Sermon For 4th After Trinity Yr C

Lerwick

We know all too well many of the stories of the wanderings in the wilderness. From the dramatic exit from Egypt through the Red Sea where the pursuing armies of the Egyptians met their end and the passage through the Jordan to enter the promised Land, the land on Canaan’s side.

It had been a journey fraught with many ups and downs, sometimes they felt God was on their side and sometimes not! Sometimes they were faithful and devout and sometimes far from it. Sometimes all seemed well and at other times they grumbled like crazy

Maybe you recognise that journey?

Our Old testament reading today comes from almost the end of the Pentateuch… for us maybe we might say the first five books of the bible, but more significantly is that the Pentateuch form the backbone of Judaism and the peoples records of God journey with them and theirs with God.

Moses has led the people, the people have been formed, the y have journeyed and finally they have arrived.. though Moses hands over to Joshua (a word which as we know means saviour) and we today hear some of his final words to the people.

As we might reflect on our own life’s journey, and I don’t mean that we are led to think about our own death, I wonder if we could hear the word of Moses  as if spoken to us. We stand possibly at the threshold of a new place, the bright new future and the current situation is full of possibilities.

We might reflect that in the past God had always been faithful, even amidst our meanderings and wanderings. We may hear the word from Deuteronomy that God is in fact closer to us than we have ever imagined. God is not beyond or out there, but “in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

As we may think of our own journey with God we may reflect on the decisions and choices we have made, for good or for ill… and in all of them we are urged today to “Listen” to listen to God deep within as if as a still small voice. God is indeed very near, and very faithful to us.

It is so tempting and in some ways comforting to look towards God as if God was far off and “untouchable”…. Indeed some of our language of God even encourages this.

I think Jesus helps us see differently… perhaps more along the lines of Moses final words.. and more like that time that Moses handed over to the saviour Joshua (or in Latin Jesus). Jesus constantly spoke of God as near and to Love God with all our heart and soul and voice and to Love our neighbour as ourselves.

And there again is the snag we fall against just as the Lawyer did in speaking to Jesus…who is our neighbour… we all like to see our neighbour as someone separate to us, someone to who we have to go out of our way to find… but no! our nieighbour is right near to us… we encounter our neighbour under our very eyes all the time. Our duty lies right there. Furthermore it does come in the form of a duty and not a “choice”… ouch!

It was with these words ringing in their ears and hearts that the people (that we) enter into our promised Land where God continues to dwell alongside very near to us, and where we are helped to once again walk alongside God as we do also our neighbour, and learn all over again the power of Loving, and how transforming and revolutionary this can be. Loving God and neighbour and loving ourselves may not indeed be at all easy.. but it does land us safe on Canaans side. The place God has promised to be with us.

Sermon   7 July 2019  Luke 10; 1-11, 16-20 

Imagine being told, not asked, but told that you are to go on a journey without money or a bag, and no accommodation booked in advance. You are not to greet anyone on your journey and it could be dangerous; but you are allowed a companion.

I should imagine your immediate response would be, ‘No way! That’s asking too much; you’ll have to find someone else!’

This was the task that Jesus set his followers in today’s gospel reading but apparently no one refused.

 As I read the passage again I tried to picture how those people felt as they set off on their travels; probably apprehensive, maybe a little bit excited, possibly discussing their plans with their companion, (because they were sent out in twos), wondering where they would spend the nights and what kind of reception they would get. Jesus had given them explicit instructions about how to behave; whatever house they went into their first words were to be ‘Peace to this house,’ and if they were welcomed they were to stay in that house till they moved on, with the words, “ The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  If they were not welcomed they moved on, shaking the dust off their feet in protest but still saying,  “Know this, the kingdom of God has come near.”  I thought of the adventures they must have had, the variety of people they must have met , both friendly and threatening, and the stories they would tell when they returned home from their adventure.  And we are told they returned with joy!

I don’t know how many of you met a man called Stuart Nelson who was up here two years ago cycling from Hermaness to the  Scilly Isles? Reading this story reminded me of him. He has just finished a pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem, a distance of over 2000 miles. He did carry a bag and money, and had accommodation booked on the journey but did not know what he would find at each nights lodging, nor what to expect on the way. I have been following his adventures on his daily blog and in a way it has made me appreciate what a huge task these disciples undertook. But he did have a mobile phone and a GPS, and a clear idea of where he was going, unlike our travellers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a similar record of the adventures of the 70? I suppose the nearest we have to a biblical blog is Luke’s description of his travels with Paul.

Two things occurred to me while studying this passage, that could apply

to us today. First, they went in twos. They were not alone. There was someone to plan with, to work out problems, to commiserate with on the bad days and to celebrate the good days.   Someone to depend on when the going gets tough. . No one was going this alone. Jesus is teaching his disciples already this early on in his ministry the importance of the reliance on each other, especially in his absence. As practising Christians this is something we could do well to remember; we are not alone but part of a supportive community.

Last Sunday we had our Celebration of Creation in St Colman’s (also known as the Flower Festival!) and we were delighted to welcome so many from St Magnus as well as Church of Scotland, Methodists and Catholics all sharing in worship. It was wonderful to feel the support and companionship as we came together in praise and prayer. But it’s important that this experience should not just be for special occasions.  As companions in Christ we should feel comfortable sharing our faith, and our doubts, because doubting or questioning is how we grow our faith, maybe not in public worship but certainly in informal or organised discussions. We should not feel alone! We all need at least one person to support us on our faith journey.

The second thing that I found particularly amazing about this passage is not the miracles but the willingness to be dependent on others. Think about it: no purse, no bag, no sandals and, importantly, no guarantees about how they will be received. All they have is the promise of Jesus to go with them, to do great things through them, and to bring them home again. They had to give up their independence. Now that’s scary! I think that possibly the thing that worries most people is having to be dependent on others, even in small ways. But sharing what we have, or helping other people tends to give us great pleasure. After all isn’t it better to give than to receive? Accepting charity is much harder than giving it.  However if we turn this idea around, when we accept help, that is given freely, then we are actually giving pleasure to someone else.

The word charity comes from the Latin caritas which can be translated as giving Love, and that  puts a different aspect on the situation. We all need love and to show it and also to accept it is a joyous experience. The equivalent word  in Greek is agape – love of humankind, which is what, as Christians, we are taught to do.  Jesus himself had no problem accepting help from his followers.

There are few things more satisfying and life giving, it turns out, than andsharing with others, giving of our abundance, receiving in our need, all the while being knit more closely together as the Body of Christ. And on that note I’d like to conclude with a quote from St Theresa of Avila.

Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.

Christ has no body on earth but yours.Acknowledgements to David Lose, Michael Rogness,Melissa Bane Sevier and Karoline Lewis

Sermon   7 July 2019  Luke 10; 1-11, 16-20 

Imagine being told, not asked, but told that you are to go on a journey without money or a bag, and no accommodation booked in advance. You are not to greet anyone on your journey and it could be dangerous; but you are allowed a companion.

I should imagine your immediate response would be, ‘No way! That’s asking too much; you’ll have to find someone else!’

This was the task that Jesus set his followers in today’s gospel reading but apparently no one refused.

 As I read the passage again I tried to picture how those people felt as they set off on their travels; probably apprehensive, maybe a little bit excited, possibly discussing their plans with their companion, (because they were sent out in twos), wondering where they would spend the nights and what kind of reception they would get. Jesus had given them explicit instructions about how to behave; whatever house they went into their first words were to be ‘Peace to this house,’ and if they were welcomed they were to stay in that house till they moved on, with the words, “ The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  If they were not welcomed they moved on, shaking the dust off their feet in protest but still saying,  “Know this, the kingdom of God has come near.”  I thought of the adventures they must have had, the variety of people they must have met , both friendly and threatening, and the stories they would tell when they returned home from their adventure.  And we are told they returned with joy!

I don’t know how many of you met a man called Stuart Nelson who was up here two years ago cycling from Hermaness to the  Scilly Isles? Reading this story reminded me of him. He has just finished a pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem, a distance of over 2000 miles. He did carry a bag and money, and had accommodation booked on the journey but did not know what he would find at each nights lodging, nor what to expect on the way. I have been following his adventures on his daily blog and in a way it has made me appreciate what a huge task these disciples undertook. But he did have a mobile phone and a GPS, and a clear idea of where he was going, unlike our travellers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a similar record of the adventures of the 70? I suppose the nearest we have to a biblical blog is Luke’s description of his travels with Paul.

Two things occurred to me while studying this passage, that could apply

to us today. First, they went in twos. They were not alone. There was someone to plan with, to work out problems, to commiserate with on the bad days and to celebrate the good days.   Someone to depend on when the going gets tough. . No one was going this alone. Jesus is teaching his disciples already this early on in his ministry the importance of the reliance on each other, especially in his absence. As practising Christians this is something we could do well to remember; we are not alone but part of a supportive community.

Last Sunday we had our Celebration of Creation in St Colman’s (also known as the Flower Festival!) and we were delighted to welcome so many from St Magnus as well as Church of Scotland, Methodists and Catholics all sharing in worship. It was wonderful to feel the support and companionship as we came together in praise and prayer. But it’s important that this experience should not just be for special occasions.  As companions in Christ we should feel comfortable sharing our faith, and our doubts, because doubting or questioning is how we grow our faith, maybe not in public worship but certainly in informal or organised discussions. We should not feel alone! We all need at least one person to support us on our faith journey.

The second thing that I found particularly amazing about this passage is not the miracles but the willingness to be dependent on others. Think about it: no purse, no bag, no sandals and, importantly, no guarantees about how they will be received. All they have is the promise of Jesus to go with them, to do great things through them, and to bring them home again. They had to give up their independence. Now that’s scary! I think that possibly the thing that worries most people is having to be dependent on others, even in small ways. But sharing what we have, or helping other people tends to give us great pleasure. After all isn’t it better to give than to receive? Accepting charity is much harder than giving it.  However if we turn this idea around, when we accept help, that is given freely, then we are actually giving pleasure to someone else.

The word charity comes from the Latin caritas which can be translated as giving Love, and that  puts a different aspect on the situation. We all need love and to show it and also to accept it is a joyous experience. The equivalent word  in Greek is agape – love of humankind, which is what, as Christians, we are taught to do.  Jesus himself had no problem accepting help from his followers.

There are few things more satisfying and life giving, it turns out, than andsharing with others, giving of our abundance, receiving in our need, all the while being knit more closely together as the Body of Christ. And on that note I’d like to conclude with a quote from St Theresa of Avila.

Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.

Christ has no body on earth but yours.Acknowledgements to David Lose, Michael Rogness,Melissa Bane Sevier and Karoline Lewis

Sermon For Trinity 2019

 

There is often a ripple of a smile or even laughter when those who are preaching are asked to preach on Trinity Sunday.

It seems to me quite natural why this might be the case, as the Trinity still seems to be seen as important, even essential to some, and yet is equally impossible to fully explain, prove or often define satisfactorily.

Allow me to explain:….

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (LatinTrinitaslit. ‘triad’, from Latintrinus “threefold”) holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons”. The three Persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature” (homoousios). In this context, a “nature” is what one is, whereas a “person” is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism (one deity in two persons, or two deities) and Monarchianism (no plurality of persons within God), of which Modalistic Monarchianism (one deity revealed in three modes) and Unitarianism (one deity in one person) are subsets…..

First written mention of “trinity” was in 170 but the doctrine developed during the third century and was determined as “orthodox” in the 4th century with non-upholders being regarded as heretic.

The trouble is we have become so used to it that we hardly give it a second glance… it has for many of us become part of our Christian Genetic make up.

Last week I was brought up sharp when Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi addressed General Synod. As he stood up you could hear a pin drop, what he said was so moving and inspiring and even encouraging.

He started like many we are used to “In the name of God”……. “ever merciful and infinitely compassionate……”

And I realised perhaps for the first time personally how much “Father Son and Holy spirit” can get in the way of my relationship with God and with my brothers and sisters of other world faiths.

Perhaps I ought also to offer that more modern expressions of “Trinity” particularly as spoken of by Rohr in “The Divine Dance” amongst other things have inspired my relationship with God and have enlivened it.

The idea of relationship and dynamaism help me, to feel connected to God in my day to day life, though this also comes with challenges too.

I would not say I was anti Trinity but I might say we may need to be cautious how we use the tool.

At the end of the day it must be emphasised it is a human expression.

For many today an understanding of the feminine in God is vital to their belief. While some might quickly begin to argue that this is the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, for others this does not go far enough and also if pushed do we see the Holy Spirit as female?

There again some like to suggest Mary plays her part here yet this might also open up another can of worms.

Imam Sayed reminded us at Synod also that God created us “adam” humanity, and also that we are in the image of God I certainly think personally that our image of God has to include humanity in some way.

I find it helpful to see God relating to us in the world and us relating to God. The idea that we are in Gods image is also encouraging ad helps me to see my part in it all… even my part in God!

So perhaps I should conclude as I have done before on this feast day…

“Dangerous it were for the feeble brain of man to wade too far into the doing of the most high, whom to know be life, and joy to make mention of his name, yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we know him not as indeed he is, neither can know him and our safest eloquence concerning him is our silence when we confess without confession that his glory is inexplicable, his greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above and we upon earth, therefore it behoveth our words to be wary and few.”

