We have just sung our advent hymn – three verses for the third Sunday in Advent. You probably noticed, and possibly puzzled over the fact we sang these three verses last week as well. That was because last week James in his sermon touched on the theme of John the Baptist, so we thought it relevant to include the verse that celebrates his ministry.
John the Baptiser – he is a key figure in the Gospel – preaching “Prepare the Way”
A strange character – dressed eccentrically in camel’s hair, a diet – obscure and challenging to even the most fervent dietician, and a message to challenge all levels of society – from local workers – to the religious leaders, the politicians right up, or some might say down to, the scandalous immorality of the court of Herod, the King. A fierce man – Not a man who minced his words.
Repent, repent and repent, turn back from your sin and rebellion – that is his message – get ready, for God is coming – He is about to do something radical, amazing and life changing, world changing – revolutionary.
John was the bridge for the Jews – he lived and acted and spoke like an old testament prophet – he was likened to Elijah – but he was there to herald the arrival of a new way – a new way of God speaking to his people, a new way of God relating to his creation, a new way of God forgiving his people.
John links all the history of the Hebrews – from Abraham through to Jesus – and proclaims – Now is the time – the Messiah is come – and I am not worthy to untie his sandals.
Prepare yourselves, for the Saviour of the world is coming. Prepare yourselves, for the Saviour of the world is coming…
And how does He come – in the most unthreatening form possible – a baby in a cot of hay. You could pick Him up and hold him, you could dandle him on your Knee, you could make funny faces to him – a baby.
A baby – a vulnerable child in a strange country, born to a young mother far from home with her new husband.
That is our God. A baby – open, unthreatening, vulnerable – Waiting for us to accept him this Christmas – waiting for us to take him in our arms and love Him. –
Good morning, David asked the congregation a while back if anyone would be willing to make a Sunday address. Eager to give a little back after receiving so much from the church I agreed. This was about 5 weeks ago.
We have my Mother in Law… Cheryl Howlett in the pews today all the way from Kiama, Australia. Courtney & I have been counting down the days to her arrival. But somehow I overlooked the fact that she would be here during my address today so I’ve got a little extra encouragement /
pressure to do a good job today.
Today I want to talk about my journey to faith. Now the bible is a pretty big book, the writing is so small and there are so many pages to choose from plus everyone here knows so much more about it than I do, so
I thought it probably best to just talk about what I know.
I spent 12 years living in London prior to coming up to Argyll… My senses to the natural world were dulled & censored.
In a metropolis like London the natural world is all but hidden
Where there is…
· Sunrise and sunset – Office walls and packed tubes
· Seasonal weather on the skin – Consistent temperatures from Air conditioning
· Where you guys saw the night skys with stars and scale of the heavens above – Light pollution and planes thundering overhead
· Horizons are hidden by Skyscrapers and blocks of flats
· Where you look down to see plants growing – filthy concrete pavements
· Cooking with seasonal ingredients locally grown & foraged – I ate premade food out of packets – No understanding of seasonal growth in nature
· Where you saw the changing seasons in nature – I saw changing seasons in TV & Advertising – Manmade constructs, always with something better to have or to do
Nothing is natural in London. This leads to a perpetual state of censorship of the natural world & general feeling of inadequacy & lack of purpose.
I had to get out.
So Courtney & I moved up to Crinan where I had spent my childhood holidays, settled in and got a wee dog called Ralph.
We walked through the surrounding hills daily and my senses began to realign with the natural world the passing seasons. I watched the colours of the trees on the horizon behind Crinan basin change out of my studio window. I began to feel more connected, calm and with purpose in
I could see that everything in nature worked beautifully as intended.
There was vastly superior intelligence in it’s design in comparison to urban environments, something way beyond mans capabilities.
It was so compelling for me that I saw evidence of a higher power. Evidence of a creator / Evidence of a god
It was late October 2017, I was chatting with Courtney about this new found wonder in the natural world around us. I’m not sure who came up with the idea – but with a basic understanding of Christianity we discussed giving this Church thing a go.
After all it’s the Christians who talk about a God who is a Creator.
