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Preacher: The Reverend Canon Michael Smith (Pastor)
Title of sermon: You need me and I need you.
Date/time/service: Sunday 6th September 2020 10am Zoom Eucharist Trinity 13
Passage of scripture: Matthew 18v15-20
We have never gone in for those eye-catching luminous signs outside the Minster with catchy lines on them like ‘Down in the mouth? Come in here for a faith lift’ or ‘Carpenter from Nazareth seeks joiners’. Someone sent me one last week that I thought was quite good, it just said ‘Ch_ _ ch, what’s missing? U R!’ I thought that was quite a clever one.
It is one of the mysteries of the Church of England that so many of us think that faith is a private business, something that is just between me and God. I meet loads of people who tell me they believe in God and that they say their prayers but who are generally missing, they rarely, if ever, darken the doors of a church.
I talk to lots of people about Baptism. It is surprising how many people talk about wanting their children to be baptised because they want them to grow up with Christian values. Nothing wrong with that – I think Christian values are great. Sadly, people who say that and their baptised children are also, generally, missing from church.
I also talk to a lot of people who do go to church sometimes but their churchgoing is controlled either by their mood. ‘I didn’t feel like going today’ or by other people ‘We had visitors so I didn’t go to church’ or by their lifestyle ‘It’s the only day of the week I can get a lie in’. More often than they think, people who say these things are also missing from church.
What all these people forget, the ‘private religion people’, the ‘Christianity is a set of values people’, the ‘occasional, when I am in the right mood, there’s nothing else on and I’m not too tired people’, is that the heart of Christianity, the heart of being a Christian, is being part of a community. As Jesus says in the gospel this morning, ‘Where two or three are gathered together, I am there among them.’
The very first thing that Jesus did when he began his ministry was to gather a community around him, friends to share with, to offer mutual support, to help with his ministry. Jesus was not a loner. When he wasn’t being besieged by crowds of people wanting him to teach them or heal the sick he was with his disciples, his core community, talking to them, trying to help them understand his teaching and his message. Being part of a community was essential to Jesus and to his ministry. Being part of a community is essential for all Christians. ‘Where two or three are gathered together, I am there among them.’
There has been a resurgence in celebrating community over recent months – in many places volunteering and helping neighbours has been significant and then there was the ‘Thursday clap’ for the NHS – all of this has created bonds within our communities that maybe were not there before. These have been important community events. The point for us is that every week, here on Zoom and in the Minster, there is an important community event. We gather here to establish and celebrate community. We gather here primarily to worship God, but that involves learning together, offering mutual support, being aware of the needs we all have and being there to help each other. In all baptisms, whether they happen with just the family present or in a main church service, make it clear that baptism about joining the Christian community, it is not just about adopting a set of values. Baptism is the beginning of a journey into faith into friendship with God, a journey we do not undertake alone, we travel together. Becoming a Christian is about joining a community.
Part of the challenge for us is the eternal challenge we all face constantly, the challenge not to be selfish or self-centred. What I mean by this is that when we think about this church community, we shouldn’t just think about where we fit in, whether we have the time or the inclination to turn up, if it’s a big enough priority for us. What we should be thinking is that our presence, our prayers, meagre though they may be, our singing, quiet and off key though it may be, our smile at the sharing of the peace, our presence at the altar rail, our little square on the Zoom screen, may be important to somebody else, may help and support others in their journey of faith.
There is nothing wrong with saying our prayers on our own sometimes, there is nothing wrong with admiring and seeking to attain ‘Christian values’, there is nothing wrong with having a busy life with lots of commitments and responsibilities and there is nothing wrong with looking after ourselves. But, if we are Christians, if we are baptised people on the journey of faith, growing in friendship with God – we cannot and should not go it alone. We cannot and should not isolate ourselves from others. We cannot and should not consider our faith to be private. As Christians we are never independent, we are always interdependent, we need each other. This is just as true when we meet in person in the Minster as when we meet here on Zoom.
There is a clever song by Ed Sheeran called ‘You need me, I don’t need you’. Too many of us (including me) live our lives as though other people need us but we don’t really need other people. As Christians this is just plain wrong – we can all look around the church today or flick through the screens at our Zoom service and say about each person ‘You need me and I need you’. The Church Community is sacramental and we all play our part because it is when we gather that Jesus is made present, remember what he says in today’s gospel – ‘Where two or three are gathered together, I am there among them.’
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