Sermon by Canon Adrian Ling CMP 11 July 2021
Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-10; Mark 6: 7-13
Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.
The poem ‘Us two’ by AA Milne, celebrates the companionship of a young boy Christopher Robin and his bear Winnie the Pooh, and the confidence this constant presence gives to him to have adventures together.
When Jesus sends out the apostles, he sends them out in pairs. In St Matthew’s gospel, these apostles are listed in pairs, perhaps reflecting how they were sent out: Peter and Andrew, James and John, etc. In the Acts of the Apostles we find Peter and John going out together preaching the risen Lord, and later Paul and Barnabas embarking on missionary journeys together. Nowadays Mormon missionaries are a familiar sight on the street in pairs, being sent out for two years with someone they do not know to a country they have not chosen.
In contrast, the prophet, like Amos, called by the Lord from tending his flock and his sycamore trees is a solitary figure, reflecting the difficult and disturbing aspect of his work, though prophets too would band together in brotherhoods.
If ever I was invited to christening parties, wedding receptions and funeral wakes, (when we had such things), I would always try to go if invited. Usually I went alone, only knowing the hosts and there might be some awkward moments as I hung around by myself. However if I was accompanied, it was much easier to talk to other people, it felt more natural and relaxed.
Being accompanied can indeed inspire confidence, especially in stressful situations. It can help you feel less vulnerable and exposed. In a difficult meeting, someone with you can back up and verify what was said. It can be good to have someone present with you if you are having a consultation with a doctor, to be another pair of ears and to ensure all necessary questions are answered.
"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.
"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."
We may have known the joy of close companionship over the years, of a close friend, a partner, husband or wife, the loss of whom can be a terrible wrench and dislocation; going out to socialise when everyone else seems to be in couples can be hard. Some of us may be satisfied with our own company, though we may have had more than enough of that lately. There is a danger for the single person to opt for the simpler option of managing by oneself, of not wanting to bother others. That may be all right for much of the time, but there will be times when we may need the presence of another and we should not be too shy or too proud to ask to be accompanied for whatever we may find difficult or challenging.
Our faith teaches us that we are never alone, we are always with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, as St Paul reminds us today, God “chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence”. And the experience of our faith should mirror that knowledge that we are indeed not alone, that there are people around us who care, and who will, if asked, be there with us whenever their physical presence is needed.
So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh.