Sermon for Third Sunday after Trinity – High Mass Sunday 21 June 2015
Sermon preached by Fr Julian Browning
Reading: Mark 4.39. Jesus said to the sea, Peace, be still.
This world is the Kingdom of God, and in that Kingdom we see signs of Crucifixion and Resurrection. The story of the Stilling of the Storm by Jesus is the story of Resurrection, and it’s a story about how we are to live. When Christianity was young and radical, faith was about how to live a new life here and now, in chaotic times, yet within the Reign of God.
When Jesus sleeps in that boat, and the waters begin to break over the side, the disciples are afraid. When he is woken up, everything changes, and peace and calm prevail. When Jesus sleeps in the boat, as in death, we are in confusion and panic. When Christ awakes, as in the resurrection from the dead, he brings the peace of God into human hearts, symbolised by the peaceful sea, and He gives us the authority to perform that miracle ourselves. When the spirit of the risen Christ takes root within us, then the physical world, the real world, which has its own stable and predictable laws, and the whole business of human existence change for us; where we saw fear, we can see hope. That is faith. It’s faith, though, not in ourselves, and who we are, but in Christ. Too often we see these Gospel miracles as Jesus doing wonderful things while we and the disciples are useless hangers-on, cowering in the boat, not getting the point and not really believing any of it. Let’s find something to believe in today.
Here’s a true story. For some years I was Assistant Priest at our sister church, St Cyprians, Clarence Gate, so what goes on there is of great interest to me. One day in May 1933, a little baby boy, a few days old, was found abandoned on the steps of the font: a foundling. The baby had a note attached, which read:
His father hates him, and his mother doesn’t want him.
Father Mayhew took in the child, and baptised him in that font where he had been abandoned. He baptised him Cyprian Glentworth, Cyprian after St. Cyprian, and Glentworth after Glentworth Street, the back street in Marylebone where the church is situated. Cyprian went to live with the Anglican nuns in Kilburn.
In 1945, now aged twelve, Cyprian was given an assisted passage to Canada as part of the Child Migrant Scheme, and in Canada, thousands of miles from anywhere, he lived and worked and thrived. There he was known as Cye for Cyprian. Cyprian was one of the last people to be given land by the Canadian government to build a homestead, and there he lived on a remote farm in British Columbia with his wife and four children.
Two weeks ago Cyprian Glentworth came back. Cyprian came back, for the first time in his life, accompanied by one of his sons, at the age of 82, to St Cyprians, Glentworth Street, to see the place where he had been lost and found. This was, as Father Gerald reports, a “Kingdom moment”, a joyful and triumphant time in which a circle is completed, when we are privileged to see God’s purposes worked out. Cyprian had a copy of that note which read: His father hates him, and his mother doesn’t want him.
When I heard that, I thought of Father Mayhew and the people of St Cyprians, and the person who left the baby in the church, all now long since gone, how they stood there between wretchedness and hope, like the disciples in that boat, and then offered the child to a Father who did love him, to a Mother Church who did want him, all in the name of the Son of God who can still the storm. Then I thought of myself, and ourselves, and how often, with the best will in the world, we focus on our own spiritual adventures and religious observance. You will know what I mean: our intermittent prayer life and what to do about it; the services we like and don’t like; how to live a better life. All important things, but as nothing compared to the miracle of a life in the Kingdom of God and what we can do there. We are not here for ourselves, nor for self-improvement. We are here to see the signs of the coming Kingdom, in bread that is broken, in wine poured from a cup that contains the suffering of the world. Our salvation is in any case assured. Our boat will reach the shore. There is no need to cower in the boat as the disciples did in that storm, concerned with our own progress and safety. St Augustine, in his uncanny way, confronts us over this: “… your heart is upset, as if it were you in the boat. Why? .. rouse Christ in your heart, let your faith awaken and your conscience will be quieted and your ship will be freed.”
The Stilling of the Storm is the miracle you and I are able to perform each day in Christ’s name in the real world of fear and danger, when all seems lost, when fragile life is threatened, when we find ourselves standing alone between misery and hope, between death and resurrection, between shipwreck and dry land, as in the miracle at Glentworth Street.