Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pint glasses, personalities and perfect gifts

Sermon preached at St Augustine’s Pro-Cathedral Church in Canterbury on the 4th Sunday of Easter 28th April 2013

On the window-sill of a country pub
                sits a pint glass containing
                                half a pint of Boddington’s.

 How would you describe that glass of beer?



Something else?


It is often said that
                how we view such a glass
                                reflects our approach to life.

If we see the glass being half-full,
                then it is supposed to mean that we are optimists,
                                seeing the best in every situation.

If we see the glass being half-empty,
                then it is supposed to mean we are pessimists,
                                living in a world of doom and gloom.

There are even some folk
                who are wondering
                                how on earth could occur such a travesty of
                                                leaving glass of beer unattended
                                                                on the window-sill of a country pub
                                                                                in the first place!

However tempting the idea may be
                that a reaction to that glass of beer
                                determines someone’s temperament,
                                                you know very well that this is
                                                                far too simplistic.

The character of a human being
                simply cannot be summed up
                                in their point of view of a half-pint of beer.

But it does give us
                a bit of a glimpse into their view of the world,
                                doesn’t it?

So which are you?

An optimist
                – one who thinks that
                                this is the best of all possible worlds.

A pessimist
                – one who thinks
                                this is the worst of all possible worlds?

Or are you a bit of both, or neither?

Glass half-full,
                or glass half-empty,
                                or something else?


Most of us will admit
                to being somewhere in between:
                                optimistic in some areas,
                                                pessimistic in others.

It is doubtful that we’d describe ourselves
                as purely optimistic
                                or purely pessimistic.

                we usually criticise both points of view
                                as being extreme. 

The pure optimist we will call blind,
                naive ignorant of reality,
                                foolish for not seeing how horrible the world is.

The pessimist we will shun
                because they are always dragging us down,
                                making us feel miserable
                                                and sucking up the life and soul of the party.

So what do you think
                the Christian position should be?

Should a Christian be an optimist,
                a pessimist,
                                neither or both?


                Christians do not have
                                a good record of optimism.

We can see
                the stereotypically prim Victorian
                                scandalised by the sight of a lady’s ankle
                                                and deploring the moral laxity of young men.

We can think of Bible-black preachers
                standing on street corners
                                decrying alcohol,
                                carousing and sex
                as being inventions of the devil
                                and solely used
                                                to cause Man to fall away from God.

While such folk are indeed right
                that our passions must be ruled by obedience to God,
                                their attitude makes Christianity
                                                look like the most miserable religion
                                                                in the world.

Even today,
                we are often criticised for a pessimistic view
                                of relationships,
                                                mentioning the word “sin”
                                                                when people are enjoying themselves,
                                                                                and accused of pointing the finger
                                                                when someone does something wrong.

How many times do we describe ourselves
                by listing what we are against,
                                rather than what we are for?

Isn’t that just seeing the worst in things?

So why don’t we start being more optimistic,
                seeing the best in things?

This seems very reasonable and healthy!

                if we start seeing the best in things
                                and taking that to extremes
                                                then we can end up in the mess
                                                                that the Church is in now,
                                                                                allowing lots of Fresh Expressions
                                                                                                of Christianity
                                                                                                and in so doing allowing
                                                                                                a lot of wrong-thinking
                                                                to infiltrate what Christianity really is.

It’s okay and actually very right to say
                that dancing is not a work of the devil,
                                rather a fun and innocent pastime,
                                                and indeed it is used as an act of Worship.

 Watch how King David dances
                with all his might
                                when the Ark of the Covenant is brought
                                                into Jerusalem. 

Does this then permit the verger
                to bring up the collection plate at Mass
                                while doing the tango? 

No, because the Mass and the bringing in
                of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem
                                are different ceremonies,
                                under different conditions
                                                and requiring different attitudes
                                                                of the congregation.

At Mass, we have to remember
                the Death of the Lord Jesus
                                as well as His Resurrection.

That is not an occasion for dancing!

Yet, do our hearts dance for joy
                when we receive the Blood of Christ
                                of the new covenant into ourselves?


We Christians must be optimistic
                because God has created everything
                                – everything!! –
                                                and He Himself has declared it
                                                                to be very good.

“EVERY good gift and every perfect gift
                is from above, and cometh down
                                from the Father of lights,
                                                with whom is no variableness,
                                                                neither shadow of turning.

Of His own will begat He us
                with the word of truth,
                                that we should be a kind of firstfruits
                                                of his creatures.”

We need to see the good in everything and everyone.

We are indeed God’s gifts
                not only to the world
                                but particularly to ourselves.

You are God’s gift to you yourself
                and if God created you,
                                then you are very good
                                                and there can be no question about that.

You might not be perfect,
                but perfection is also a gift of God
                                and that comes later.

But it does come if we choose it.

This is the best of all possible worlds,
                because God created it.

Christians must therefore be optimists.


We need to see how the evils
                that happen in this world are the result
                                of our failings to live up
                                                to the standards that God has set us.

The grossest act of inhumanity
                still has its seeds in each one of us,
                                because each one of us has the capacity
                                                to choose that which is not God’s will.

This world is as bad as it gets
                precisely because of our fallenness
                                as Human beings.

This is the worst of all possible worlds,
                so Christians must be pessimists.

Walking with God,
                we can be nothing other than optimists.

Walking without God,
                we can be nothing other than pessimists.

There is no hope for a world
                to be saved from the consequences of its evil choices
                                without the Death and Resurrection
                                                Of the Lord Jesus Christ.


On the window-sill of a country pub
                sits a pint glass containing
                                half a pint of Boddington’s. 

Since it is half empty,
                then we clearly have enjoyed
                                the half-pint we have already consumed.

Since it is half-full we still have the other half to enjoy.

The world has its evil
                and that evil will affect us,
                                disappoint us
                                                and even cause us excruciating agonies.

Yet, if we fight against the temptation
                to see only the evil
                                and struggle hard to see God’s goodness
                                                even when things are blackest,
                                                                then we shall be more than conquerors
                                                                                through His deathless love.

How optimistic are you about that?

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