Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Heaven shall not wait" - Sermon for Easter 5A

I'm conscious that there are some very disappointed people in the world this morning.
According to an American preacher, Harold Camping by name, yesterday should have been the end of the world as we know it, the day on which the righteous would be taken up into heaven in the rapture.
All through the week, the internet has been buzzing with cries of derision, or jokes from some....
A man on a tractor just passed me in the lane and shouted that the end of the world was nigh. I think it was Farmer Geddon!
Others have lamented that Mr Camping and his friends are the sort of nutty Christians that give the rest of us a bad name.
I didn't, anywhere, encounter anyone who was prepared to entertain the idea that he might be right, even for a second.

And yet, you know, for some people the world will have ended yesterday.
Some will, quite literally, have passed from this life into the hereafter.
Others will have had the things they thought certain, the props they leaned on, removed by a word, a diagnosis, an event.
They will be expected to carry on anyway – but in a world with a new and unwelcome landscape.

And they won't have been able to prepare themselves for it in any way at all.
Because actually, despite all those frantic calculations of Biblical pseudo scholars, that's the way it will be.
Jesus made that very clear
“No-one knows the day or the hour, except the Father”
Speculation is pointless – a waste of the time that we do have.
Time we've been given to make a difference.

Our gospel passage is perhaps the most popular reading for funerals. In that context it speaks powerfully of comfort, of home-coming......Jesus, the servant of all, going ahead to prepare a place for put flowers in the guest room, turn down the bedclothes...
But there are other themes to explore.
Jesus promises that he will come again –
no rapture, then. We wont fly through the air to him – as always, he will take the initiative and come to find us, no matter where we are, or what state we may be in.
We can rely on that.
He will come again and we will be with him.
Do we actually need to worry about anything else then?
Could anything be better?
He will take us to himself so that we may be where Jesus is.
Perhaps that's actually all we need to know.
Certainly just typing those words filled me with joy and hope.
Jesus will come again and we will be with him.

Of course, dear Thomas, who asks so often those questions we all have on the tip of our tongue, dares to question again today.
“Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
I get so angry, so sad when I hear of Christians who use the answer to that question as a way to exclude many from the kingdom
“I am the way” says Jesus
I'm certain – completely and utterly certain – that this does not mean that those who have neglected to sign a commitment card, failed to consciously give their lives to Christ, will find themselves outside the welcome of God's infinite mercy.
Jesus is the way. He shows us how to live – and in his life and death and resurrection clears a way home for us.

Jesus is the way to living his way will bring us to the Father.
And what are the essentials of this way?
It's a way of life based not on fear and denial but on a radical, inclusive welcome
A way of love for enemies as well as friends...for the inconvenient, irritating people, for those who disappoint us and those who don't pull their weight, a way of love for all.
A way that leads to His Father's house, where there is room for all those ill assorted people – and many more besides.

We can be certain of this, because Jesus is also the truth...and through his Spirit leads us into all truth. Not dodgy theologies that depend on bending Scripture to our end.
Not partial readings that depend for their impact on fear or exclusion.
Jesus is the truth...and in His truth, shows us the Father.
If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus...who is anything but meek and mild.
Jesus, constantly challenging, often controversial, usually truth often is.

Jesus is the life.
Jesus is the life all week, not just on Sunday, living his way, living his truth, in every corner of our existence.
The time we have been given – is time in which there is Jesus.
Nothing we do, nothing we are, is outside his sphere of influence.

This week, as Harold Camping and his friends prepared for the end of the world as we know it, ordinary people all across the country have been pounding the pavements of Britain, delivering and collecting their Christian Aid envelopes. They have been doing this because, as Christian Aid reminds us, “We believe in life BEFORE death”....and in doing so they have been helping to show us the Kingdom of God.
They have chosen to make a difference here and now – they don't know what time they have to spend.......but they choose to send it generously.

That's an option for all of us.
We can't know when the end will come -but we can truly live in the meantime, according to God's pattern, that Jesus shows us.
We can love and laugh.
We can listen and pray.
We can smell the flowers and listen to Bach or to birdsong
And we can try to make a difference, to assert in the face of a broken, selfish and suffering world, that we choose another way.
And in doing so we proclaim Christ's victory again and again.

Heaven shall not wait for the poor to lose their patience,
the scorned to smile,
the despised to find a friend:
Jesus is Lord; he has championed the unwanted;
in him injustice confronts its timely end.

Heaven shall not wait for the rich to share their fortunes,
the proud to fall, the elite to tend the least;
Jesus is Lord; he has shown the master's privilege -
to kneel and wash servants' feet before they feast.

Heaven shall not wait for the dawn of great ideas
thoughts of compassion divorced from cries of pain:
Jesus is Lord; he has married word and action;
his cross and company make his purpose plain.

Heaven shall not wait for triumphant Hallelujahs,
when earth has passed and we reach another shore
Jesus is Lord; in our present imperfection;
his power and love are for now and then for evermore.
John Bell


Ostrich said...

Another corker - well done that Vicar!

serena said...

Oh thank you, Kathryn! I so needed to read this today. It is so Good to hear Jesus calling through your sermon. You have blessed me today. xXx

Chris said...

Wonderful!! Thank you! :-)

DaviGoss said...


Jay said...

It is sad that such a wonderful, open invitation: 'I'm going to prepare a place for you... I am the Way...' should be turned from a welcome to a road-block, barring the way to outsiders. Thank you for reminding us of this non-exclusive invitation.

Gaye said...

I can only echo what the others have said. wonderful. Thank you.

highlandponderings said...

Thank you!

Perpetua said...

Such a good sermon in every way. Thank you.

Crimson Rambler said...

lovely, and I thank you!