Feb 18, 2022
This is a significant rewrite if a sermon from 2019 to fit a
Hear the original HERE
Watch this rewrite HERE
I am a glass half empty person. I tend to expect the worst in almost everything. When I was a teenager about 14-15 constantly facing bullying this tuned into paranoia. If a school mate said to me “how are you?” or hello, I would respond with “what do you want!” In my early adult years and in my late teens that all changed. By temprament I was and still am a pessimist, a glass half empty person. But by faith, because of the trust I have in Jesus I am at the same time a “cup overflowing” person. As in the 23rd psalm because the Lord is my shepherd I believe I will come in time to a place of celebration where my cup is not just full to the brim but overflowing. In the meantime I have been well provided for. There have been many green patures in my life, and though there have been a few long dark valleys in I know that God has been with me, guiding me even through the valley of the shadow of death.
There is a lot to be hopeless about. We could all be forgiven for giving in to despair or being pessimists. There is of course COVID. The Omicron threat is slowly receding but there could be another varient and someone recently told me that it could be another 2-3 years before we are through it. There is the medium to long term threat of climate change. In the week I prepared this sermon I have assisted two people, one ungrateful who demanded more and one who was grateful and another who I could not help because they needed something that the church and I could not provide, four night’s accommodation. In all three cases I don’t know the truth of their stories. I don’t know if they got themselves into the mess or if they’ve fallen through the cracks. I do know they were in deep enough need to seek help from a church. There is so much need and broken-ness and it seems impossible to meet.
So how is it that I do not give in to despair although hopelessness and fear very often haunt me? How is it that I can keep going?
It is because with Paul I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. I believe the tomb was empty and that even now Jesus is both with us by the Holy Spirit and also bodily in the presence of God the Father. He is the first fruit, the advanced sample, of the resurrection. He is the sign that God is indeed creating a new Heaven and a new Earth. A time is coming when just as the body of Jesus was recreated so too will heaven and earth be recreated, and joined together as one. As part of that, we too, will be recreated. The old creation will not be done away with. It will be remade. Just as the body of Jesus was recreated and so the tomb was found empty, the same will happen with all creation including ourselves.
At first this may sound very impractical, pie in the sky when you die, but I think there are two immensely practical outcomes of a belief in the resurrection. First, it says there is a future and so even when things seem bleak we can go on, we can put one foot in front of the other. All may seem lost but we look forward to new life when all things will be renewed and re-created.
It may be that the last tree has been chopped down, [or as in the children’s story the watermelon plant has died] but there is a green shoot that has popped up, a sign that there is a future, that everything has not been in vain. That shoot is the risen Jesus, the first fruit, of the new creation. So we have a future hope. And that hope enables us to go on. That in part is what Jesus is getting at when he says those who weep will laugh and those who hunger will be filled. When the cosmos is made new and all the dead are raised every tear will be wiped away. If that is so, there is hope!!!
I hate going to the dentist, I have had a number of teeth out and on two occasions have gone into shock, become faint and nearly passed out. Yet I faced up to it because I knew that my future will be better without those rotten teeth and so I faced up to the dentists and their plyers confident of a better future. Firstly I believe that when the new creation comes and I am raised from death I will have a mouth full of perfect teeth, but I know that even in this life I am better off without those rotten teeth. There will be no more discomfort. I will not become ill because the infection from an abscess starts to affect the rest of my body. I will have a fuller, richer life. As a foretaste of the future I even have a fine partial set of nickel cobolt dentures with which I can chew carrots, steak and apple. Not the final thing but a promise of what’s to come.
It is like that with the resurrection of Jesus too. If he has been rased then his risen life is at work in the world now. In at least some ways heaven and earth have already joint together and life is far better than it once was.
World wide far fewer women die in child birth and far fewer children die in infancy. Slavery in many parts of the world has been abolished. There is greater equality between women and men, people of different races and classes. Paul’s words from Galatians that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Slave nor free, male nor female, is not true just in heaven with Jesus, it is becoming true here and now. The percentage of the world in abject poverty is actually declining. Polio has been eradicated world wide.
My mum who had teeth just like mine had to have all of hers taken out when she was just 16. I have kept more than half of mine through the wonders of modern dentistry. Heaven and earth have come closer together in many ways more powerfully than in the past. In the 1919 Spanish Flu, our last great pandemic, around 12,000 people died or 10.2 In every 10,000. So far in the COVID Pandemic because of vaccines and other medical improvements just over 4000 people have died or about 1.4 people in every 10,000. More than 8 times less people have died from COVID per 10,000 than died from Spanish Flu. Heaven and earth are coming closer together.
In many, many cases the Christian church has played a leading role in improvements in the world, in bringing heaven and earth together. Why have we played this role? It is because we have a vision of the world in which the hungry are fed, those who weep are transformed into those who laugh, the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor and the dead are raised. This is a future thing, but it is not only a future thing. It is also a here and now thing. Notice Jesus says blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God. He does not say the poor will be blessed for theirs will be the kingdom of God. It is a here and now thing as well as a future thing.
One of the signs of this is seen in the start of the Gospel passage today. Be fore we hear Jesus say “blessed are” we hear that those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured and that he healed all the sick who were brought to him. In other words the poor received the Kingdom of God and in just under three chapters the hungry will be fed in the feeding of the 5, 000. The Resurrection of Jesus is the greatest sign of this blessing being at work now. He is as we have already heard the first fruit of the new creation.
If we think of our experience of life, and faith, and God at work, we know that this is true for us too. I have not heard all the stories in this church and I probably never will but I know there will be stories of healing, of light breaking into a darkened situation, of new beginnings in work, in marriages, in families. Stories of hope and strength in the midst of grief. I know that this has been your experience. If you are going though some darkness, or even if you are just like me and have a bit of a pessimistic turn of mind, let me remind you, Christ is risen! The Hungry will be, and are being fed, those who weep have had their weeping turn to laughing, and the Kingdom of God, even now, as well as in the future belongs to the poor.
So like me, put one foot in front of the other, do as Christians have done for 2, 000 years, live out the hope of the resurrection even in the darkest of times by engaging with the needs of our community. Share stories of the hope you have within you, do your bit to feed the hungry and bring laughter to those who weep. You won’t be able to do it all, but the risen Jesus is alive in you by the power of the Spirit and so the Kingdom of God is coming but it is also among us and in us right now. Amen.