Sunday, 3 March 2013
Third Sunday of Lent, 3 March 2013
"Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money , come, buy and eat!"
Once upon a time there was an ocean. It was so deep that its depths had never been sounded. It was so wide that its expanse had never been charted. It was so massive that its scale had never been comprehended. It had no beginning, and it had no ending. At its farthest reaches its waves never stopped pushing it farther still, and they lapped against the shores of eternity.
This is the story of three of those waves.
The first looked back at the ocean behind it and did not like what it saw. 'What is that thing?' it wondered, 'so deep, so broad, so vast. Why is it pursuing me? It seems so wide and so fierce! It's going to swallow me up! It must be an enemy. I must flee as quickly as I can! Help! Help!' And with that the first wave rushed for the shores of eternity. It broke upon them and returned to the ocean from which it had come. And as it did so all it could see were the cold clutches of a fearsome and deadly foe.
The second wave did not look back at the ocean behind it. Not once. It reared up, scattering spray to the left and to the right, proud, joyful and exuberant. 'Look at me' it shouted 'look at me. I'm so tall; I'm so mighty; I'm so amazingly gorgeous. I'm free! I'm free!' And with that the second wave broke upon the shores of eternity and returned to the ocean from which it had come. And as it did so all it could see was something it had never seen before; something it had never known; something it could not understand.
The third wave looked back at the ocean behind it. Then it looked forwards to the shore in front of it. And then it smiled. 'Ah' it thought 'my old friend the ocean. Made of the same stuff as me, my dear companion and my devoted soulmate. Soon I shall reach the shore and rest, and the ocean will come and sit beside me, moulding itself to my shape and complementing my utter uniqueness. Welcome, old friend '. And with that the third wave broke upon the shores of eternity and returned to the ocean from which it had come. And as it did so it wept salty tears, for it had never expected to break; it had never expected to be broken.
You are a wave in the ocean of God, lapping at the shores of eternity. You have come from God and you will return to God. As a wave is made in the image and likeness of an ocean so are you made in the image and likeness of your God. Do you know this? Do you? Do you believe it? Have you taught it to your children? Or do you fear it? Have you begun to realize it? Or do you misunderstand it?
The first wave feared it. It looked back at the ocean and fled. It saw only an enemy. But "No, I tell you" says Jesus, not once but twice, " No, I tell you". God does not pursue vendettas against you. Galileans have been murdered in the Temple by Pontius Pilate, the brutal functionary of the occupying power; eighteen innocents have been killed by a falling tower in Siloam. But God uses neither earthly tyrants nor tragic accidents nor anything else to exact bloody revenge on his people. "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, they kill us for their sport" cries Gloucester. But not your God. God is not your foe.
The second wave hadn't begun to realize it. It never looked back. It was so entranced by itself that it never recognized the ocean from which it came and with which it was one. But "A man had a fig tree planted in his garden" says Jesus. For a wave to be free of the ocean is impossible; for a fig tree to be free of the soil from which it springs is impossible; for you to be free of God is impossible. You may pretend that it's not; you may delude yourself that it's not; you may spend a lifetime rehearsing and believing a story in which it's not. But God is not an optional extra for you or for anyone, for in God you live, and move, and have your being.
The third wave misunderstood it. For it looked back and saw a biddable friend. The third wave never expected to break upon the shore; it expected to rest there; it hoped to enjoy the view; it believed that the ocean would come and dance to its tune. But "Unless you repent" says Jesus, not once but twice, "unless you repent". The ocean will not cuddle up to you or give you a cheery slap on the back. It will re-shape you and re-form you in ways you cannot imagine. It will shake you, break you, and re-make you. God never changes. "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters". The invitation is offered to you as it is offered to Isaiah's audience. But drink of those waters and you will change, for those waters are love.
You are a wave in the ocean of God. You are a branch on the tree of God. You are a verse in the song of God. You are a finger on the hand of God.
You have only to learn to be what you already are. Amen.