I think its fair to say that all human beings enjoy a good story: it’s why we read, go to the cinema or theatre, watch soap operas, and even sport. All good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Indeed, many of us can perhaps remember being told to make sure that the stories and essays that we wrote as children (maybe even as adults) were structured like this. A good story doesn’t just depend on its structure for good stories are brought to life by their characters. In many, most, good stories the entirety of the plot depends on one central character.
Today’s readings are taken from the beginning (Genesis), the middle (Luke) and the end (Revelation) of the bible. Like most good stories the plot starts of well and comes to a good conclusion. The trouble and the place where the plot is developed, and thickened out, is in the middle. The reading from Genesis ends with the most wonderful words: ‘And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.’ The reading from Revelation provides us with a picture of heaven, that place where we will to borrow, Charles Wesley’s words find ourselves ‘lost in wonder love and praise,’ singing songs of ‘everlasting praise.’ In the meantime we find ourselves in that post-Eden and pre-Revelation place where shame, sorrow, fear and downright exhaustion really do exist and bear down on our souls. I would like to strongly suggest that Luke 8, 22-25 isn’t simply an historic account of an event long ago, but a current reality, a place where many still exist.
Fear, anxiety, shame and the experience of trying to navigate our way through the storms and tribulations of life are in many ways characteristic of the human condition. In fact I would go so far say that anyone who tells you that they have lived, and continue to live, a life free from any sense of shame, anxiety, fear and foreboding and outright fatigue may well be something of a fantasist. However, if we capitulate to such feelings and emotions, if we allow them to dominate our lives, we are also in a very dangerous place, not just on our own account, but as the Fifth Gospel, as people who are supposed to signpost for others a way through the trials and tribulations of life to that final place of Revelation.
What we need to make sure we do each and every day is to enthrone Jesus as the central character in the plot of life. We need to make sure that he is always in the metaphorical boat with us and that we allow ourselves to be navigated by Him. We need to become his sailors, His devoted lieutenants and the way we do this is through developing our inner stocks of hope and faith. Jesus asked his disciples: ‘where is your faith?’ He is asking the same question of us today. He asks it not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the world, for ‘where is your faith,’ is not an unreasonable question to ask of all who claim to be Christian. Lent, which we are about to enter in a couple of weeks, provides a wonderful opportunity to develop and relocate our faith. The way we do this, the way we learn to pass our version of the Yacht Master exam, is through our commitment to prayer, reading Scripture and the receipt of the sacrament. As I have said before, and will keep saying, these three really are our Christian essentials.
So please do take your pew sheets home and reflect on the bible passages for yourselves and do say your prayers. We have also included a quote on the pew sheet for you to reflect on: I will try to keep this going as a Lenten discipline! Please also give serious consideration to coming along to the Lent course. As individuals in community let us commit to making sure that Jesus is the central character in our story, and that our faith is entirely located in Him; the one who takes us from Eden, through the choppy waters of life, to that place of ultimate and glorious revelation where we find ourselves ‘perfectly restored’ before Him ‘lost in wonder, love and praise.’