A Sermon for the Reader Licensing Service October 2019
Let us pray
In the written word and spoken word may we meet the risen word, our lord and saviour Jesus Christ – Amen.
The challenge of preaching at this particular occasion is not much different to the challenge all us preachers face every time we stand before God’s people……… it’s just got a couple of extras!
- to give a sermon one needs to hear one’s self,
- a sermon that welcomes and encourages those about to join our merry band of blue-scarved warriors for Christ,
- a sermon that should speak to all those in ministry both ordained and lay
- and finally a sermon that will say something to everyone else because after all every single person in this building right now whether they are wearing frocks, playing the organ, shuffling their bottoms on impossibly uncomfortable chairs or tasked with making everything work smoothly for the rest of us (pause) each is equally important, equally loved and equally valued by God (Pause) and that does not matter whether you are here as a born again atheist basking in the architecture – or a bishop.
Now THEY (the about to be licensed readers) are probably expecting a story- but I don’t have one today; they are the story and for the purposes of this sermon they represent all of us in ministry who are here today…
I stand here in my role as chaplain having worked with – and prayed with – and prayed for this group over the last several years as I did with the several groups before that. Each year that Jane, (indicate) as director of training, and I have been here – we have been immensely proud that the future of reader ministry has an injection of such talent, dedication, scholarship, compassion and, above all, love.
So as one does (pause) I was pondering on what it is that makes the perfect Reader.
What would you put in the recipe? (Pause) articulate, well read and prepared to make promises to the Bishop (indicate J) but what else?
You see this group here (pause); representing all of us remember– each with our own God given gifts, personalities and vocations …… between them I wonder if they make the recipe for the perfect reader.
Let me introduce them…
- Martin the constantly inquisitive and searching, orthodox- rigorous academic music professor.
- Henry the surgeon whose wit and ability to get to the heart of the matter are as sharp as the scalpel he used to wield.
- Robin whose practical approach and generosity of time are reflected his sermons which are seemingly hewn from the bench ends which he carves into useful artefacts.
- Liz from Warleggan who strides the ecumenical divide and understands the real needs of the folk she serves,
- Debbie the teacher, who is so thoughtful, and more creative than almost anyone in preparing worship
- James the traditionalist who is as happy leading BCP evensong as he is tying a tarpaulin to a church roof in a gale or conjuring life from a recalcitrant computer.
- Kim who’s cheerfully up for any challenge from leading a drumhead service to a time of quiet reflection and can balance needs all from military personnel to children in a family service.
- And Lesley – who once trained nurses, has a heart as big as an Olympic swimming pool and takes God’s love to others wherever she goes.
So although I’m looking at them – I’m speaking to us all when Isaiah reminds us
“you are my witnesses ….. and my servant and I have chosen you”
which probably sums up the reason why many of us are here today; we are called to be God’s witnesses and to stand up and tell the story.
“because you are precious in my sight and honoured and (pause) I love you”
As ministers we have to believe this of all people including, very importantly, (pause) ourselves.
The eight folk you have standing before you today have sacrificed much to be here and as I said, they represent all the readers and ministers in this place today. Between them they’ve probably sampled most of the Medical Equipment that the NHS has to offer from radiology to cardiology. Like all of you have written essays, read carefully, prayed dutifully and battled through personal burdens in order to be good witnesses and live up to being personally chosen by God.
But through these battles and adversity we are reminded..
“do not fear for I have redeemed you I have called you by your name and you are mine – when you pass through with the waters I will be with you”
We have been chosen and whatever our physical or mental state, God can use us to further his plan if we only trust in his love and reflect that to others.
Jesus tells Peter to fish from the other side of his boat and Peter obeys even though he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything.
Now if that had been me, having been up all night, vastly experienced in my trade and a carpenter gives me advice I might just have grumbled something about somewhere even more suitable for the net or suggested that he might like to try it himself but that’s because I am a grumpy old bloke and I have been like that since I was 12.
Peter, however, is made of different stuff and amazingly he just does what Jesus says and of course hauls in a miraculous catch. Then, to cap it all, he accepts Jesus’ invitation to leave the trade and go into ministry.
Our new Readers have obeyed the command to fish from the other side and to fish for people from whatever boat they happen to be in whether it’s a cruise liner or a rowing boat with a few holes.
But what you think you might have been called for will not necessarily remain the same- God changes our jobs, our vocations to suit where we are on our journey, our capacity, our health our situation and the needs of others where we are , but one need remains constant and that is love.
- Folks who have open ears to hear the cry of those in need,
- open hands to receive the gifts that God wants to give us
- open intelligent minds that can use those gifts in service,
- and huge hearts that can act like a reservoir for the love of Jesus that all who meet them might share in that glorious gift. Ministers who are always ready to call, ‘Here I am Lord..!”
I pray that all of you who preach and teach and minister might see that love reflected back to you from those you have been chosen to serve and to witness to.
And if you don’t think you are a minister, perhaps because you do not have all that theological study under your belt or because you don’t wear the right fancy dress – look over your shoulder- God has chosen you for something too!