See God in Everyone

See God in Everyone

Mark 6:1-6

My call to you this week is to have a think about those people in your lives who you have put in boxes and said, this is this person. To re-examine that and to see where God is working in their life, to lift them up, to praise them.

In the name of the father and of the son of the Holy Spirit Amen, please sit.

I’ve approached today’s homily from another direction many times, and it’s because in the Gospel, we are constantly called to forgive others who have done us wrong. And so I’ve stood here. I’ve stood here. I have stood here many times before telling you how important forgiveness is, how forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. And I’ve spoken to you about how easy it is sometimes to forgive people that you don’t know when something is completely disconnected from you, when it happens in another country, something away from you, you can go, ‘I’m a good Christian and I can forgive them’.

And it’s easy because you have no skin in the game. You have no emotional involvement in what’s going on. You may be a little bit upset, so it’s easy to forgive in those circumstances. The harder job is to forgive people that you know, and the better you know somebody, the harder it is to forgive them when they do something wrong to you. We’ve spoken about that before and how vital it is that you find a way of doing this.

Well, the gospel comes with this central message today from the other direction, and it talks about the people that we know well and how we constantly underestimate the work of God in them. And we’re all guilty of it and we’re guilty of it because we as human beings, once we’ve formed an opinion of somebody, that opinion tends to stick, doesn’t it? Am I wrong? No, I’m not wrong, I don’t think so. Once you once you know somebody, you go ah that is that’s Val. And this is exactly what I think about. And that’s it. It’s set in stone. Now, it’s easy with Val because Val’s wonderful and lovely and we love her very much. And so my opinion of Val is set in stone and Val could do no wrong in my eyes. That’s the good side of it, because Val buys me chocolate when I’m feeling sad, you see.

But what happens when somebody we know does something that is just kind of mediocre and, you know, they just getting on with their lives and we don’t really form a very strong opinion about that person. Well, when that happens, we stop being able to see the extraordinary that happens in their life and we hear it in today’s gospel.

When Jesus went back to his home, even though he was now working out the signs of God, he was healing people. He was there with his prophets. He was speaking the word of God. All those people could see of him was the carpenter well, who’s this? I wonder if this is the first documented example of tall poppy syndrome. Where instead of celebrating the gifts of those people around us, we say, hang on a minute, you were getting a bit above yourself, you were getting a bit beyond yourself.

Now, the reason I’m talking about this today is because I think this is one of the besetting sins of our current culture. And the gospel speaks into it. Our culture is one of not celebrating success, but about pulling people down. And we are called to do more than that. If somebody that we know, if somebody in our family does well, great, we love it. But if somebody, you know, somebody gets above themselves, how many times have we said that about somebody who they’re getting above themselves, they’re going to be too big for their boots.

What we must do is celebrate other people’s success, and the reason I call it a besetting sin of our culture is because it becomes a zero sum game. If all we ever expect of everybody is what they’ve always done before, then we will never achieve greatness. We will never achieve the full potential that God has given us. We don’t know when God’s call in our lives will come to us. For some people, God call in their lives come when they are this tall, for other people and I’ve seen it happen, God’s call in their lives comes when they’re in their 90s.

And God has a job for them to do. I’ve seen it happen in hospices in the last days of life. So what we are called to do is to recognise in one another the gifts in the call of God in each other’s lives. And when those gifts flourish, to celebrate them, to say congratulations, I’m going to hold you up. And that is a sign of a really, really healthy church.

And I’m going to bring it down now to the church level to here at Saint Anselm, the sign of a healthy, good church, a sign of a church that is following God’s will is that when somebody here succeeds, there is genuine joy at their success. And the sign of an unhealthy church is a church where when somebody succeeds or somebody tries something new, there’s a bit of derision or there’s a bit of gossip. And gossip. That’s the thing that starts to tear communities apart.

Now, I’m preaching this today not because I think we have those issues. In fact, I do not think we do. This church celebrates when people do something really, really good. And I want us to celebrate that. So I’m stood here today to say awesome work. God is working through each and every one of you. And the call of today’s gospel in our lives is to look around us and to reassess the people who are around us to try and see where God may be working in their lives.

Where we haven’t seen it before. Each and every one of us will have somebody in our lives who we’ve put in a box and said that’s so-and-so and they exist in that box. Today’s gospel calls us to knock down the boxes that we keep people in and to attempt to see the work of God in their life, and it’s only when we do that that we will see the action of the Holy Spirit here in Hayes, in each one of those broken down relationships where we see the work of God in one another and we celebrate when we bring it to the fore.

That joy, that’s what transforms communities. That’s what transforms the world.

I’ll give you an example of that. I preached this week about… I received an email from a local Councillor who described some people in Hayes as unacceptable. And I could understand where that was coming from. She was angry at the way things are in Hayes. She was angry that there are people running around the streets with knives. She was angry that people will attack somebody on the street, as I know only too well.

She was angry that people deal drugs. She was angry that there are people sleeping on the porch of the church. She was angry that these people were somehow unacceptable in our society and she wants them gone. And I can understand that. I think we can all understand that. But just because that person that is sleeping on the front of church or the person that is dealing drugs or the person who is carrying a knife today, if each and every one of us put that person in that box and never expect anything good from that person, or even worse, when that person does do something good, we just go, well, nothing good is going to come out of this person.

Then we are no better than those people who in Jesus hometown could not see the glory of God in Jesus. We are no better. There is no such thing as an unacceptable person. There is no such thing as a mediocre person. We are all created in the image of God. And so the moment you see somebody who is in a box. And he does something glorious. Our job is to say, I love you, my brother, I love you, my sister, and I see God in you, because when we do that, we get hold of that person and we lift them up.

We all feel good if we go out and if we see somebody on the street, we give somebody some food or a sleeping bag, we all feel good about that physical thing. But if we don’t do that mental thing of lifting people up as well, if we don’t do that thing of saying God loves you and I can see God working in you and I want to lift you up because I put you I have not put you in the box that says you can never change.

Then that person will never change, that person will never see the love of God in their life. If the boys carrying the knives on the estate, do not see people respond to them in the way that God loves them, then they will never change. The only way we drive out evil is by shining light into the dark. And so in many ways, our gospel today is a simple one, oh, well, the people didn’t recognise God in Jesus.

But in many ways, it’s the most fundamental truth of the gospel. Where do we recognise Jesus in those around us? Where do we recognise the work of God in those around us? We have to look in places that we’re perhaps not expecting.

My call to you this week is to have a think about those people in your lives who you have put in boxes and said, this is this person. To re-examine that and to see where God is working in their life, to lift them up, to praise them.

And hold them before God.