We are taught in Genesis Chapter 1 many great truths but the one that stuck with me is that we are made in God’s image.
_Verse 27 “__So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”_
_ _So he made us creators too…
He gave us the ingredients on earth to go forth and create.
We are all creators. I’d say that we’ve done a mixed job there…
some awful, some brilliant.
We create through necessity and through love. Paid and unpaid.I was paid for 11 years working as an Interior concept designer –
Mainly on cruise ships. Huge scale projects lasting for 3-4 years, 150,000 tonnes, over 300 m long. Macro to the micro details, floating cities being created.
I felt a bit like a god at the time, but unlike God, I made mistakes.
I remember towards the beginning of my career I was asked to design a kids water park on the open deck of a cruise ship. The centre feature was going to be a giant 2.5 meter high glass fibre cartoon frog who squirted water from its mouth.
I duly did the drawings using a computer but made an oversight on the units of measurement. Thinking I was using metric cm, I sent the drawings off to be made in Germany mistakenly using imperial inches. The Metric loving Germans converted the inches back to cm resulting in a phone call upon delivery from the onsite project manager that a colossal 7meter high, glass fibre frog had arrived at the ship yard on the back of an articulated lorry. This was a 7 meter high mistake far to big for installation on deck.
But I was forgiven – the giant Frog found a home in a local primary school in Pappenburg. And I didn’t get fired.
Knowing God doesn’t make mistakes, he also doesn’t cut corners.
We’ve just moved into a new house – I’ve grown mindful of how I shouldn’t cut corners either.
I’m building a new studio to do my work in. With a friend, we have built my dream desk. It’s 16 feet long and has two working heights.
The framework is made beautifully out of timber and I’ve started to paint it.
I had to ask myself the question… do I paint the parts underneath that will never be seen? Do I cut a corner? What would god do?
You’ll be pleased to know that its all been painted underneath.
I’ve learnt that God calls on us to become our best selves, to make the best with what he has given us.
Even if we make mistakes or cut corners we are told that he still loves us.
Our value doesn’t come from our achievements or possessions.
Our value is given to us from above.
For the past few years I’ve made my living as an artist.
I was keen to bring some of my new found faith into my work.
I recently opened a show in London called Psalms.
London is full of false idols and I wanted my viewers to consider what it is they worship and why?
I’ve always found branded condiments – Ketchup / Marmite / HP sauce etc an interesting metaphor for bettering ones lot, their application to a dish is an element of creation in itself whether appropriate or not.
My show – Psalms, calls into question our misguided love, loyalty and worship of brands. I always have a text element within my works, so I took ten Psalms from the bible and replaced any references to God with ten different branded condiments.
Blasphemy you may say? But within our secular society I wanted to illustrate a point and I don’t think God would mind me using words from his book to ask us to question our values.
So here is Psalm 63 Ketchup –
_You, Heinz, are my love._
Earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you.
My whole being longs for you
on a dry and parched butty
where there is no ketchup.
_I have seen you in the pantry_
and beheld your flavour and consistency.
Because your taste is better than own brands,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I eat,
and in your name I will lift up my bottle.
I will be fully satisfied as you are the richest of sauces;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
_On my chip I will remember you;_
I think of you through the cravings of the night.
Because you are my only condiment,
I liberally apply you.
_Shook well before use,_
your non-Newtonian fluid flows.
_Those who choose own brand tomato sauce will be disappointed;_
they will go deep to the depths of the condiments aisle.
They will be given over to the flavourless,
and become food for jackals.
_But the discerning will rejoice in Heinz tomato ketchup;_
all who swear by Heinz will glory in it,
while the mouths of others will be salivating.
It reads as ridiculous, that’s why we laugh
There is only one place we will find the value and fulfilment we seek.
It’s not in a Condiments Jar, it’s not in a job, its not in a new
car or home. It’s not even in successfully delivering your first address in front of your mother in law.
Its knowing that we are created perfectly by god, that he has given us all that we need and that we are loved by him despite our mistakes and failings.
So I propose Having faith in him and love for him, is where we will find the true fulfilment and love we need in our lives.