100 days – Day 33: Sermon preached at Dumfries Northwest Church on Sunday, 25 May 2014
100 days – Day 33
this is an EXTENDED version of a sermon preached today – it is, if you like, “the Director’s Cut”
I’m very fond of watching films – old and new – comedy and drama – adventure and whodunnits.
I’ve got a handful of blurays and DVDs in my sitting room – as Neil will testify!
Plus Sky Movie channels and Netflix on computer.
However, I don’t like romances…… although this one scene from a classic movie is truly memorable.
This is one of the greatest movies ever and an enduring classic – it’s not a romance, but this scene is romantic in a bitter-sweet way
Casablanca – at the airport Rick and Isla part…….
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
[Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry]
Rick: Now, now…
[Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet]
Rick: Here’s looking at you kid.
“As time goes by”
It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while. Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.
I used to live and work in Trinidad as a Church of Scotland minister to the four kirks on the Island.
Sometimes, my work – or leave, of course – would see me at Piarco International Airport, catching a plane to North America, or the UK, or the Island of Grenada, where I did a couple of stints as a locum.
Many times, there would be little groups of tearful Trini’s, bidding farewell to a family member or close friend, as they walked toward the departure gate to catch their flight to Toronto or New York or London – where, in all of these cities, there are large communities of ex-pat West Indians.
Sometimes, I’d overhear this – and it was said to me too, when I returned to Scotland on leave:
“Travelling mercies be upon you!”
What a beautiful thing to say, to wish for, to pray for!
And the reunions at that same airport when a loved one returned. What welcomes! what joy that the journey had been completed safely, and the loved one was back in the bosom of his or her family.
……In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.
Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died. I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”
‘parting is such sweet sorrow’
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are forbidden to be together
Though they are sad they must leave, they look forward to the time they will be together once more, and therefore the parting contains both sorrow, and the promise of something sweet and beautiful.
My words to my dying wife again, “I’ll see you again soon enough – somewhere, some time…..”
There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..
- We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.
Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land. He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.
He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’
He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.
- Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man. What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been.
Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed. But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.
In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there. He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.
Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..
- Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David.
Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends. But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart. They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.
Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:
‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’
They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.
- There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus
The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.
He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends. Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.
How these Christians really did care for one another.
And, then there is Jesus addressing his disciples. Today’s Gospel picks up immediately from where we finished last week, when looking at the first fourteen verses of the 14th chapter of the Fourth Gospel.
READING: John 14 verses 15 to 21
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
This must have been terrible for the disciples.
He’s telling them that he’s leaving them.
Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes. What a blow that should have been.
Here is Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.
But when they do part – on Ascension Day (which is celebrated this Thursday) – we discover that the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ ‘Filled with great joy’
Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.
He didn’t leave them bereft, nor orphans, nor alone and cast adrift. He had promised them an “advocate” a “comforter” (and that word literally means someone or something that strengthens us – we get “fortify” from the same Latin root)
He would be with them, in spirit, always. And not just with them, but with us too.
I started with a film quote; here’s another…… this time from “Spiderman 2” which I saw last week.
It’s the valedictory speech at High School given by Gwen Stacy, the classmate and former girlfriend of Peter Parker (Spiderman’s everyday persona):
“It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us too, and they’ll be days where you feel all alone, and that’s when hope is needed most, no matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope. Keep it alive, we have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you, is to become hope, people need that, and even if we fail, what better way is there to live. As we look around here today, and all the people who helped make us who we are, I know it feels like we’re saying goodbye, but we will carry a piece of each other, into everything we do next, to remind us of who we are, And who we are meant to be.
And this –
Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie about a frustrated composer in Portland, Oregon, who takes a job as a high school band teacher in the 1960s.
Although diverted from his lifelong goal of achieving critical fame as a classical musician, Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) believes his school job is only temporary.
At first he maintains his determination to write an opus or a concerto by composing at his piano after putting in a full day with his students.
But, as family demands increase (including discovery that his infant son is deaf) and the pressures of his job multiply, Mr. Holland recognizes that his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy is merely a dream.
At the end of the movie we find an aged Mr. Holland fighting in vain to keep his job.
The board has decided to reduce the operating budget by cutting the music and drama programme.
