Bishop Gregor Duncan spent the day at All Saints on Tuesday February 4, taking part in Mattins, Evensong and a sung Eucharist, sounding out the congregation on same-sex marriage and Scottish independence, and meeting the Vestry to discuss current issues, including the church’s Mission Action Plan.
He used his homily at the Eucharist to urge the people of All Saints: ‘Do not fear, only believe’.
Based on the death of Absalom, and Jesus’ raising a dead girl and healing a sick woman, the text of the homily was as follows:[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”100%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]
If I were to think of a word that linked tonight’s readings, I would plump for “expectations”. In the first reading we find expectations disappointed, in the second fulfilled.
Perhaps the first is easier to relate to. King David’s son, Absalom, has rebelled against him and the King’s loyal troops have got rid of Absalom. They expect that David will be pleased, but quite the contrary is the case. David is distraught and utters some of the most poignant words in the whole of the Bible: ‘O my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ At that moment the King puts his personal grief before the loyalty of his soldiers and the interests of the state. If you read further, you find that he is forced to learn a hard lesson – support your supporters who have risked all for you, or else. Very human and, as I say, easy to relate to.
Easy to relate to maybe, but it is the second set of expectations that really matter for us. First, there are the expectations people have of Jesus: ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live’. So Jairus. And ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well’. So the woman with the haemorrhages. Both expect that jesus can help them, has the power to help them, both in that sense have faith. The woman has “heard of Jesus” and I suppose we may assume that the leader of the synagogue has also heard of Him. But it is not just a question of the expectations people have of Jesus, it is also about the expectations Jesus has of them: ‘Do not fear, only believe’, he says to Jairus.
And maybe it is these latter words – ‘Do not fear, only believe’ – that ought to hit home most for us. They remind me of some other words, not from the Gospels, but from the epistles, more precisely from the First Letter of St John – ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear’. It is, of course, the same epistle which teaches that God is love. So, Jesus is asking us, asking you and me, to trust that God’s love for us is so perfect, so invincible, so overwhelming, that we need not fear, whatever life brings to us. And that, freed from fear, we can place our trust in Jesus, we can believe that his constant concern is to bring us to wholeness and fullness of life, that we too may be well and live. Not in the sense of expecting to be miraculously cured from illness or anything like that, but in the much deeper sense of being kept safe in His company and fellowship for a life unimaginably rich and abundant of which He promises to give us a foretaste now and the fruition in the world to come.[/dropshadowbox]