The Longing for Relationship..

18 06 2007

frank.jpgI have the pleasure of welcoming a good mate of mine to the blog, The Very Revd Frank Nelson. I heard him preach this message recently and it really connected, so I asked him to create a shortened version for brownblog…

I take you… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health….

“We were made for each other.” Every happy couple feels that as they sit staring into each other’s eyes, a bottle of wine between them, sun setting over the distant sea horizon. Or perhaps it is a depth of conversation and understanding of a shared and loved piece of music, the excitement over a scientific or mathematical formula, the smell of burning oil and tyres at a bike race, the quiet contentment at the end of a day’s gardening. Whatever it is, romantic love between husband and wife remains easily one of the most popular ideals and goals despite the appalling record of marriage! In this country the ubiquitous ‘domestic’ incident is anything but – and is usually the tail-end of a long and sorry saga that began with starry eyes, but all too quickly spiralled into accusation, threat and violence. We are faced with the paradox of longing for something yet knowing the reality falls short of the dream. …

… Even in the western world, where we have systematically set about breaking down the traditional village relationships where every second person was called ‘auntie’, we still have our net-working systems. Often times today they are through the internet or texting process. I recall an African priest who spent time in New York. At the end of his time he was asked what had impressed him most of the city. He talked about the funeral of an old lady at which he and the undertaker were the only people present. How, he wondered, is it possible for someone to live to such an age and not have people to mourn them? …

…Of course it is not just with individuals or even villages and extended family that we find community. Democracy thrives on the working together for the good of all by whole nations. The fledgling and fragile democracies of some Pacific states suggest that, like couples in marriage, nations also struggle to make relationships work. … The echo of a voice is hard to hear in these instances.

At the heart of relationships is sex. Not in the sense of being ‘sexual’ and erotic. Practically all societies have ways of ensuring sexual relationships are contained within a marriage type context. No, humans relate to each other as sexual beings – male and female. Our maleness or femaleness does not only come into play in the overtly sexual relationship. It comes into play in the way we relate to each other in office and playground, the way books, films, cars, holidays are written, marketed and sold. ….

… We do know we are not neuter! We are sexual beings, male and female. One of the travesties of so-called ‘casual sex’ is that we dehumanise ourselves and others in our treatment of something often seen as sacred in nature.

The fourth and final part of this relationship echo is that of death. Like sex death raises difficulties, puzzles and paradoxes when talking about relationships. It seems that death calls into question the very notion of being made for relationship – when it ends it all, often abruptly.

This idea that we are made for relationships which come to an end carries an echo which reminds us of those other two echoes – the hunger for justice and the thirst for spirituality. Once again we turn to the Old Testament to find a faith system which suggests that humans have indeed been made for relationship – with each other, with creation and with the Creator. All three religions which share this common idea also suggest that relationships are not permanent within the present world. At its starkest this is seen in the Genesis account of the Fall and the somewhat plaintiff voice of God’s call in the evening, “Where are you?” …

… Human beings are created, says the Christian story, to model and embody the interrelatedness, the mutual trusting, knowing and loving which is God’s intention. Our failures in human relationships are part and parcel of our failure in those other great strands of being human – our failure to put to right the wrongs of the world, and our systematic attempts to quash the well-springs of spirituality.

These very failures, and the fact that we recognise them as such, suggest there might be more. Indeed Christianity explores in some detail that the Creator himself contains, within himself, a multiple relationship. … The Christian story suggests that God has made humans in the image of God, with love and caring, for each other, creation and God, at the centre. Laughter and tears are woven deeply into the stuff of being human – and the echo of God’s voice, calling us to relationship with each other, creation and God, is still heard – if only faintly.

This sermon is a reworking of Tom Wright’s book “Simply Christian” (Chapter 3) as part 3 of a Lenten preaching series.

 

http://cathedral.wellington.net.nz/index.php/Sermons

 

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