Summary: lOVE HEALS, HATE POISONS A CHURCH.
I had a dream last Saturday - I dreamt I was in Church and just about to start my Sermon, when Derek Finney walked in and sat down to listen. Who is Derek Finney? Derek Finney and Ken Hunter and I were great friends when we were in our teens and 20’s. We went everywhere together. But in 1956 I moved down (or up) to work in London, and, though I returned to Liverpool Diocese after Ordination, Derek and Ken and I hardly saw anything of each other from that point on for nearly 50 years. But it wasn’t surprising that I should dream of him now, because I was invited back to Liverpool in May to preach at a Choir Festival Service, part of the Centenary Celebrations at my Home Church. And, on the evening before the Service, the three of us, together with Jill and another friend met up again for a meal, where we spent the evening swapping stories about old times, talking until the cows came home. It was an evening full of fun and joy and laughter, full of nostalgia for the yesteryears of our youth, and I’ll never forget it.
But now, three months later, Derek appeared in my dream, listening to my Sermon.. I can’t remember what I said in it - dreams are like that, aren’t they - all I know is that it was very simple, about the importance of loving relationships, and about how much Jesus loves us, but what I do remember is this, that at the end of Sermon I walked down from the pulpit, went up to Derek, wrapped my arms around him and said “I love you, and thank you for all that you gave to me, all those years ago” – and then I woke.
And as I woke, some thoughts came into my head, an outline of this morning’s Sermon. I remembered that, on the night before He died Jesus met with some friends for a meal, and said to them: The greatest love a person can have is to lay down his life for his friends…” and then He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer…. Instead I call you friends”. And what was true of them is true of us, “We are Jesus’ Friends”, He loves us deeply, so much so that He laid down His life for us. (You’ve heard all this before, haven’t you).
It was at this point that I thought of His NE Wcommandment - “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this the world will know that you are my Disciples if you have love one for another”. And I thought to myself, “That’s right! That’s what shows that we belong to Jesus and that we are His friends - the quality of love we have for each other”, and I saw that a Church will only attract people if that shining quality of love is right at its heart, and openly displayed, just as it was in my dream.
Then I thought about this morning’s Service, and the time when we share the Peace, and I thought to myself “Maybe we ought to do what I did in my dream. Maybe, during the peace we could turn to those who are around us, and share our love with each them as I did with Derek in my dream.” Now I don’t want you to be pressurised about this - I know that we are British and it’s hard for the British to wear their hearts on their sleeves. But at whatever level you feel comfortable with will you share that love this morning when we come to the PEACE – and if you find it difficult to SAY it, maybe you can THINK IT and SHOW IT WITH YOUR EYES….. show in some way that you’re trying to say ‘I love you and thank you for what you give to me as a Friend of Jesus?”
Let’s just sit and think about it for a moment or two before I go on.
The final thing I want to talk about is forgiveness. In our Church Services we have always prayed the sick, and in recent years a Healing Ministry Team has grown up who, during the Service or after it, give the Laying on of hands to anyone who is in any kind of need. It’s a part of the Ministry of Love and Encouragement that has been growing amongst us. I know from personal experience how valuable this Ministry is, and how powerful. - in July I asked for prayer. Two days later I noticed that a persistent skin infection on my foot which had been troubling me for two or three years had vanished - and I wasn’t even asking for prayer for THAT to be healed! But our God is a God of surprises and sometimes He acts in a roundabout way to show us how much He loves us!