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Sunday, 17 June 2012
The Gospel of Avril Grube
Avril Grube claimed that in 1982, when her son Gavin Paros was aged three, his father took him to Hungary for what should have been a weekend away. Her marriage had broken down and, after her son failed to return, she contacted the authorities and made repeated attempts to locate Gavin.
But her younger sister, Beryl Wilson, never gave up hope and continued to search for him. One day she searched for his name on Google and discovered his Facebook page on which he had written his mother's name. It transpired that he had been using the website to try and find his English family following the death of his father. He only replied to his aunt's Facebook message several weeks after she posted it, explaining he rarely checked the website.
This led to eleation for the family and eventually a reunion of mother and son. Avril Grube’s sister later said said, "It was the happiest day of her life when she met her son. She said there were no words to describe it...”
I can only begin to imagine the sheer, overwhelming, life-affirming joy of that mother and son. All of us know how precious relationships are whether friendships or blood ties as they get stretched by work or lack of it, time and distance, the pressure of modern living. People move around much more than they ever used to - it is quite unusual to find parents, grandparents, and other close family living in the same locality. Yet only a couple of generations ago, it was the norm. On the other hand, through media and the internet, we know more about what is happening every second of every day in the once unknown other side of the world. We have never been more close as global citizens, aware of each other’s activity, and yet we have never been further emotionally removed from each other, and craving understand of who we are, where we come from and what makes us the people we are.
This longing for rootedness, for identity, for self-discovery, feels like a very modern predicament in our all too fractured world. Yet St Augustine understood our longing to find our place in the world and within God’s grand scheme of things when he famously said, ‘...Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you...’ The ‘you’ to which he refers is of course God, and today - Trinity Sunday - reminds us the answers to our individual quests for meaning, lie in the duet sung between God and humanity.
At the heart of what we celebrate this Trinity Sunday is the idea that it is love that defines us and makes us what and who we are. Without the questing love of a mother, Avril Grube and Gavin Paros would not have been reunited as mother and son. WIthout the careful shaping love and encouragement of my parents and wider family I would not be the man I am today. Nicodemus recognised the love of God at work in Jesus and came to discover more for himself.
You cannot fully know the love of God, Jesus says to Nicodemus, without being born again, for experiencing God for yourself is like starting life all over again and being born anew. If you want to know your place with God, in life and in God’s presence and plan - in his kingdom, then this must be.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a religious teacher of his day, a learned man, splutters ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus seems caught up on the biology of the image Jesus uses and on the idea that this is something that you might voluntarily choose. And yet the starting again in response to God’s love, that Jesus refers to, is as involuntary as the birth of a baby - we do not choose to be loved by God - he just loves us - unendingly, unconditionally, undeservedly, unreservedly.
At the heart of our world’s fractured relationships is a longing to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted for who we are, and to know that that is ok. At the heart of what we hear with Nicodemus today is that God loves in a sweeping, expansive way, He loves all things and all people - He always has and always will - but that sweeping and expansive love comes personally and intimately to me - and that love will transform my life so that I may be born of he spirit, be born anew and to find myself rooted, a life with an identity and purpose, as St Paul reminds us this morning, as a child of God himself, a brother or sister of Jesus, with God as our Abba, our daddy.
This weekend we have the privilege of celebrating the 60 year reign of Her Majesty Queen ELizabeth II. She has been an enduring presence on the national and international stage throughout my life and many if not all of yours. Her’s it the first Diamond Jubilee since Queen Victoria’s and the celebrations of it will probably live in collective memories of years to come.
In her Christmas message of 2000 she told us: For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example. It’s clear, that over the years it has been faith in God that sustains and resources her. It is the example of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to be serve, which underpins the Queen’s continued commitment to the people of this country and the Commonwealth.
Recently, Archbishop Rowan said of the Queen: “has a profound sense of vocation, not simply stepping into a role exercising function but actually becoming a certain kind of person, which is what vocation is about”. A hallmark of the the Queen’s reign has been about her loving service to country and commonwealth alike, part a sense of duty, but also in a sense her vocation as Monarch and as a Christian rises out of a response to the love God has for her.
The love of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit that we recall this Trinity Sunday is not some sort of test tube love - tried out on Christians first to see if the formula is right and at the correct transforming strength. God’s love is a spontaneous reaction - not a planned campaign. God cannot help himself. It is a love that is utterly transforming, that births us anew by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is a love that defines us, that makes us the people that we and our Father long for us to be - not the glossy media bodies - although I could do with one of those please! - but the sort of people that they long to be in the revealing exclusives - at peace, forgiven, free from guilt and knowing that we are loved. Amen