Summary: A sermon on Sun-bathing and Son-bathing, the sacred heart, and the God who wraps his arms around us in love. Preached at St Joseph the Worker Northolt for their
Deuteronomy 4:7 “For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him?”
When I was a teenager the church I went to after I became a Christian had a big statue like this one (point to the statue of the Sacred heart). Jesus with his arms outstretched and a great big pulsating heart
On the right hand side of the church there was a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the left hand side of the church was this giant statue of the Sacred heart.
It was very Victorian, by today’s standards - tacky. Tack-issimo!
And yet there was something about the outstretched arms of the loving Jesus that pulsed with my heart. I would come and light a candle before the statue and pray.
I think it resonated with my own story of how I had become a Christian through the Christian Union at School. Older boys who had left a few years before - 19, 20, 21, would come back and talk about their faith. They would talk about how Jesus loved me enough to die for me upon the cross. But it wasn’t so much the theology of what they said that made me become a Christian. It was what they had [grasp my heart] - they had something special and I wanted that, that relationship with Jesus, and so I gave my life for him.
Cardinal Basil Hume wrote “there comes a time in our relationship with God when we need to move from being Sunday acquaintances to being weekday friends” -That is what I experienced when I gave my life to Jesus - becoming God’s friend. Intimacy with God
“For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him?”
There is a wonderful passage by the American pastor Rick Warren in which he writes -
“You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into this world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at you birth. God wanted you alive and your birth brought him great pleasure. God did not need to create you but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment…. If you are that important to God and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for all eternity, what greater significance could you have? You are a child of God and you bring pleasure to him like nothing else he has ever created.”
Pastor Rick Warren, the purpose driven life, p.69
In the garden of Eden we were created for intimacy with God. Then Sin came into the world - and with Sin came barriers - those fig leaves through to the gates on gated communities - we are cut off from each other and cut off from God. We become lonelier and lonelier. That’s one of the biggest problems in today’s world. Loneliness.
God offers us a way out of loneliness. Relationship. Relationship with him and through that deeper relationship with each other.
Moses tells us that the thing that distinguishes our God from other gods is that he is near to us.
At Jesus’s death, the curtain in the Temple - the Curtain that cuts off the Holy of Holies from ordinary people - is torn in two from top to bottom.
When Jesus prays he prays “Abba” - the Aramaic word for dad, daddy. Listen to it “Abba” - it’s not a complicated word like “Father” [say in a very posh accent]
Abba is a simple little word like a baby can make.
I visited Sierra Leone about 12 years ago - in the local language, a blend of English and various African languages, they refer to God as “Papa God” “Papa God”
That’s the sort of thing that Jesus teaches us when he teaches us to say the Lord’s prayer.
“Our Father. Our Abba - dada. Our Papa God in Heaven.”
It’s a cry for when times are Good and for when times are difficult. Archbishop Rowan Williams writes
“The cry to God as Father in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgement of a universal truth about God's abstract fatherhood. It is the child's cry out of a nightmare. It is the cry of out rage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the world - yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well. “Abba Father” all things are possible to thee.”
Moses in our reading warns us “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known” (Deut 4:9)
So let me tell you a bit more of the things I have seen.