(Hookers Ecclesiastical polity 16th century)

When reading Acts I remembered that tomorrow is the day in the Church year to remember the martyrs of Uganda in 1885 – 1887, and 1977, I felt I wanted  to try to find out how Christian martyrs endured their time of suffering.

 

Today we learned what happened to Paul and Silas, when  people saw  and heard Paul tell the demon in the slave girl to come out.

 

I suppose it was only to be expected that the slave’s owners were furious at losing their livelihood, but for me, this doesn’t seem a reason for them to be flogged and chained in  prison

 

For Paul and Silas events change later that night, while singing hymns and praying, there was an earthquake, their chins fall off and the doors opened. When the jailer found they were still there he took Paul an Silas home to feed them, wash their wounds, and listen to them.  Then the whole household was baptized

 

That has not been the case in other times throughout the centuries, from the stoning of Stephen, or many known and unknown martyrs, who have been imprisoned or  killed for their Christian beliefs.

 

Often it was because fr the greed for power of of their country’s leaders. Even now being a citizen of a country does not necessarily mean you can openly worship in any religion.

 

In more recent times, we have records written by or about people who are remembered for enduring great suffering and death for their beliefs.  It is not only Christians who suffer, Moslems and Jews, and other religions have also been targeted.

 

Bishop James was on his second mission to Uganda.  He was born and brought up in Sussex and had joined the Anglican Church as an adult.

 

He studied at Oxford and on graduating he was ordained and served as a Curate for five years years, until he was sent as a missionary to Africa, where he developed  a fever and returned home.

 

In 1884 Bishop James had recovered from the previous illness He was now  returning to Buganda, later Uganda, as the first Anglican Bishop of East Equatorial  Africa.

 

On reaching the border he and his party were met by soldiers of the new ruling King, Mwanga II,  who captured them, tortured them for a week before killing 48 of his party by the time they killed him   on 29 October 1885

 

From his diary written each day  that week he became very ill with fever and full of pain. On the 23rd  after yells and bangs from  outside, he expected to be killed  and wrote “let  the Lord do as he thinks fit, I shall not make the slightest resistance”

 

By the 28th he his fever was worse and his hut filthy. On 29th. the morning of his last hours, he said that “Psalm 30 came to me with great power and upheld me”. Psalms were mentioned more than once in his diary and gave him the will to continue.

 

One of his party, an African porter, who had escaped, reported that. later that morning, the guards came and bound him and took him. As they did so, he heard Bishop James singing hymns, recognizing the word Jesus.

 

I attended Bishop Hannington Church in Hove for several years without really knowing until recently the history of why it was built in his memory

 

He was not the only Christian killed at that time in Buganda.  Between October 1885 and the end of 1887 nearly 50 Christian converts were executed.  The youngest is said to have been a 15 year old boy who was burned alive.

 

At that time in Buganda, a virtually unknown part of Africa, people only just began to hear about Christianity. Missionaries were seen by rulers as a threat.

 

Compare their poverty and fear with what was happening here.  This Church was built twenty years before, and the tower being considered.  Wall paintings and much of what we know today in our church was already here.

 

People here led a much more secure life, the Crofters Act of 1886 seeing the end of the Clearances. Fishing, crofting, together with knitting were helpihg to improve the quality of l

 

1922 saw the birth of  Archbishop Janani Luwum in Uganda.He spent his childhood as a goatherd, but quickly  showed the ability to learn when sent to school. He became a teacher, and a convert to  Christianity

 

He was ordained in 1956, appointed Bishop in 1969 and then Archbishop of Uganda 1974. He was a very well respected churchman who partly studied in England, in Canterbury and Nottingham

 

In 1974 Idi Amin came to power following a military coup. This began a time of unexplained disappearances and killings,  if anyone disagreed with his regeme.

 

Archbishop Janani and the Bishops were against the regime, and sent  a letter to Idi Amin. This was in 1977 and the result was that the Archbishop and two senior government  ministers were  arrested  and were reported  to have died in a car crash. Archbishop Luwum’s body was found to be full of bullet holes when his coffin was opened before burial, disproving the car crash

 

People are still being imprisoned or killed because of their religion.. We must not forget that people of all religions suffer in many places in the world.

 

What do we learn from this. God loves us through all the good times and our suffering. He is there to give us strength when we need it.

