Sermon for Lent 2
To continue on our Lenten theme, here is another story about questions.
Many years ago there was an old woman who would sit each day at the crossroads
just outside the village where she lived
she watched the world go by and often engaged passers-by in conversation.
Late one afternoon a traveller came by, weary after a long days walk.
He stopped, exchanged pleasantries with the old woman
and then asked about the village: “What sort of village is this?” he asked,
“What are the people like? Are people friendly? Are strangers made welcome here?”
Ignoring his questions the old woman asked her own:
“Tell me about your village. What are people like where you come from?
Are people friendly there? Are strangers made welcome?”
“Don’t get me going on that one!” the traveller answered.
“Where I come from people are not very friendly or welcoming at all;
they are rude and stand offish, I personally don’t like them and tend to avoid them.”
“O dear” said the old woman sympathetically, “What a shame, I have bad news I’m afraid.
Sadly you will find people much the same in this village.”
“Here as well?” said the traveller,
“in that case, I think I will look elsewhere for lodging.”
He took another path and walked towards the next village.
Not long after, a second stranger came walking along the road.
He too stopped and chatted with the old woman,
and like the first traveller, he was looking for a place to stay.
“What sort of village is this?” he asked, “What are people like here?
“Are they friendly? Are strangers made welcome?”
Again the woman ignored his question and asked her own:
“Tell me about where you come from? Are people friendly there?
Are strangers made welcome?”
“I love my village” the stranger said with a smile.
“Yes, people on a whole are welcoming; they might be a bit reserved and shy at first,but once you get to know them they are a friendly crowd.”
“It sounds just like the people in this village” said the old woman,
“you should feel at home here.”
The woman at the crossroads knew there was not much point in describing her village,because the travellers would only see it through the eyes they brought with them.People tend to reflect on to others the traits that they carry inside.
If there is someone we find particularly difficult and annoying,
the chances are that we carry some of the traits that we find difficult in them.
We need to be aware of our human frailties and weaknesses,
because we regularly, without realising it, transfer them onto other people.
If for example we are a bit of a control freak – which I have to admit that I am – then we are more likely to have a problem with other people who like to be in control. Partly because they unconsciously remind us of our own frailties,
and partly because if we can see them as worse than us we can more easily justify the weakness in ourselves!
If we have a tendency to shoot from the lip and speak without thinking, we will be mortified if other people do that to us! That is no way to speak to anybody!
If we are one for bearing grudges against people who have wronged us, we may find that we have little sympathy with others who just can’t let things go.
We need to be willing to look within and face up to our darker traits,
and then we can begin to understand why certain people get under our skin.
It is not so much because of who they are, but who we are.
But it is not who we truly are, it is a false self we have acquired over the years. Our true self, underneath all the outer protection and packaging we have built up,is a reflection of the wonder and glory and beauty of God.
To begin to work through the outer layer that finds faults with others
we need to be willing to spend some time getting to know this true eternal self.
The Buddhist call it “our original face”.
It is not easy.
First of all we have to believe this deeper me is who I truly am.
And secondly we have to wake up and see it and experience it.
How do we go about doing that?
Spending time considering the questions that old woman in the story asked
is a good way to begin.
What are the people we live with like? The people we worship with?
The people we work with? The people we have daily contact with?
Are they friendly? Are they kind? Are they patient? Are they easy to get on with?
What we find in them we will probably find in ourselves.
The people we meet tend to mirror our own gifts and shortcomings,
our own strengths and vulnerabilities –
they reflect what God can help us work on.
Instead of criticising or judging what we find difficult in others,
let us use it as an opportunity to polish our own inner mirrors
and allow God’s transforming grace to help us grow into who we truly are.