No longer a reluctant band teacher, Mr. Holland believes in what he does and passionately defends the role of the arts in public education.
What began as a career detour became a 35-year mission, pouring his heart into the lives of young people.
Mr. Holland returns to his classroom to retrieve his belongings a few days after school has let out for summer vacation. He has taught his final class.
With regret and sorrow, he fills a box with artifacts that represent the tools of his trade and memories of many meaningful classes. His wife and son arrive to give him a hand.
As they leave the room and walk down the hall, Mr. Holland hears some noise in the auditorium.
Because school is out, he opens the door to see what the commotion is.
To his amazement he sees a capacity audience of former students and teaching colleagues and a banner that reads “Goodbye, Mr. Holland.”
Those in attendance greet Mr. Holland with a standing ovation while a band (consisting of past and present members) plays songs they learned at his hand.
His wife, who was in on the surprise reception, approaches the podium and makes small talk until the master of ceremonies, the governor of Oregon, arrives.
The governor is none other than a student Mr. Holland helped to believe in herself his first year of teaching.
As she addresses the room of well-wishers, she speaks for the hundreds who fill the auditorium:
“Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my life (on a lot of lives, I know), and yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his life misspent.
Rumour had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous and rich (probably both).
But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous. At least not outside our little town.
So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure, but he’d be wrong.
Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame.”
Looking at her former teacher the governor gestures with a sweeping hand and continues, “Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus.
And we are the music of your life.”
Life is about the impressions that we make, like finger prints we leave everywhere.
Jesus left finger prints on the lives of people he met and laboured with,
Never underestimate that people will forget what you say and often forget what you may do for them but they will never forget the way you made them feel!
So leave good impressions like fingerprints of the hearts of people you meet
A couple of weeks or so ago , a remarkable young man died – and what a legacy of hope and inspiration he has left us.
Stephen Sutton, raised more than £3.5m for charity after news of his illness spread on social media.
Stephen was diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 15.
Rather than dwell on his misfortune, the teenager drew up a “bucket list” of things he wanted to achieve before he died.
This led to him completing a skydive and playing drums in front of 90,000 people before the Uefa Champions League final at Wembley last May, among various achievements
Someone wrote this about this extraordinary young man:
“In his last few weeks, Stephen Sutton aged only 19,was unable to process the outpouring of emotion and compassion that he had triggered. He did not want to die, but his thirst for life did not manifest itself in gloomy or depressing ways.
“Cancer sucks, but life is great,” was his motto.
Announcing Stephen’s death, his mother wrote that “her heart is bursting with pride but breaking with pain for my courageous, selfless, inspirational son”, and that the “ongoing support and outpouring of love for Stephen will help greatly at this difficult time, in the same way as it helped Stephen throughout his journey”.
Her pride undoubtedly has much to do with the fact that cancer never defeated Sutton, even though it took his life. He will not just be remembered for his fundraising or his refusal to be defined by his cancer.
He inspired people to embrace life, regardless of the obstacles, to be full of compassion, and to look after each other. That is quite a legacy”
We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.
Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.
Tags: "As Time Goes By", "journeying mercies", 100 days, Amazing Spiderman 2, Ascension, Casablanca, Dumfries Northwest, Goodbyes, Gwen Stacy, Jacob, Jesus, John 14 verses 15 to 21, Jonathan and David, Moses, Mr. Holland’s Opus, parting, Piarco International Airport, Romeo and Juliet, sermon, Spiderman, St Paul, Stephen Sutton, Trinidad
About meenisterAn ordained Church of Scotland Minister since 1974. Started off in Doune which is near Stirling, before moving to Trinidad for four years; on my return to Scotland, I was a rural minister in Perthshire and then was asked to become Minister at St.Michael's Inveresk where I spent eleven happy years. A short ministry in Guernsey followed and since 1999, I was a full time healthcare Chaplain in the town of Dumfries in SW Scotland, retiring from that post in December 2012. I started this blog on 6 May 2012, soon after my wife, Helen, was diagnosed with secondary cancer - it was a sort of diversion and still is, following her death on 16 June. I hope it shows that there is a lighter side to religion, that it's not gloom and doom and that we can sometimes laugh at ourselves in a self-effacing way. Some posts are, however, I hope provoking and food for thought.
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