 

We can help others. We can pray, We can support those who are refugees by the offer of friendship when given the opportunity .We can show love and care when help is needed.

 

As Bishop Anne reminded us  last Sunday, God loves all and that love is always be there for u.

 

That is what can give us the strength to face the difficult  times in our lives, times which  seem difficult to endure.

 

Let us pray

 

Loving God we thank you for your love and care for us. Sometimes we do not realize that you are there in every aspect of our lives, We may need to learn new ways of speaking to you in prayer, particularly during stress, illness or other difficult times when we need help to endure suffering. We offer this prayer in the name of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ

Amen

Sermon For Pentecost  2019

 

The Day of Pentecost and they were all together in one place… then suddenly!

It all seems so straightforward and so amazingly sudden.

There seems to be none of the doubting and questioning as we had at the resurrection.. they all seemed  to be in on it, as they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in ways which they could all understand.

The remainder of the early chapter of Acts if we were to read a bit further, speaks of a wonderful united and caring group of early believers who shared everything in common and even set up systems to ensure the needy amongst them were without need.

In the space of a very short time a lot seems to have been established for the infant church.

In two months we are led to feel those who doubted and questioned, those who denied and ran away, those who were filled with fear for their lives, were new people and all the old ways had vanished.

It is not at all unusual when looking back over the past to paint a different picture then the whole reality.

Last week saw the 75th anniversary of D Day and yet even today some of the less fortunate stories of that amazing military campaign are being told. The picture I certainly grew up with is getting filled in with far more (interesting) detail.

We do know that the church faced some big challenges later in Acts. Paul and Peter had a tough relationship often disagreeing with each other.

It was all very well Jews from around the world gathering in Jerusalem to hear the apostles first proclamations, but when the gentiles came in on the act that was another problem altogether. Was it ever going to be safe to let unclean and unwanted gentiles in on the Act of God at work?

I read this week an opening remark in a book…. Community takes Commitment… the chapter then proceeded to speak about being committed to the Christian fellowship/community means a challenging journey. Don’t expect it to be easy, either personally or corporately.

Richard Rohr also pointed out recently that when the church had grown more weary of being anti Jewish and then Anti Muslim, it became intent on fighting amongst themselves in a denominational warfare.

A phrase in the gospel reading also stood out for me today when Phillip said “show us the father and we shall be satisfied”

I am not at all sure what would have really satisfied those early disciples. They probably were not all that different from us today who who always be able to come back and say “ah but…” and hanker after more satisfaction.

Jesus seems to have been a bit disappointed with Philips comment. Almost suggesting that had he not done enough to show them the way…. surely you must have seen something in what I had done and said?

Of course for John’s readers they were still to encounter the final sign… the crucifixion. That final moment of revelation when Jesus becomes the servant of all and does not claim equality with God in some cosmic way. He was seen in the emptying of himself and becoming almost the lowest of the low.

Surely on this feast of Pentecost we must not fall into the trap of thinking everything is going to be power filled and wonderful without challenges in the Christian way or even in the Christian community.

Community still does take commitment and commitment  is not often easy.

We cannot move on in our Christian lives without the sign of the cross before us with all that must teach us about being servants and about bearing scars. Jesus clearly carried those scars with him, the new life of Easter  as well as the promise of the Holy Spirit to empower us in living the kingdom, as seen on the day of Pentecost, holds all that we are scars and all.

Jesus does say that the Holy Spirit will remind us, we must not forget.

Pewsheet for Trinity2019

Pewsheet for pentecost2019

Sermon For Easter 5 Lerwick and yell 2019

I have just got back from my parents home (as many of you will know) It is the place where I grew up, and I guess really … yes it is still home.

They live in the same house, their only home together, many of the things are just the same, and mum even commented this week that the plates we were eating off were a present to her on her 21st birthday.

It was lovely to be there to celebrate my Dad’s 90th birthday.

But do I realise something for myself in this trip into memory lane?

Is there a challenge I am forced to face more and more as I grow up? …….that is how to see things differently! How can I see things differently?

Am I getting set in  my ways? (careful!)

Am I growing stubborn? (even more careful!)

Ok ….well lets just keep my more personal way and wherefores and get back to more churchy things?

We have probably all grown up with habits of interpretation both of church practice and biblical image…. how many of us took some trips down memory lane last week when the Good Shepherd kept appearing?

Today we are reminded that we need to be able to see things in a new and challenging way when it comes to the way God works. And ways we may have interpreted the bible in the past may need revising.

