Sunday, 3 February 2008

SERMON: 3 February 2008

Here in England they have the show "Deal or No Deal" but it is VERY different from how it is played at home - read on to find out. In addition to enjoying the show myself, I've found that lots of people DO watch TV (or telly as they say) here and when I asked if they watched-most of them raised their hands. I like taking the common things like TV and making them theological, or at least finding the theological in them when it's not there explicitly.
Also - this is Part 1 of a 2 Part "series" I did because I knew I'd be back at this church in a fortnight (2 weeks time). It's rare that within this team I preach so close together - usually its about once a month at each church which has its challenges for preaching here.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Last before Lent, Year A
St Philip’s Church (Gorton Abbey Hey Team)

2 Peter 16 – 21
Matthew 17 : 1-9

Do any of you watch the television program called “Deal or No Deal”?

The idea is deceptively simple, isn’t it? One player of the day has a box with an amount of money in it. The other players also each have a box – all ranging from 1 P to 250,000 pounds. The player then has to choose which of the others’ boxes will have the lower amounts and hope that hers has more. But, “the Banker” is making offers as the game goes on to “buy” the one box from her. So, the skill of the game is in the level of risk (or gambling), the based on confidence in the chance amount of cash in the box the player is willing to take.

I have to admit, since I’ve been here, this program has captured my attention. On many weekday afternoons (at 4 pm) you can find me watching it and I’ve tried to analyze why it’s got me hooked. Now we have a show by the same name in America, but they play it differently. The difference is in the other box holders – here they’re other players, real people who will eventually be in the hot seat; at home they’re a bunch of beautiful women models displaying the boxes. This is a huge difference because I’m told that all the people on the game here – all the box holders – actually live together during each week until they’re called into the hot seat themselves. They’re strangers who get to know one another and want each other to WIN!!

It’s NOT about competing against each other. They’re ALL supporting one another. They’re only against the banker. They want each person in the hot seat to win because they know that at some time THEY will have a chance there themselves.

I LOVE that.

It’s so different from all the other games where there are winners and losers because of judges like the dancing or singing shows. And it’s not about someone’s knowledge like a quiz game. These players always want the person who’s playing to make the most money in their box. They offer each other advice about taking the risks and say supportive things especially about making the deals. And that’s because they’ve come to know one another.

I think the people supporting each other – their generosity -- is why I watch : because it’s so different from most of real life.
How many people do you have in your average week telling you positive things, or supporting you for the things you do? Maybe your family and friends, but very rarely do strangers want you to win, do they?

All very good – but why am I talking about this game? Well, we’re approaching Ash Wednesday and it’s time to be thinking about Lent. During Lent, we have the opportunity to take a look at ourselves and our lives – we have the chance to make some changes.

You all know some people who give up things for Lent. The point of giving up is to live our lives in a different way for a short time.

AND, there’s another way to “do” Lent. It’s basically the opposite way. Instead of giving something up; you take something on. To my mind, this is just as difficult and can be just as good for us in terms of making changes. Adding to our lives can also be good for the people and the world around us.

I’m definitely not alone in this idea. This is the second year that the Church of England has taken to publishing a little booklet called “Love Life, Live Lent” which is full of things “to do” during Lent. The things are very simple and easy to do:

Ask someone about their day
Leave a thank you note for the postie
Give up your place to someone in the queue
Light a candle and pray for someone – well, we do that, don’t we?
Buy a low energy light bulb
Have a conversation with someone from another generation
Say hello to a police officer
Think about how you can take time for quiet and silence

You get it. The idea is that by making a variety of small actions, lots of little additions to our lives during Lent, we can make a huge difference to the places we live.

For me the theme of most of these is about generosity. Like in Deal or No Deal – now you don’t have to watch the show, just act generous way toward each other that they do.

For me, this year Lent will be about taking on things instead of giving them up. Being generous has become very important. I’m not sure exactly why, but there’s a way in which today’s gospel partly answers that.

In last week’s story of the miracle at the wedding at Cana, we heard about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This story of Jesus changing into blazing white like the sun takes place in the middle of his time in Galilee meeting people, healing them, and preaching about the way life can be better in his everlasting kingdom where life is upside-down from the way it appears.

Remember, as Jesus is there on the mountain with both Moses and Elijah, a voice comes from the clouds saying, “this is my Beloved with whom I am well pleased” – It’s the voice of God - of course referring to Jesus. Well, it takes your imagination to take this in, and now I want you to use your imagination even more. What IF; what if we believed that voice of God was talking to each one of us?

Could you believe that God would say to you, “YOU are MY Beloved with YOU I am well pleased!”?? I have faith that we ARE to believe that! We are to know we are loved by God just as Jesus was loved, just as the people of God have been loved even since the time of Adam and Eve.

And IF we believe that – then one of the most important things that Jesus says makes sense. We know that Jesus said, FIRST love the Lord your God, and then love your neighbors as yourself. It seems that our lives as Christians is then about figuring how to do that. We are able to even make a start is because we know that we are loved by God first. When we can imagine that we are God’s beloved then we can begin to love our neighbors.

THEN the generosity starts to flow. WHEN we believe we are God’s beloved, then we can act like the folks on “Deal or No Deal”. Will you join me this Lent in being generous as well?

Can you take time each week to do a few things that might change the world? And maybe watching the telly is one way to get started! Amen.

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