After the Hurricane

Themes: Pentecost Acts

Annette James

Sermon Pentecost 20th May 2018

When the spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth lives to set us freeand everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Today we will be considering mental and physical health, locally and internationally

And what a week it has been, there has been plenty in the national and international news to keep us on our knees. Continued use of firearms in the US and a the death of many children at a Texas school; in England child mental health continues to dominate the headlines; the continuing saga and debate on just how can the UK can leave the European union safely, with the very best deal for economics and trade (I refuse to call it by a name that diminishes the task)… yesterday I watched the Royal wedding with my Mum. Most of you know that my mum is coming to the end of her life; my sister and my world sometimes feels as if it has shrunk to the walls of her home. However, she did enjoy watching two young people in the spotlight and it gave her a focus for yesterday.

We didn’t watch football on TV, but I did briefly pop up to the football tournament in Walton Hall Park held in memory of a very talented young footballer Zoe Tynan, Beth’s sister, who took her own life two years ago. The tournament was to raise awareness and to raise funds for a charity that is still helping Beth and her family. It would have been Zoe’s 20th birthday this weekend. Beth, as you see is not here, she is with her family as they remember Zoe on her special day.

As I mentioned earlier there has been a lot of publicity about young people’s mental well-being; my mum in her confused mental state remembered that prince Harry had spoken about his struggles after the death of his mother and how that impacted upon him. How alone he felt, how hard it was for him as a young boy to walk that long road behind his mother’s coffin. We have no script from Zoe as to her thoughts or feelings. However, this week Peter shared some words from a young man, part of our church family who we hold in our prayers, he shared some deep personal thoughts on a blog which tells of how he had had bouts of low mood and depression for some time, but he thought this was normal. He was on job seekers programme when his mental health deteriorated so that he suffered ‘hideous amounts of depression’. The programme staff seemed not recognise his need and denied his request for support. He describes how he felt lost and alone especially when it was made clear to him that if he continued to question the system, he could lose the little money he was allowed. He says he felt trapped…. those who were meant to help were making his situation worse. He continued to go to the programme sessions which were in a building close to the river, he began to feel drawn to the water in the dock.

I will just read a paragraph from his blog: I did not tell anyone about how I felt… each day my mood declined, I could not sleep, was constantly exhausted...

One day I did not avoid the docks after my appointment, I walked straight there…before I knew it I stood with my hand on the chain fence looking over the River. The tide was in and as I looked at the churning mass of murky grey-brown water I was visibly crying and no longer cared what people around me thought… it would not matter for much longer. I took a deep breath clenched a post that the chain was attached to. I raised my leg and prepared to get a good jump. I felt like this was the best way, no mess for my family to clean up, just let the current wash me away. This was it, in that moment I not only accepted the end but craved it. It was singular, the one thing I wanted in the world (or at least that was what it felt like). As if on cue my phone buzzed. It was the only thing that broke me from my apparent trance like state. I lowered my leg and wiped the tears from my eyes. It was a text from my girlfriend – nothing profound just, “Hey”. It was enough to break me from whatever drive compelled me forward to self-destruction.

That simple text to stopped Joe in his tracks. I am not sure if he shared his thoughts and feelings with his girlfriend or not, but her contact made him stop and think that someone else cared, that he was loved. At the Wedding of Harry and Megan this week Bishop Michael Curry reminded us, in a powerful sermon that “there is a power in Love…”. there is power in Love to reach out, to heal when nothing else can, Love is as strong as death.

Love has real power, power to change the world. Bishop Michael reminded us that Jesus actions were pure love, that Jesus gained nothing in human terms from his death. Jesus was not looking for an earthly reward, he was not given an honorary degree… Jesus love is alongside us, within us and without us, love poured out for everyone,

Our passage today reminds us that when the spirit of truth comes s/he will guide you into all set you freeand everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

On Wednesday we invited anyone who would listen to come to an evening of prayer. We set up three prayer stations, local, international, and using icons in prayer, you can visit these stations at any time. Our church warden Michael taught us mindfulness, Maggie helped us release our creativity as we drew or made collage to consider the phrase ‘Jesus saves’, but what are we saved from? The drawings and collage are in the coffee area. They are abstract, so draw from them what you will. It is a good question and made us think, what are we saved from? Everyone’s response will be specific to themselves.

Love has power to change the world. We are a world-wide church, this week is also Christian Aid week, I said there was a lot going on. Some of us will have been thinking of and praying for the people of Haiti.

It is Hurricane season again in Haiti....

How do you think they would they feel about this reading from Acts. It must be hard to hear if you have been subject to such a life changing wind, and not in a good way. This is exactly what happened to the disciples...our text read…”and suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where the they were sitting and divided tongues as of fire appeared among them and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the holy spirit…and Peter speaks.....drawing text from the Old Testament - men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem ..... in the last days I will pour out my spirit on all flesh …on all flesh – everyone, men and women, young and old slave and free… everyone in every nation…

People in Haiti must have thought they were in the last days as in 2010 Hurricane Matthew hit their island. Can you imagine fearing for your life every time the wind blows. This last week across the country the church has been thinking about, ‘thy Kingdom come’ campaign led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Christian aid week.

How can we share that story with young people who struggle with their emotional and mental health? And what does it mean for them?

Material produced for Christian Aid includes stories of individuals who are dependent upon aid to give them a new start in life. Some people still live under tarpaulins and metal sheets which will not withstand a hurricane. The Christian aid prayer diary tells the story of Vilia who lost her home and her mother when an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. She lived in a house built by Christian Aid. On the night that hurricane Matthew hit the island Vilia’s neighbours fled to her house, as it was the only one in the community strong enough to survive the storm. Vilia welcomed in her neighbours, sharing food and shelter as the storm raged. 54 people sheltered with Vilia that night.

After the hurricane in 2010 people had to start again, as crops and livestock were washed away. A partner organisation gave Vilia a water filter and seeds for beans, sweet potatoes, yams and plantain, helping her to rebuild her farm.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is someone in our congregation who has studied the culture and Art of Haiti and seen for herself the strength and resilience of its people.

So Wendy, thanks for agreeing to share your experience and knowledge with us...

Can you tell us why you went to Haiti?

What language do they speak? French and English

I know you had researched a bit about the history of the country, can you tell us what is special about Haiti?

The campaigns this week ‘thy kingdom come’ and ‘Christian Aid’, focus on stepping out in the power of the Holy Spirit, stepping out in Gods mission for the world’s poorest people.

What were your impressions of the county and the people and what did you learn?

There is a lot of information about the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew, and what the aid organisations are doing but not so much about how people are coping on a daily basis...

What did you find?

I am interested in the liberation theology movement which started in Latin America to address problems of poverty and social justice as well as spiritual matters ...... and the work of Paolo Freire - a Brazilian Educator - pedagogy of the oppressed

There is power in Love – For me Bishop Michael gave a memorable address at Harry and Megan’s wedding, I want to finish with a couple of extracts which I think are pertinent to mental health and poverty

Love is the way…

Where true love is found God himself is there,

If you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul just tell the love of Jesus which will save us all

Sacrificial redemptive love… just for a moment imagine a world where love is the way…