Yesterday the congregation celebrated both its feast of title and two significant aniversaries as detailed in the previous post. Below is yesterday's sermon in celebration of faithfulness:
Easter IV 2014 Year B
Good Shepherd Sunday
“And I lay my life down for the sheep…”
There is a lovely and moving film entitled; ‘No greater love’ which documents a year in the life of an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns living at Notting Hill in the centre of London. There have been nuns living on that spot for centuries and even during times of persecution the community has remained faithful to their calling and to their locale. What is the most remarkable thing in the film, however, is an interview with the Mother Prioress.
She comes across as a women full of energy and hope, wisdom and great humour but it is more than her personality that impressed me or made my jaw drop. It was simply a comment she made that literally ‘knocked me for six’. At one point she says:
“ I have not felt the presence of God for over 30 years but my faith and vocation have remained as true now as it was when I first entered the order as a novice.”
For over 30 years, this woman in an enclosed order, has spent most of her life in prayer and contemplation of God that she does not feel present. Many others would have given up, I think, a long time ago but not her. She has remained faithful to her Lord, her God and her vocation. Her faithfulness goes beyond measure.
In today’s readings we are reminded first of Peter’s faithfulness to Jesus, despite his cock crow wobble on Good Friday. In the other two readings we are shown how faithful Jesus was and is to his followers and by assumption to us as well. It is Jesus’ comment:
“And I lay down my life for the sheep…”
that I think, is so very powerful. For in those eight words we are told that Jesus is prepared to give his life as the ultimate act of faithfulness to his father and to us. Jesus further tells us that unlike the hired hand he will not leave his flock in times of danger or threat but that he will remain with them. Jesus is the ultimate example of faithfulness and as such he sets us a template to try and follow.
It is, however, not always an easy template to adhere to for remaining faithful to a cause or an individual or group of people in testing times is very difficult. all too often our first thought is to give up and up sticks, to move on to pastures new and hopefully less testing experiences and challenges.
Yet, Christ’s faithfulness should teach us something. Something about trusting in God and hoping that we will be able to see things through and once again see good times rather than bad.
Today, we are celebrating two significant anniversaries in the life of this congregation. Roughly 125 years ago the Roseburn Mission was started by the Cathedral in response to a request made from the people of this then developing locale for a church on their doorstep. 110 years ago this current building was opened replacing the original ‘iron’ church that had formally been St.Anne’s Dunbar. (You can see pictures of it on the display at the back). Above all things we are celebrating this morning the faithfulness of this congregation over the past 125 years.
This congregation was founded as an act of faith by the people and clergy of the Cathedral. Local members were encouraged to worship locally rather than to travel into Palmerston Place. they were also challenged to witness and reach out to the inhabitants of this rapidly growing and expanding suburb. They began small, originally, gathering for worship in the Roseburn Reading Room but within a year they were large enough to inhabit the iron church and on the site of that first church we have remained. the iron church was demolished in about 1900 and this lovely Lorimer gem formally opened in 1905.
this building has never been finished, it is missing its planned north aisle, side chapel and tower - thank the Lord. I like the fact that this building is incomplete because it speaks of the provisionality of this life as we await the return of Christ. It also says much about the faithfulness of the congregation who have worshipped here and witness to the people of God in this place for 125 years.
Our ancestors in the faith had a vision and hope that this congregation would grow and flourish and despite its ups and downs it has. Yes! it has had its times of lean as well as plenty. Even today we exist on a financial knife edge but perhaps this is part of our charism as a congregation. Finances have always been a challenge, that is why this building has never been completed but our collective hope and faithfulness over the decades has ensured that we remain here today as vibrant now as we were back in the late 19th century.
We are a growing congregation, not a declining one and we are growing not just in numbers but in spirit and I hope, hope! We have a faithfulness today that builds upon the faithfulness of those who have gone before us as members of the Good Shepherd. I hope that in 50 or 100 years time some other Rector will be stood in this pulpit saying something similar. You never know perhaps one or two of us might still be here to hear what he or she has to say. Faithfulness is, however, a challenge to us for we are called not to let our forebears down and to let the vision die. Neither can we let down those who will come after us by letting the vision die either. All of us at any one time (as it has been in the past and will be in the future) are called to ensure that the mission and ministry radiating from this place is funded and peopled as God is calling us to do. For a few pounds more, or a couple of hours time we are encouraged by God and the example of Christ to be faithful to the calling of this congregation.
The image of the Good Shepherd is a wonderful one and to have it as our dedication is unusual but exciting. Our congregation is not named for any saint or their example. We are named for our Lord himself and him alone in the example he sets us as the shepherd of his flock. Christ the Good Shepherd is a man true to his purpose and charges. A man who did not shuck his responsibilities at anytime. Christ the Good Shepherd should be our daily inspiration and we like our congregational forebears are called to be faithful to him as we work out our vocation and calling in mission and ministry amongst the people of God in this bit of God’s kingdom:
It is the faithfulness of Christ and the faithfulness of those who have worshipped here before us and each of us of the congregation today that have bought this congregation to the place where we are on Sunday 26th April 2015. It will be our faithfulness from today and those who will follow us in the future that will lead us into the unknown call of God. We all need to remain true to God’s call and to continually seek to discern where it is that we are meant to be going and what we are meant to be doing. And we do that by praying daily to God for the guidance of his Holy Spirit and by trying to remain true to the example of the Good Shepherd set by Christ.
Congratulations congregation of the Good Shepherd, all of you living and departed, thank you for being faithful and remaining faithful to your call and vision both then and now and as I hope and pray - always into the future.
Let us pray:
We thank you Lord for those who founded this congregation and those who have served and sustained it over the last 125 years. We ask that nothing good will be lost from their faithfulness and that you will encourage and inspire us to live up to their hopes and to discern your call for us today and into the future. Through Jesus Christ, our good Shepherd. Amen.
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