There was a man sent from God…

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent 2008 (John 1.6-8, 19-28)

There was a man sent from God,
whose name was…
Barry.

He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe in Jesus who was the light.
If you were to ask him about his Christian faith Barry would confess and would not deny it, he would confess: “I’m not the kind of person who can stand up and talk in public, and I’m not very comfortable doing anything up front like leading prayers, and I wouldn’t be any good at talking with people who are upset, but I will always do my bit.”
One evening after the All Souls service when all the bereaved families had been to church to remember their loved ones, we were all going over the road to the church hall for refreshments and to talk with the families who stayed behind. Barry was moving the extra chairs from the church back to the place where they were stored. “This is what I can do,” said Barry, “I couldn’t do what you do talking with all those people, but this is my job.” And without Barry there wouldn’t have been enough seats in church for all the people who came to pray and remember.

There was a woman sent from God… whose name was… Angela.
She came as a witness to testify to the love of God made known in Jesus.
She was not a confident person, nor a very public person, nor especially open with her emotions. But in her work with the local undertakers her care, efficiency, and calmness meant she could help many people at their most vulnerable. By her care Angela witnessed to the love of God in Jesus.
There was another woman sent from God whose name was Constance. She came as a witness to testify to the closeness of God in Jesus Christ.
Nearing the end of a long life, she spent most of her time in her wheel chair in her living room looking out of her window at her garden and the many birds who visited it. Her daughter brought her to church every Sunday for evensong and I took her communion at home once a month. To spend even a little time with her was to experience an extraordinary depth of prayer and contemplation.
Through her life Constance witnessed to the closeness of God in Jesus.
There was a man sent from God whose name was Peter.
He came as a witness to testify to the presence of God in our midst.
He himself was not the presence of God, but he came to testify to the presence; to show that bidden or unbidden God is present.
I am Peter. Sometimes people ask me ‘Who are you?’ I am a human being. I am a Christian. I am a priest. I am a man – a husband, a father, a son and a brother. I am someone who loves ideas, I enjoy learning and I am good at making connections. I am someone who cares. I am a poet. I am a guitar player, a story teller, a joke maker, a pickle maker, a bread baker, a wine drinker and I am many things beside. I am blessed to be here.
But…
I am not the messiah. I am not a prophet. I am not a miracle worker. I am not superhuman. I am not infallible. I am not perfect. I am not efficient. I am not decisive. There are many things that I am not and I cannot do everything even if I sometimes try.

We are all created and called by God.
We are all known to God by name.
We are all known and loved by God.

God invites us all to discover and accept who we are… and to be ourselves.
He invites us to discover and accept who we are not… and to set aside our false self-images and our egos.
He invites us on a journey into life in all its fullness in the company of Jesus Christ as we discover God’s purpose for ourselves and for our community.
As we journey, we can be witnesses like John the Baptist who pointed not to himself but to Jesus Christ. Through our acts of humble service, our kindness, our gentleness, our compassion, our prayer and our presence we can show what Jesus is like for he is the light, love, and very presence of God in our midst.