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Mark 11:20-25

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

 

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” 

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I am sure you all remember Marsha and Sergei, out two friends from Ukraine, who worked with us on a wonderful service a few weeks ago. Talking of the enormity of the task that faces them in Ukraine, to defeat a monstrous government that is engaged in an unprovoked attack on the civilian population, I was a little taken back at Marsha's word's to me; 'Only God can do it,' she said. I felt a real sadness at this. Only God? What about us? What can we do? It is a shameful thought for a vicar to have, I know. It is bad faith. He can do it:

 

 God himself can move the mountain.

Here is a little chunk out of Mark 11. I find it easy to grab little phrases and use them, because then I do not have to include the sections that cast a light on my own failures and weaknesses. Even this one is problematic because the last verse tells me to forgive, which is quite frankly something that I do not want to do. The idea of forgiveness offends my sensibilities, and strips me of my place on the moral high ground. If we take Jesus on the cross, there was no amount of violence imposed on him that was exempt from his his prayer ‘Father forgive them, because they don’t understand what they are doing.’(Luke 23:34). We are blinded to our our own weakness, or as a woman said to me recently; ‘I pile on the face makeup every morning, and if I look in the mirror enough, then I will start to believe it.’

 

I believe, though I cannot validate it that, Paul Tillich once said that when we look at God, sometimes it is like looking down a deep, dark well, and ultimately we see our own reflection pointing back up at us. He definitely did write on the subject of fundamentalism; “In this respect fundamentalism has demonic traits. It destroys the humble honesty of the search for truth, it splits the conscience of its thoughtful adherents, and it makes them fanatical because they are forced to suppress elements of truth of which they are dimly aware” We create God in our own image, and then ourselves in the image of that God we created, but actually God calls us to the humility of going to him, stripped of our own truths, and being prepared to be changed, transformed, renewed, forgiven and empowered by his word.

 

We lack the voice of prophets in the modern church because of the walls of pre-conceived dogma around us. Our truths have become literally sacred cows, and not even revisiting and rereading the Bible will allow us to be changed.

 

So Jesus, prior to this reading today, has approached Jerusalem almost on the eve of his arrest, and sees before him a solid mountain with a city perched on the top of it; This is Jerusalem, the immovable symbolic representation of the religion of ancient Israel. The issue in those ancient times was that this religion had forgotten its own dependency on God. It had forgotten that like Pontius Pilate it has no power to do anything that has not been given by God himself(John 19:11).  It had forgotten its source of truth and life, it has forgotten its call to humility before our Great God, it has forgotten that in the deeply troubled and complicated universe that we inhabit, it is the God of love that writes his laws in the sand; they are his laws, that move in and out of the shoreline on the tide of compassion. We cannot judge because our truth is flawed, our knowledge is imperfect, but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away (1 corinthians 13:10). 

 

Vivid, memorable dreams is something that we all have. I also have a love of mountains, and particularly the mountains of Snowdonia where I spent a lot of my childhood. Equally I am a person of bad faith. By bad faith, I mean that quite often I will try and do things in my own strength. Generally what I achieve from that is exhaustion and failure. I was at our Ukraine coffee morning during the week and I spoke to lovely person who is hosting somebody from Ukraine who worships at Grace Church. She said to me that we have a great God who can carry our burdens. We should try and carry them ourselves. I think I was quite defensive when she said this, because actually, I am too proud to accept that I should rely on him.

 

That night I had my dream about a mountain. It was my favourite mountain, a mountain called Tryfan, which is actually the first wow that you encounter as you drive down the Ogwen Valley towards Anglesey in the awesome Snowdonia  National Park in North Wales. It is 600 metres. In my dream I was trying to see the whole of the mountain so that I could take a picture, but the top was covered in clouds, and everywhere I stood, and every angle I tried, I could not see the whole picture. 

 

As Jesus looked out towards Jerusalem, and his disciples were overfeed by the immense task that lay ahead of them, it was his humility that understood that God alone could move that mountain, and nobody could solve this problem in human strength alone.

 

What was the answer then? He put it in a way that was plain and simple for the disciples and also for us; If we want the great mountain to move, and believe that God alone can do it, then he will do it. We simply need to trust in his strength, his power, and his love.

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