Sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Easter (4 May 2014) by the Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor
Years ago a British Children’s television programme regularly began with the words ‘Are you sitting comfortably…? Then I’ll begin.’
But the authors of some recent health reports might counter with: "No! Don’t sit back comfortably - get moving!”
Our sedentary lifestyles – including the 50 or more hours a week many of us spend sitting down - are a concern for those who see a link between sitting and obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A resultant trend has been the incorporation of standing desks – and even treadmill desks into some offices!
It seems too much comfort might be bad for our physical health.
I wonder if what’s true for our bodies might also be true for our souls?
This morning I’d like to suggest that God wants us comforted but not comfortable.
God of all comfort
Wind back two and a half millennia or so. A people had entered into a covenant with the Living God. From humble origins came a nation, a line of kings, a great capital city, a beautiful temple. But over time the people drift from God. Other superpowers arise. The tiny nation is torn apart – the city, the dynasty, the temple destroyed, the majority of her people scattered. Dislocation and desolation. And years of Divine silence – WHERE IS THEIR GOD?
Then, when all seemed, lost a voice breaks the silence of exile and hopelessness... ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…’
‘Comfort my people’ - not simply solace – but a creative Divine Word, bringing new possibilities into being.
Many in our world wait in the silence –wondering – can anything emerge from this devastation, thisdiagnosis, this decision?
And still the voice sings … ’Comfort, comfort my people’, say to them
‘Here is your God!’ See the Lord God comes with might.
…He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms.’
Isaiah’s message was for people whose world had been shattered – for them, and for us, cheap comfort is no comfort at all. But words of comfort wrought in the heart of God bring life:
By reminding us of our truest identity - God’s people. He is our God.
By reminding us that we are not abandoned – God comes with might.
By reminding us that there is a future – God will tend, carry and lead us home.
Such comfort is good news indeed!
But it’s not the only good news – for, as has been said,
God not only comforts the disturbed… but disturbs the comfortable.
The God who disturbs the comfortable
The God of all consolation is the same God who calls us out of our comfort zones. God doesn’t seem to care for us to get too comfortable on our sofas or lazy-boy-armchairs. In fact the opposite seems to be true: He asks us to forgive our enemies, to love those who hate us, to give and not to count the cost, to walk with him into the unknown, he tells us that if we want to save our lives we need to be ready to lay them down – is he mad?!
But am I prepared for the God who disturbs the equilibrium, who asks the difficult questions about our relationships, our decisions; who challenges us about our ways of living and the impact these have on our planet; who invites us out of complacency and mediocrity. Am I prepared to do business with the God who disturbs the comfortable? Are you?
Maybe I am – and I suspect many of you are too – because I believe that deep down the human heart echoes the Divine heart and we thirst of meaning, for something to give our lives for - so that at the end of our earthy life we will not only have been comforted ourselves but will have made a difference to others. We will have not simply existed, but lived. AND THIS TOO IS GOOD NEWS!
‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’ said Jesus.
He also said ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’
Comforted but not so comfortable that we lose sight of his call to follow him.
Let us pray
Father of all mercies and God of all comfort,
You console us in all our affliction.
Give us grace to console those who are in trouble
with the consolation with which are ourselves consoled.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.