Sunday, July 13, 2008

Running from the past: Breakfast with Jesus I

An Easter sermon from John 21: part I
Introduction: Sweeping it under the carpet
From here, Britain is on the other side of the world, about as far from home as it's possible to go without joining NASA or using illegal substances. And up the very top of Britain is Scotland. Near the north-eastern corner of Scotland is the grey, cold city of Aberdeen (no points for this picture!).

If you go even further north from Aberdeen you’ll eventually come to a little town called Mintlaw. North of Mintlaw is the village of Strichen, where the accents are nearly incomprehensible and the food nearly inedible. A good drive outside Strichen is a byroad through the middle of nowhere. On a sidebranch of that byroad is a little house. And that is where my friend lives – about as far from Sydney as it is physically possible to get.*

Here we are in the local pub when we visited him two years ago. On the table is the food: deep-fried, plastered with pastry and washed down with Scottish ale. Also on the table is a map so that we wouldn’t get lost while driving from this obscure village to my friend's even more obscure house.

Although I love him, I’m not showing my friend’s face, because this man is on the run.

He hasn’t always lived in the backwaters of Scotland. For years he lived in Australia, and had a life and friends and a future all here. He proposed to a lovely local girl and she accepted and they were planning a wedding, a marriage, a life together. But sadly, it didn’t work out. Just weeks out from the big day, it was all called off. Having had a few friends go through this situation, I know something of how messy, painful, embarrassing, confusing and awful it can be.

And so, as far as I can tell, my friend ran away. He left his broken engagement, his confused friends and family, his once bright future here and went about as far as it’s possible to run into the obscurity of rural Scotland. He started a new life elsewhere and didn’t want to talk about his old life, the failed engagement or the girl who had once filled his life with promise and hope. The bitter disappointment was too much, and it’s easier sometimes to sweep it under the carpet, to move on.**

It's a common phenomenon. Although my friend's flight from his past was obvious and extreme, in more subtle ways I’ve done it myself over many things. Faced with a mess, with a mistake, with a hurt, it’s easier to cover it up, deny it happened, avoid the topic, avoid the person, avoid the whole situation, to walk away and start again elsewhere with a clean slate. Have you ever done this?
*Some details changed.
**At least, this was how his actions appeared to me. I could be wrong on this. He may have had other excellent reasons for the move. NB I preached this sermon before I knew I was going to Edinburgh myself. Unsurprisingly, a few parishioners have since asked me what I'm running from.
Series: I; II: III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX.