Sunday, 5 November 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 5 November 2017

We, as Church, are now in the season we call ‘Remembrancetide’; a time when we remember the saints and all who have gone before. A time which end with Armistice and Remembrance Sundays where we pay our respects to, and remember all, who have had their lives taken, or irretrievably changed, through conflict and war.

The Revelation passage is extremely fitting considering that today is 'All Saints Sunday' as it reminds us that this life is not all there is for us thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus for us. The image we have is snapshot of the eternity that is to come – the palm branches in this story resonate with the palm branches waved on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Then the words were ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The image John gives us today speaks of salvation and the joy of eternity in the physical presence of God – what we call ‘heaven’ – and all of them are ‘heroes of the faith’. It is easy for us to think about the sacrifice, even to death, of the saints and consider our own oft limited and flawed struggle as making us something less than them. But the reality is that each person who struggles to walk the way of Christ, to keep God’s laws and to overcome their own challenges, weaknesses and flaws are no less heroic.

So today, take a look in the mirror and realise that before you stands a saint – a saint for whom the reward is as described in our revelations passage, and give thanks for the grace, love and mercy god has shown to you – and keep on as best you can until the day dawn when eternity with God is yours.

The 1 John reading adds magnificently to this message as we are reminded of the ‘great love God has lavished on us’; a love that is Jesus, the Christ. We have been made children of God through adoption. A lecture I attended a couple of years back spoke of how when a child came into the family (by birth, marriage or adoption) it was the act of the head of the family (the pater familias) that made them a ‘child of the family’. The child would be taken up by the head of the family and the act of them being laid upon their breast confirmed the relationship.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross we have been laid upon the Father’s breast and proclaimed to truly be Church, that is ‘children of God’ and the result of this is what is revealed to using the image of eternity shown today in our previous reading.

And if we are family, we are part of the family business, which is to bring people into the knowledge of the love of God and to shelter under His provision and protection. So we, step-by-step, journey through life enduring struggles and challenges, rejection and pain, looking to be people who overcome all before us and to become (again step-by-step) like the Christ we follow by the power of the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. This adoption is more than words or the change of name (just like Saul, who was always also Paul, never had!) of the addition of new people closer to us – it is an adoption that changes our mindset, actions and response to others around us. We purify ourselves to be like Jesus, who is Himself also pure. Simple stuff, isn't it?

And then comes the eternity with Christ. And if our struggles last for a hundred year, in the shadow of eternity, what we endure now is just an eye-blink!

So our family might be a place of pain, our health might not be as we might wish, our daily life may well be a strain: But rejoice for step-by-step we are being transformed and that day when the Lord returns and eternity is ours is another pace closer.

"I know it's tough - but hang in there and it will all come right!"
And Jesus knew the struggles, the strain and pain and this is why he takes His place before the people to tell them of the blessings (the ‘beatitudes’) and acknowledges those same challenges we have just mentioned here. It would be so easy just to get legalistic and parade the ten commandments as a remedy to all that is wrong in us and around us as he takes His place on the mount, but He doesn't!  Jesus doesn’t want legal, He wants understanding and love and relationship and so he lets us know that He knows how hard life is by nodding at us and saying, “I know it’s tough, but carry on and the rewards will be yours.”

But our reality?

Those who are poor in spirit, or mourn – those who weep and live in the shadow of pain?
For them is the promise of heaven and comfort made theirs.
The meek, those of us who never push forward and so are left out.

Jesus teaches how those who have power and possessions now will find they have less when the Kingdom comes. Use it well He teaches – and though the meek are oppressed, they will be exalted.

Righteousness will be seen and the merciful will reap what they have sown.

Those who seek peace will have their reward, as will those who have sown war, conflict and oppression (now that’s worth waiting to see isn’t it?).

And those who are persecuted, those who give their lives up for the Gospel of Jesus? These are the ones in the white robes spoken of in the Revelation passage.

Stand fast. Endure the baiting and the ridicule for at the end of the journey, the reward is ours.

Jesus shows that He knows the struggles and encourages the peoples of the world to take up their cross and follow Him, enduring as He endured, until the day that Jesus, the Christ, returns. Resist the wicked and the evil, the greedy and the oppressive. Speak the truth in Love and be for those around us a light by which God’s love may be seen and made real.

And the comes eternity of joy – no more crying there – no more crying now, for we are children of God and look to the riches of His inheritance made ours by our adoption.

Hallelujah or what?

The Collect

God of glory, touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit, that we with all creation may rejoice to sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Revelation 7.9-17

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

All the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’
Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’  I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’

And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,” nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water.” “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’

1 John 3.1-3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Matthew 5.1-12

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

'Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you
 because of me.
'Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
'for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'

Post Communion Prayer

Lord of heaven, in this Eucharist you have brought us near to an innumerable company of angels and to the spirits of the saints made perfect: as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage we have shared their fellowship, so may we come to share their joy in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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