Sermon 1 May 2016

Sermon Sunday 1 May 2016, Westbourne Church

Easter 6,  2016        Acts 16:9-15    Rev 21:10,22-22:5    John 14:23-29

Life is confusing! 

It isn't that it is confused but that it is confusing. It does not come in neat packages and often refuses to be planned but then, surprise is its spice. Things happen, or they don't happen and however much we may put ourselves in the way of something we want to happen, it may not and vice versa.

When we look around what to we see in our confusion? Life, death, politics, faith, food, wine, power – over people or the earth. There are birthday celebrations, two high profile births, 310 years apart (Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth II).

There has been disaster, earthquakes, the search for survivors, another attack amongst children, the end of a long running court case with more to come.There are guns and knives, arguments, a Black US President near the end of his second term and reaction from the right, exploitation of parliamentary privilege with all the righteous claiming of high ground.

There is politics, governments – stable and unstable.

There is faith    - but in what? Jesus is telling the disciples that what will look like the end will be the beginning. The time of physical presence is coming to an end and they will begin to experience a new presence wrought in their relation to each other and their service to the world.

There is food and wine and the usual crop of seasonal recipes, and hunger and obesity and climate change. There is the future for Europe and a decision to be made heavy on economics and light on people. There is power and its use and misuse.

What do we latter day followers of the Jesus of the New Testament, who turned over the norms of his day, scattered the grey cells of those trying to keep order, who kept the principles set out by his God, right to an ignominious and excruciating end, what do we have to say to it all?

There, there?
I know how it feels?
It will soon be OK?
Don't worry?
Look after yourself?
Take care (that is the most inappropriate Christian salute) (Take risks)?

It all collides in this time we call Easter, these days between the celebration of the moment of resurrection and the moment of becoming the body of Christ.  We have lived again the events of that last week of Jesus' life in Jerusalem, lived it again wondering if it means anything at all or is it just a cracking good yarn ripe for television adaptation, and woken up again to find that everything is changed – and yet, everything is the same. 

The evangelists record those last days of Jesus and we re-enact them round this table and in the midst of this community trying to make them fresh again. We read the obscure words of the revelation of God to John in the hope that the poetic language will strike chords within us and we will understand the nature of love and forgiveness. The gospel scenes take us from a triumphal entry to a capital city, through meals with friends (Lazarus, Martha, Mary; disciples), through trial by mob and trial by politics, which was not really interested, through being the instrument to placate a mob, through the last Passover meal with its reminders of the past and its chilling foretelling of the future,

The whole of history crashes into a few days. The long career of the Jewish people, their hopes and fears – Exodus and Promised Land – the marauding Greeks, Babylonians and Romans – colonisation and the dispersal of the world's races. It’s more prophetic than we dare to think.

Jesus, hardly speaking, pushes his way through the lot.  He is what they were expecting, only they weren't expecting him. He is what they had hoped for, only they had long since abandoned hope, except that hope broke through in the terrors of the night in an unexpected birth place and an unexpected reappearance after death.

Those who cotton on are the unlikely ones, unversed in matters of religion, or they had had enough of it, or it had had enough of them.  They are still creeping around in the dark – up early to avoid being seen, consumed with a passion that they have been given, frightened, bewildered, dreadfully bereaved, with images which will remain fresh in their minds to the end of their lives terrorising their dreams.

And yet it is good news. How come?

Well, the good news was not so much for them as for you and me.  They did not know we would be here all these years later, scrabbling at capturing some of the atmosphere, hearing about that hill, that tomb, that garden. They did not know that after so long we would still be trying to tell the world that its God is weeping for it as a parent weeps for a child.  We cannot see the Father, but we can see the Mother and we must look hard into her eyes and heart.

And that other Mary, dragged from degradation to be the first witness and announcer, the one who was unlikely to be listened to.  

Wanting him so much she could not see him.  Uttering her name, he transforms her life.  He calls us just the same – he utters the names of those who do not recognise him together with his name that the connection might be made; prayer. We can draw some comfort from her as we experience that same thing – a world not wishing to listen, deafened by the roar of its pleasures and pains.

All else that we might strive to do is as nothing if it is not in prayer, as all our prayer is nothing if it does not lead us to do. So, the message is again, "Go out and change the world!" be inspired to be the person God calls you to be, take life by the scruff and do not take care.

© 2016 Frank Wright

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