Musings on the road, Glad to be preaching again.
Good morning everyone, I understand that today is National Sorry Day. So before I start I would like to say Sorry for missing my scheduled date in November. I was unfortunately indisposed being unwell. On a more serious note though, when I look around at the world today, it seems obvious to me that there is still a long way to go in the healing work of creation. So it seems fitting to really say sorry to God as we haven’t done that well over the last two thousand years.
It’s not that the church has been an abject failure, not at all, but like his disciples who were with him, we still often miss the point and because of that the ongoing work of building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is taking longer.
We are like the Israelites in the desert, taking 40 years to make a journey that should have taken 11 days. It must have seemed like an eternity.
In our second reading today, Jesus is speaking to his group on the night before his death, throughout these long speeches of Jesus, his language gradually becomes more clearer and less opaque, which could reflect the gradual waking up of those with him to what was going on, or to an increasing frustration on Jesus’ part or more likely was a literary tool used by the author to open the eyes of the reader to Jesus divinity. The reading is a response to a question by Judas (not the Iscariot one), this is probably Judas son of James as mentioned in Luke. It could be Thaddeus in Matthew and Mark. Judas seems to have missed the point, along with the rest of his companions. The author seems to have set Ch 14 as a question and answer session with most of the questions set by the apostles looking at a predominantly worldly perspective; Consider Thomas in v 5, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” and Philip in v 8, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”.
Jesus speaks of Love and Faith, the relationship that exists at the heart of the Trinity, and then in v 28 he says something that on the surface seems very odd. “for the Father is greater than I”
What can he mean?
It is a phrase that has caused problems over the years in people’s thinking around the relationships in the Trinity. Is this phrase really suggesting a hierarchical relationship exists, or is it perhaps that Jesus in his human state is refusing again to fall for Satan’s temptation for him to avoid the Cross and rule in another way. In this way Jesus is making himself subservient to his Father’s will. It is perhaps relevant in our understanding here to consider that John does not have Jesus in Gethsemane sweating blood and asking for the cup to be delivered from him but concluding that he will follow the Father’s will. Is this John’s reflection of that scene in Gethsemane? In v 30, He goes on to mention the accuser but confirms to his apostles that the accuser’s power is limited because Jesus will do as his Father has commanded. It is love and mercy that is again at the forefront of the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the protracted farewell discourses, we are given an image of what the destination and mission of Jesus is, nothing less that the healing of the breach in creation caused by sin. It’s about restoration, and the reunion of the Kingdom of Earth with that of Heaven.
The writer of Revelations, our other reading today, who may or not be the beloved disciple, is clear that there will be a new creation, and in fact perhaps one already exists. One of the complexities in Revelations is the variability in time settings. There is a new age. This is a line of thinking that people in the 1st Century would have understood as history was believed to occur in “ages”, especially from the Jewish perspective. It is also clear that the image we sometimes have of the purpose of life being to follow Jesus in order to escape to heaven at our death is false. After all, heaven and earth are inextricably linked.
The new city comes from heaven to earth. It is a descent rather than an ascent or escape from earth, which leads me to refuse the images of the ideas that surround the idea of the so-called rapture.
The author also gives us a picture of what the new Kingdom looks like and feels like. The curse in broken, the Tree of life now brings healing and restoration to all the nations, not just Israel. Eden is now opened again and is available for everyone.
Light has overcome darkness.
Whilst outside of life there is only death and falsehood. The mention of dogs in 22:14 by the way is because dogs were considered to be unclean. Sorry to all dogs and dog owners. Just another example that Revelations is NOT to be taken literally; it is about using symbol to make a point.
The other piece I would like to highlight is that the author’s picture of the new City, the new Jerusalem, is set in contrast to the picture of Babylon in Ch 18. For Babylon, we see Rome, land it highlights the lie at the centre of the Pax Romana. A lie that sees the rich and powerful able to enjoy a life of comfort and splendour while the majority of the population are burdened down with taxes, forced to work log hours, always under the looming threat of a strict and harsh judiciary which know no mercy.
What does this mean for us today?
Let us keep our focus on God and the Kingdom, let us speak our bravely at injustice and lack of righteousness wherever we come across it in word and action. Let us stand firm and bring the world to task when we are told to act according to its double standards.
Rather we should reflect love and mercy.
We should clothe the Naked – another way of saying we should protect the vulnerable
We should heal the sick – We should open our communities to those who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised.
We should speak up against injustice by holding Governments to account.
We should not fall for the temptation of riches and pleasure; the lie that would grant us comfort at the expense of our neighbour.
Let us then, stand with Jesus and seek to continue his work of bringing the real New Age to fruition, let us welcome in the Kingdom.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit