No way out…
… except by God
Holy Trinity Church Huddersfield, Sunday 11th August 2019
Another joint service at 10am for both the 9am and 10.45 congregations during the summer holiday period. This time it was simply led from the piano. Vicar Mike was back to lead the service, a quick stopover between being at New Wine and going on holiday with his family.
I managed to stay awake for the whole service. Not that I have a habit of falling asleep during the service, not at all, but on both Thursday and Saturday nights I was kept awake with arthritic pain. Oh, the fun of chronic pain.
We started with the baptism of Flynn, the one-year-old son of a family that worships here. Then a testimony from Ben, another regular, thanking us for the prayers for when he was near death in a Spanish hospital three months ago.
The sermon on the second chapter of Jonah was still by one of the retired clergy that worships here. It concerned what God is saying to us today. But first had some background. In the previous Sermon last week we were told of how Jonah had tried to run from God and had ended up being swallowed by a large fish. This week’s reading started with Jonah inside the fish and ends with God telling the fish to spew Jonah out on the shore.
Jonah called out to God in his worst moment. He looked back at God’s answers to him, and then he prays as if God had already answered. Remembering better times often brings us round.
When everything is against us and God seemed a million miles away, when we feel we can’t talk to God others can. Jonah felt trapped inside the fish with no way to break out. We can get into situations where we cannot break out, but God can break in. Jonah sees things from God’s perspective.
Worshipping vain idols such as wealth can take people away from God. Worship ifs fundamental in people, if we don’t worship God it corrupts and people choose other things. What God is saying is that whatever mess we get into, he never, never, ever walks out on us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. God offered Jonah a second chance and restoration.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus gave Peter a second chance. Only days after Peter had denied knowing Jesus, he was offered restoration and a second chance. “Follow me.” These are the same words that Jesus first said to him. Jesus also had a job for Peter, “Feed my lambs.”
The sermon concluded with the preacher confessing that 18 years ago he had messed up and crashed out of ministry. But God offered him a second chance. He remembered singing How deep the Father’s love for us.
Whatever mess you are in God gives a second chance. As the old hymn says, you too can be ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.
Unusually for our church, the sermon was received with a round of applause.