God: intimate and ultimate - sermon for Family Service
Trinity 10 year C
Also the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- I read recently that around one third of people never go on holiday – one in every three. Who here today has already been on holiday? Who is going on holiday later this summer? Are these numbers more than the average? or fewer?
- Have the following words written on pieces of card, and given out to different people:
- Ask if anyone can think of a short story which links all these four words …
- tell the story of the middle aged man, David, who was very ill – suffering from cancer. He was standing on the beach with his father, who was now in his seventies.
"Daddy," David said, "remember how I wanted to swim across the bay with you? We got halfway across and I said I couldn't make it. You reached and held on to me. Well, I don't think I can make it this time."
At that moment David’s father quietly gathered his son in his arms and said, "I won't let you go down this time, either. Put your arms around my neck, and we'll go on together."
Three points about this story – which is a modern parable:
(i) God doesn’t always keep us from suffering, from pain, from sadness and loss. Sometimes we can’t avoid these things – and we are probably aware of people at this moment who are going through severe pain and suffering.
But even at the worst times, we mustn’t forget that God is by our side, holding us up – and that even if we sink, he is there with us in the depths. He doesn’t always make everything right again – but he gives us the strength to cope with whatever obstacles and difficulties may confront us.
(ii) God cares for each one of us – no-one is unworthy of God’s love. Just as the best of fathers will never cease to love their son, however old they become - even if the worst happens, so too our heavenly father never stops loving us.
(iii) The story, thirdly, reminds us that God is both intimate and ultimate. Intimate – in that he knows each one of us, and cares about our future – whether we stand or fall, live or die. But he is also far greater, far bigger, far more awesome than we can ever imagine – the God who is ultimate, the God who is beyond the planets, the stars, even the universe.
So when things on this tiny earth seem to be more than we can understand or bear, remember that the God of the universe loved the world so much that he gave his only Son to show us the way back to him.
But there’s a fourth point. The story says nothing about David’s mother. Today we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary – the mother of Jesus. Mary is known as the one who was obedient to the will of God – for humbly accepting the task of giving birth to, and bringing up, the Son of God. Mary reminds us that God’s care for us should cause us to want to be obedient to him – to seek his will and to do our best to carry it out.
That is what the Christian life is all about – knowing that God cares for each one of us, and seeking to do his will.