Homily offered at the first service in the church building after lockdown on Sunday 12 July 2020 at 4.00pm. Only those members unable to join in morning zoomed worship had been invited. We followed Common Worship Evening Prayer
‘As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it’ In the weeks and months leading up to his entry into Jerusalem the gap between him and the Jewish authorities has continued to widen. There’s a gap too, in the understanding of the ordinary people about what the Messiah will be like, what he will do. There is also a gap in their misreading of the signs of the times. A gap. Jesus notes all this, and he continues his journey into Jerusalem.
I was in London for the first time during the week, and using the tube where I saw again the slogan ‘Mind the gap’. I was reminded of those words as I prepared for this afternoon.
Our present context is a kind of gap – a gap between full lockdown and whatever lies ahead as we emerge. We are living in a gap. Gaps can be draughty and cold. I’d like to consider what living in this gap might mean for us as a church, and to do that I’m going to tell a story. It might be a familiar one. If so, I hope you might enjoy hearing it again.
In concerns Jesus’ birth. As you know Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable – a cold and draughty place if ever there was one. We read in the bible that shepherds came to see the new baby. What we don’t read is that some of the animals also came, and as with any new baby they wanted to bring a gift. The cow set off saying that she would take some of her milk – just right, she said. The sheep said he would take some wool – good for keeping the child warm. The hen said she would take eggs – good nourishment for the tired mother and Joseph, and the mouse…well, the mouse didn’t know what she could take, but she so wanted to see the baby, so she followed behind the others, hoping inspiration would come. They reached the stable, with each animal entering to offer their gift, and the tiny mouse struggling to see what was happening. She went round the outside to see if there was any way she might get a better view, and then she noticed a small hole a little way up the outside wall. Scrambling up she squeezed into the hole and found herself almost on a level with the baby in the manger. Quivering with delight she steadied herself and kept as still as possible while she gazed at the child. Mary and Joseph were thanking the animals for their gifts. Then Mary turned round, as though noticing something, she looked up, straight at the mouse, and smiled. Thank you, she said. There was a cold draught coming through that hole, but you have stopped it. You’re a real gift’.
Now, I want to suggest that in this strange sort of gap time in which we are living, we, our church can be rather like that mouse. We can remain steady in the gap. We don’t have to do anything spectacular, but we do need to do what we are called to do as followers of Christ – stand firm, be who we are, continue in prayer, in looking out for our neighbours, being fully present to them and to each other, being kind in whatever way we can. That way we can block some of those cold draughts that keep sweeping over people.
Like Jesus, we might weep over our city, over the gap. And, like Jesus, we keep steady. We stand firm. We aren’t deflected from our path. Like Jesus, like the mouse, we keep our eyes on the goal and we keep offering ourselves, right now, just as we are.