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Sermon preached by Canon Andy Williams

Here it is (tumbler of water): the classic symbol that divides people into two. For those who can't see I'm holding up a glass of water which is? Half-full if you're an optimist or half-empty if you're a pessimist. For what it's worth I would describe myself as a pessimist saved by hope! Both the Cathedral and the Diocese of Bradford stand on the threshold of change. Tomorrow the General Synod will vote on the proposal to form a new diocese of West Yorkshire and next Sunday we will install our next Dean of Bradford. You will also be facing changes in your personal lives; it's inevitable – to live is to face change and much of it chosen for us not by us. How do we face change? Do we embrace it with hope or dread it with pessimism? Does change make us shrink back and put up our defences or open up new possibilities? The German theologian Jurgen Moltmann said this: 'Hope is lived, and it comes alive, when we go outside of ourselves and, in joy and pain take part in the lives of others.' St Paul agrees. Look again at his letter to the Galatians. 'Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.' Let us not grow weary in well doing. Once again, Paul shows that he understands human nature. Our goodwill is easily drained over time. We have done what is right; we have worked for the family of faith, i.e. the church. And what has happened? There can be a sense that the Church of England is in decline, clergy are over-stretched and fewer volunteers are running round keeping the show on the road. That's not the picture we get from a piece of recent research. The book, published this year, has the unexciting title 'Managing Clergy lives.' It's a deep analysis of the lives of 46 parish clergy today. It's a fascinating study. The general picture that emerges is that the clergy are fully stretched, yes, but fulfilled too. And those are linked. To be engaged with the challenges (and there are many) is to reap reward. What did Moltmann say? 'Hope is lived, and it comes alive, when we go outside of ourselves and, in joy and pain take part in the lives of others.' And St Paul? 'Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then...let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.' Last week eight new deacons were commissioned in this diocese, each with a story about how God has touched them and called them. Canon Sam will tell you that many continue to offer themselves for ordination. Yes, the church is changing, but maybe God is calling us to run things differently. (Though that's a debate to be had some other time).

It's not difficult to be gloomy about things in the climate we live in. There is no shortage of bad news. Today is the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London, reminding us of the terrorist threat which continues. We could list dozens of things... The British economy bumps along the bottom so meanwhile cuts are made in all areas of public life. Welfare reforms are hitting the poorest. In the past 10 years two billion more workers have come into the global market, most from China and India, so we wonder if Britain is in terminal decline. We are moving dangerously closer to the 2 degree rise in global temperature which scientists tell us could bring disaster. Arab countries are in turmoil and increasingly antagonistic to Israel and therefore America. At home, we have less faith in our politicians, bankers and public servants and don't know where to turn for good role models for our youngsters. And so on and so on. Constant exposure to this sort of bad news can erode our hope. Using St Paul's words, it can make us weary and give up. So this morning I want to encourage us not to be passive, not to absorb negativity and allow it to drain our hope. There are two things I believe we can do to prevent us from falling into the doom and gloom pit. Firstly, let me offer factual reasons for hope. If you like, reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2 , 3 and 4 more than Ian Drury!

Fact 1) The world powers are more at peace with each other now than they have been in previous centuries

Fact 2) Peace brings political stability and prosperity

Fact 3) World poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than in the past 500 years

Fact 4) We are getting healthier: every day we gain 5 hours of life expectancy. (So Sam should live to around 600 years)

Fact 5) In the past 10 years the number of graduates has risen 4 times for men and 7 times for women

Fact 6) There has never been a better opportunity for private individuals to do public good. 3 food banks are opening every week, many of them by churches. This time last year 70,000 volunteers were being trained for the London Olympics. 70,000 men and women giving their time freely and creating a great spirit of welcome and hospitality

Fact 7) For the first time in 77 years we are about to have a British men's Champion at Wimbledon. OK, so that's more hope than fact.

The world is not as doomed as it's sometimes portrayed to us.  Let's remember that the media wants to maintain public anxiety so we keep tuning in or buying papers.

So there are 7 reasons to be optimistic. But something greater is on offer to us. The spiritual writer Carlo Carretto, writing in 'The Desert in the city' said this: 'Optimism means faith in people, in the human potentiality; hope means faith in God and his omnipotence.'

Our hope ultimately is not in human beings to save the world, it lies in the faith we have in the Creator of the world, to transform it. As Paul says in Vs 15 'a new creation' is everything. This is not blind faith which pretends that there is no struggle against evil and despair. It is faith in the God who has come among us – the incarnated God. Hans Kung said: “He is a God who does not make empty promises for the hereafter nor trivialise the present darkness, futility and meaninglessness, but who himself in the midst of darkness, futility and meaninglessness invites us to the venture of hope.' That's why Jesus sent out the 70 into towns and villages. As I have come among you, so you go and be amongst the people of this land; bring peace and wholeness to them. I admire those 70, whoever they were. They knew they had not been chosen to be part of Jesus' inner core, the twelve. But they trusted Jesus enough to obey him. What on earth did they expect when they set out? We don't know. But they had enough faith, enough hope that as they went so they would be given what they needed. And so it proved to be; they returned joyful and excited. They had discovered what Moltmann expressed, that ''hope comes alive when we go outside of ourselves and in joy and in pain, take part in the lives of others. Hope becomes concrete in open community with others.'

So can I finish with this...Whatever decision is taken about our diocese, let's embrace it positively and with hope. Whatever direction our new Dean takes us in, let's make ourselves available to journey together. Let's even be open to a new ways of working for the good of all, either by releasing our time, energy or financial resources. 'Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap if we do not give up.' Amen.


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