK because we don’t travel in isolation. It’s not so common nowadays to send postcards. Which of you here has ever sent a postcard from their holiday destination? ‘Weather’s fine, food’s good, hotel’s lovely – wish you were here’. That’s a bit like how the Bible is for us on this journey – a series of postcards written to give us help, encouragement and instruction. We don’t travel in isolation.
Help and support
I have a cousin who is mad keen on trains. If he ever gets to hear that any of us is making a trip, he’s on Trainline.com (other websites are available) and sends you the most detailed instructions of how to get to your destination. Similarly, for those who are new to the faith, for those coming and bringing babies to be baptised who can’t yet articulate their faith, the church family is here alongside offering help and support.
Perhaps not quite as geeky as my cousin. But we’re on the same journey and we all bring different experiences to it.
We are all here because we’ve made a start on the journey or supported someone, maybe a child, on the way. We now don’t just sit still in a spiritual traffic jam. We’re going to put our packed bags to use whether that’s sun cream or picnic mats or promises to turn from sin, to reject evil, to turn to Christ and to trust him as Lord – this is our spiritual baggage for our spiritual journey. We have to unpack it, use it and even risk getting it dirty.
Things go wrong
Jesus’ illustration about being true to the journey in our gospel reading is a bit stark. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken literally but he is warning us, like a postcard from the past, that the journey we’ve all embarked on isn’t always going to be smooth. You will find yourself asking the equivalent of that dreaded question, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
It’s true things go wrong on our journey of faith. But that’s where the Christian family is a resource you can call on to help decode the twists and turns on the map. When you’re stumbling along and you feel like giving up, remember you are not alone. You have been baptised into a family whose job it is to love and support you; to pray for you; to sing with you in times of celebration and to help you read the map of your journey of faith.
Home, safe, forever
So I pray that you will make your journey in good company. That your journey will see you ‘confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead’. Then you will know you are home, safe, forever.
[To see the intercessions for this service please follow this link. To catch-up on more of Gill’s sermons please go to our sermon library. Gill takes up a new post from 21st October 2018 as Priest-in-Charge of Healey & Hamer and St. Ann, Belfield.]