Jacob Stockdale’s great aunt belongs to Fitzroy. The day after he scored two stunning tries against Argentina and in many ways arrived on the world Rugby union scene as a superstar I suggested that I saw all of Betty’s power, speed and grace in both tries!
I also contrived to then use him as an example of Isaiah. When Jonny Sexton looked up and asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us to that try line?” Immediately Stockdale is on his shoulder, willing and ready to catch Sexton’s pass and steam towards the Argentinian goal line… “Here am I, send me!”
The story of Isaiah 6 is of a vision of God in the midst of a time of transition. In a world where the powerful force of Assyria is threatening, the vision of God’s might is in a holiness that gifts a grace interruption, freeing Isaiah from guilt and sin. Forgiven, redeemed and renewed Isaiah is enthusiastically up for anything and when God asks who he would send, Isaiah, is as fast as Stockdale, with his “Here am I send me.”
This is of course in a sermon series looking at what it is to live life in all its fulness and asking what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in 2017. Our identity is as those who are sent. Sending is a recurring theme in the Gospels - “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Janice and I attended the recent Scottish Baptist Assembly. I was the poet! Anyway, we heard some good key note addresses and went to a couple of good seminars. The theme of the conference was Messengers Of Hope and what struck us was the places that we were being encouraged to take the message. Rich Robinson had us playing bingo on a Sheffield housing estate and Juliette Kilpin had us worshipping in a Church full of Muslims in the Calais Refugee Camp.
I left the conference thinking that without doubt we got the message of the conference. My question was, had we what was needed to able to go to the places we were being sent to. I remembered a story Gordon MacDonald used in one of his popular books of the 80s. His son bought him a ferret that started eating the furniture. When they tried to get rid of it back to nature, they realised that it was too tame to survive in the wild. Just like the Church maybe?
At one of our Presbyterian Special Assemblies, a few year ago, David Bruce spoke about the bawn. You see it in a variety of Northern Ireland place names! It was where we Ulster Scot Presbyterians retreated for safety when we arrived from Scotland to colonise the land. David suggested that even now in the twenty first century we needed to get out of the bawn. We are still in siege mentality when God wants to send us.
This is one of the things Fr Martin Magill and I were thinking about when we started the 4 Corners Festival. We felt that the Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity was all very nice. Look we can read and pray together. We don’t hate each other. We wanted Jesus to not be trapped within Church walls but to be making a contribution to the peace and well being of the city on the streets as Jeremiah spoke about.
This all takes us out of our comfort zone. I am pretty convinced that we are socially special needs. I remember at the 4 Corners Festival homeless feast being out of my depth. What do I say? How do I connect? I feel the same in certain parts of our city. I feel like a tame ferret, stuck in my bawn for too long. And I don’t think I am alone!
It is time to go. To be vulnerable and courageous. I read this poem at the Scottish Baptist Assembly. For a Christmas PW (Presbyterian Women) event in Fitzroy, where the theme was “Being sent”, I wondered if there was any sending on the nativity story...
An angel was sent
To break to Mary the shocking news
To find out if she was up for the privilege
Mary was sent into a tail spin
That would need some cool prayerful courage
So she sent herself off to Elizabeth
A companion who understood and affirmed.
An angel was sent, again
To calm Joseph’s shock and anger
And turn his disappointment and confusion into complicity.
A choir of angels were sent
To sing the news of peace and good will
To shepherds who were sent
Scurrying with joyous abandon
Right into the holy of holies in straw and filth.
Oriental stargazers were sent in awe and wonder
On the trail of a sign of seismic shift
So, Herod sent for his religious scholars
To make theological sense of the conjecture
The King then sent his death squads
To kill the idea and the revolution being born.
An angel was sent, yet again
To Joseph in a dream to warn of a nightmare
Which sent Joseph, Mary and the baby off to Egypt as refugees
Because God so loved the world he sent
Himself to be present with us
To light our way in darkness
To overturn the tables of our greed
To give himself for our redemption
To bring God’s will to where he was sent
As it is where he was sent from.
As the Father sent the baby
We are sent.