Abiding in Lockdown

This sermon can be listened to here

  Gate Pa – Year A  6th Sunday of Easter - 2020
Psalm                          Psalm:  66:8-19                                          
First Reading:              Acts 17:22-31                     
Second Reading:        1 Peter 3:13-22             
Gospel:                        John 14:15-21
What I want to say:
The gift of the Spirit is that the love of God resides in each one of us, that all may be drawn into the way of God – the way of compassion, generosity, justice and love.
What I want to happen:
People to reflect on this awesome gift, and awesome responsibility in this time of pandemic.

The Sermon

  1. Introduction

I wonder how you are feeling after the announcements of Monday. It was a surprise that we would be limited to groups of 10. And that meant we would not be starting for a few weeks. While I know that some of my colleagues are outraged, for many of us vicars this was really going to make little difference. I am expecting if the number of cases stays at near zero, we will be able to start on Pentecost Sunday, which I was already thinking we might aim for anyway. But for some this is insulting and belittling of the place of Christianity in our country – actually it applies to all faith groups. They argue that faith and spirituality is important and will be important as we move forward. And they are not wrong. We just need to keep finding ways of being a dispersed community and nurturing people while we wait.
For others it very hard to take because it means waiting longer to re-join their faith community, who are like their family. That is one of the issues for the health advisers. We are not entertainment (like movie theatres) but a close community, and with loud talking and singing they are worried about transmission of Covid-19.
But all that doesn’t make it any easier. While I am personally happy to wait for the wellbeing of all those who might come, I understand that this is hard for some of you.
While it was disappointing that we were not in church for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, and the 50 days of Easter, I can’t think of a more appropriate church season.
Lent and Holy week to bring our grief and fear
Easter to reflect on and celebrate resurrection and what them means for us in the midst of a pandemic. 

  1. Resurrection

I’ve talked in the past about how we too often thought Christianity is about getting us into heaven. Resurrection then becomes something that happens way in the future.
But I have also talked about how a number of scholars and theologians are increasingly saying that the early writers of the gospels and other New Testament books saw the point of Jesus as the means by which God honours the eternal covenant with this world and humanity,

  • That humanity would be restored: as St. Augustine of Hippo said, in Jesus we are reminded that we are made in image of God and that God’s love and compassion resides in heart of each of us
  • and creation renewed.

Resurrection begins when we are freed from death of worshipping false idols, the false idols of power, wealth, security,         placing ourselves first.
Resurrection is when we live in the life offered to us now, abundant life. And one way of understanding Johns gospel is that he is describing what that abundant life looks like.
It feels like we need that now more than ever.
But that also feels quite big  

  1. Abundant life

For the last few weeks, we have been looking at how John describes resurrected or abundant life.
Some themes include Jesus being the means by which God the Good Shepherd both provides and protects.
Another theme is Jesus abiding in God the Father, and God the Father abiding in Jesus. In Jesus, God the Father is made known. In all that Jesus says and does we see the character of God as love, compassion, mercy, justice, inclusiveness, passion, goodness, and peace. For John, the chief character is love. Abundant life is to live in this compassion, mercy, justice, inclusiveness, passion, goodness, and peace. It is to live in the love that exists between God the Father and Jesus. 

  1. The Spirit of Truth

All of which sounds easy, but does it?
As those disciples sat in stunned silence as Jesus gave his last talk before it all came crashing down it did not sound easy at all. They were feeling bereft and terrified. They needed more.
So did the people of Johns community for whom he had in mid as he wrote his gospel. They were divided, and persecuted. Many seem to have left. They were desperate. They needed more.
And us. Whatever our response to the last two or more months. I wonder what we need. Do we too need more?
In John’s gospel Jesus offers more – the Spirit of Truth. Jesus has been God’s presence with them, inviting them into the deep relationship that exists between God the father and the risen Christ. And in his stead, Jesus leaves the Spirit, to also remind them of who they are – made in the image of divine love, and that God is with us wherever we happen to be. This is a very different way of understanding the role of the Spirit than Luke. And in this time, it is a gift.
No matter what happens, God is present for us in the work of the Spirit. No matter how we are responding to events, God is present for us in the work of the Spirit. And the task of the Spirit is to invite us ever more deeply into love, so that we too might abide in divine love.
We might be physically distanced from each other, but we are not distanced from God. We might not be able to gather, but we are still invited to live God’s compassion, mercy, justice, inclusiveness, passion, goodness, and peace for ourselves, for each other, for all people.

        5.     Conclusion

I wonder what we hear in that promise

-         what words are spoken to us?

How have we experienced the Spirit over these weeks,

how do we experience this Spirit in our new normal?

How might we live that out?


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