Peter stepped up a big step in the epistle today when he realized (not without difficulty either) that God included Gentiles. God’s love and all affirming grace reached to the folk he had grown up so clearly knowing were not included.

It is so easy to feel comfortable in our faith if we think we are accepted and included and if we think we are doing the right thing. But what if we lived somewhere where who we were was persecuted and unwelcome? What would we do?

The reading from the book of Revelation today is also comfortable and familiar to us…. I have used it many a time in services…. we know the words very well…. we have seen in it art and in words often explored.

But what a revolution to see a new heaven and new earth when the first heaven and earth had passed away….. We have only just got used to the way this earth seems to work (or not) never mind what we think of heaven (maybe touching on last week here too) to suddenly be confronted with something new and challenging.

But what do we make of the home of God being among mortals? What do we make of God being with us and alongside us? (surely God is sometimes better kept out?)

I am making all things new… we hear…..

People like me who are set in their ways will be filled with fear at what God is trying to do!

So we find ourselves with Jesus and sitting comfortably at his feet. We are like little children in the company of a loving parent and teacher.

But what is it we hear…. “A new commandment!” How are we supposed to take this one in….

how are we to love as he loved… how are we to love one another in such a way that everyone around us will recognise us as disciples.

Yet another challenge to those of us who feel sure we are right… well at least set in our ways anyway!

 

 

 

 

 

So some challenges along the way

Be willing and able to see things differently.

Be willing and able to accept the new

Be willing and able to move forward not knowing where it will end.

Be willing and able to love… completely and recklessly.

12th May at St Magnus’ Lerwick

I might say that over the past weeks my life has been dominated by death.

There have been the usual funerals where sometimes the topic is raised, though strangely when I think on it, sometimes not. I wonder why this might be the case?

Much more significantly are the conversations with people, and there have been many recently, who are facing death either for themselves or their loved ones.

There are also the conversations about whether or not to attempt CPR should the need arise.

This week there was also a man who was living in extreme pain who wanted to go back to the lawyers and ask again about when the time comes could someone assist his death be freed from prosecution.

These are all huge questions affecting each of us and each of our loved ones.

Possibly on a lighter note someone even asked me this week the question if we are in heaven forever after we die, how is it possible to be large enough to accommodate all the need? Does heaven keep getting extended?

A few weeks ago I was wondering what Lazarus might have said when he was brought back from death, and today we hear about Tabitha who was ill and died. She was a good lady by all accounts and obviously loved and admired. Peter prays and then says “Tabitha get up” and she does and begins to serve them again.

She had been ill and then died…. Quite a natural progression, she was loved and people would have grieved. So what do you think may have been the effects on her and her loved ones by being brought back to life?

As I sometimes say at funerals some of the oldest words recorded from the Christian pen are words to the Thessalonian church “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have died… we will be with the Lord forever… therefore encourage one another”

It would appear the question of death has travelled with us perhaps not surprising, but equally important is to realise that ideas of heaven (and indeed hell) have not been constant, and have it would appear changed down the years.

You certainly don’t have to be religious to use the language of heaven, Heaven is variously depicted in art of all forms down the years.

It is such a familiar term yet it is worth realising it may mean different things to different people.

Paula Gooder has written an excellent book on this topic, it is readily and easily readable.

For many of us today, Death , dying and heaven are part of the same conversation yet it may not always have been so even within the life of the Christian Church. Thoughts and feelings have evolved and probably continue to do so.

It is probably important to realise that as the collect for today speaks, the resurrection and the life is more often speaking about this world and are life today than it is about some other world.

The resurrection life of Jesus was that which literally fed the early believers. It was his continued presence that made them who they were then.

This week Jean Vanier died. He was the founder of the L’Arche communities. His death has touched many people, it is of course sad.

I had the huge pleasure of meeting him a number of years ago. He was a speaker at a conference I was attending. I have since that conference said that that was like being alongside a living saint… a truly remarkable Christian.

I want to encourage us to talk about our death, and to speak about our dying. Let’s accept differences here too.

On a perhaps practical and personal point do make sure loved ones know what you feel about CPR too.

There is no age limit about such discussions, children and old people alike can grow by sharing the discussion.

Jean Vaniers final words to those at his bedside were inspiring and I want to end with them now, giving thanks for his remarkable life and witness.

“I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure what the future will be but God is good and whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy and give thanks for everything. My deepest love to each one of you” (Jean Vaniers final word)

 

 

Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever