SERMON:Maybe we do need to be missionaries to our own hearts!

Maybe we do need to be missionaries to our own hearts!

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley

by Andrew McKearney on 7 July 2019

​‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals;

​and greet no one on the road.’

Greetings in that part of the world were and still are long! Never just a simple handshake! But kissing and asking afterthe members of your family and asking for God’s blessing on your flocks and herds – an elaborate affair that can last an age!

But for Jesus the time is short, the task urgent so greet no one on the road! A disastrous command to follow if you’re Nikolaj starting your ministry amongst us! But in the context of Jesus’ ministry when, as we learnt last week, he had set his face to go to Jerusalem, the time was short:

​‘Greet no one on the road.’

​‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.’

Our car has never got into our garage and sometimes I find it difficult even to get my bike in! I’m sure none of you are like that! Car driven in with plenty of space to spare!

Each time we’ve moved parish we’ve felt the Lord calling us, sending us, asking us to take another step on our Christian journey – and each time the removals lorry has got bigger and bigger!

​‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.’

The first person who wanted to join Saint Francis was a man called Bernard. He was a magistrate in the city of Assisi, held in high regard and the owner of a handsome palazzo. He was intrigued by Francis, wasn’t sure that he was genuine so invited Francis to spend a night with him.

The event that moved Bernard most was not so much the answers that Francis gave to his questions, but what Bernard saw him do during the night. As soon as Francis thought Bernard was asleep, he got up and spent the whole night in prayer, saying aloud, over and over again:

​‘My God and my All.’

The next morning this wealthy, influential man said he wanted to join Francis. Francis wasn’t sure what to do and decided to rest the matter with the scriptures. Together they went to the nearby parish church along with a third man, Peter.

After praying for a while Francis opened the Gospels at random and read the first words that his eyes settled on:

​‘Go, sell your possessions and give the money

​to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.’

A second time Francis opened the Gospels:

​‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.’

A third time the Gospels were opened:

​‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny

​themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

The Franciscan way was born!

Bernard stood outside his house and simply distributed everything he had to anyone who cared to take his possessions! The poor of Assisi, honest and dishonest, carried away his furniture and the contents of his house! The more respectable looked on astonished – Francis was elated!

And these words of Jesus formed part of the Rule of Life for Francis and his new companions:

​‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.’

We’re not all called to be Franciscans! And anyway simplicity is not so much about these external things like purses, bags and sandals, but much more about our innerdisposition, the attitude of mind with which we live: travel light, be vulnerable, keep your mind and heart focussed.

Maybe we need to be missionaries to our own hearts.

Yes, we’re sent out; yes, we’re sent on; but we’re also sent within:

​‘Go on your way’, Jesus said. ‘See, I am sending

​you like lambs into the midst of wolves.’

Perhaps it’s those fears within – of loneliness, of pain, of loss – perhaps it’s these fears that lead us to carry so much?

We carry so much as a church too!

It’s been suggested that there are three threads that are woven together to make up the life of the church – the institutional, the theological and the mystical.

The institutional thread is about buildings and finance, PCCs and committees. We talk about ‘supporting the church’, we try and encourage others to ‘come to church’, we think of the church as a ‘good thing’ which has a place in society and we’re glad to be part of it.

There are though two other threads that are woven together to make up the life of the church, the theological and the mystical, each more important than the institutional.

The theological thread is about trying to find the words to make sense of the Christian faith. Study courses and sermons, house groups and books are all about this and it’s important – trying to work out what our faith means.

However von Hugel who suggested this understanding of the church believed that of the three it’s the mystical thread running through the life of the church that’s the mostfundamental.

It’s the hidden bond of love between ourselves and our Lord. It’s our search for God and God’s will for us. It’s the spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts and lived with others.

And for this we need no purse, no bag, no sandals!

Because what was it that persuaded Bernard to throw in his lot with Francis?

Was it the many little churches that Francis repaired with his own hands in and around Assisi?

Was it the answers that Francis gave to all the questions Bernard put to him over supper?

Or was it watching Francis all night in prayer, saying thosewords over and over again:

​‘My God and my All.’

Maybe we do need to be missionaries to our own hearts!