Sermon preached at Evensong on the Fourth Sunday of Easter (12 May 2019) by the Revd Helen O'Sullivan, Chaplain
On Vocations Sunday, the Chaplain asks us to reflect on where and how God is calling us to be a revelation of divine love.
Risking the blank looks of the choristers, and perhaps a number of the congregation, this evening I’ll begin with a verse - not from our psalm, or canticles or readings, but from the lyricist Ian Dury.
The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain't spotty,
Sitting on the potty - curing smallpox
Reasons to be cheerful - part 3
Reasons to be cheerful, nearly topped the UK charts back 1979 and whilst I could have chosen any number of verses from the scriptures we have heard this afternoon for example;
he taketh the simple out of the dust,
in his love and his pity he redeemed them
He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden
repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed
I chose a song instead because I find that I sometimes have to work quite hard to enable the truth of the scriptures to touch my life here and now, so distant seems the world in which the scriptures took form.
And because I often find divine revelation just as readily in the profane as the sacred, which is just as well because most of us don’t spend all our days either in churches, or with our noses buried in the scriptures.
Ian Dury’s songwriting, our scriptures today, and the admission of our new choristers; in all this we celebrate our astonishment at the gift of our animate selves and the majesty of the created order around us.
Through the gifts of grace and love, the psalmist, the prophet, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the disciples, our choristers and even a post punk singer-songwriter can each give voice to the absolute wonder and beauty and power of this very ordinary everyday life that each of us has been gifted with. Each in their own way, and in their own sphere of influence, drawing people into a clearer and deeper comprehension of the wonder of our lives and of God’s loving purposes.
Today is Vocations Sunday and so it seems an opportune moment to stop and wonder about whether we appreciate our life as gift not only for ourselves but for others. And do we proclaim it?
We might think it was easy for the Blessed Virgin Mary to feel blessed, the clue after all is in the name, or for the authors of the psalms, or great prophets whose words are recognised down the generations, or for a successful song writer, but prophets were persecuted, Mary was vulnerable, Dury was disabled by the effects of childhood polio.
Two choristers take their place today as full members of the cathedral quire which daily gives voice to the wonder and the mystery of God’s love. This is the expression, for now, of their vocation, their calling. They won’t be choristers forever. There will come a time when they leave the choir and each of them will have to re-evaluate their gifts and learn to value and to deploy new talents.
But the vocation remains the same, it is only the expression of it that changes - and it is one that we all share.
For each and everyone of us the meaning and purpose of our lives, our vocation, is to be a revelation of God’s love in whatever corner of the world we find ourselves.
This common vocation is realised in many and various ways; it may be through our work, or through our relationships, through choice or through duty, but it essentially finds expression through you being you and me being me and all of us delighting in each other's otherness.
It is something that inevitably has the potential to bring us both joy and discomfort because we are only human and limited in our capacity to be unconditional about almost anything, least of all about loving in a way that emulates the self giving love of God.
And frustratingly it can be just when we feel ourselves to be most comfortable, that we find that we have to refocus perhaps even relocate, to enable this vocation to flourish, and it can equally annoyingly be just when we feel ready to head off in a new direction that God’s call is to stay put.
Jesus himself stood among them and said ‘peace be with you’. Peace abounds when in our lives we are able to give expression to our calling, our vocation.
On this Vocations Sunday, where and how is God calling you to be a revelation of divine love? Do you, can you accept this as you vocation? Perhaps a clue to the answer to that question might be to wonder where in our lives the peace which God wills for us is lacking?
This is not a question about happiness. I think Christ himself shows us that being where God calls us to be can be both difficult and uncomfortable but yet we can know the peace of Gods presence in that situation as challenging as it may be.
Our choristers will no doubt have some challenges ahead of them as they step into their new roles but today we share their joy, and I hope on this Vocations Sunday it is with the same joy that you deepen your appreciation of your calling to be a revelation of God’s love. Let us pray:
ALMIGHTY God, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.
And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not
only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.