Sermon given at Sung Eucharist on Sunday 18th May 2014
18 May 2014 at 11:00 am
The Reverend Gavin Williams, Priest Vicar
An elderly couple die peacefully after more than 60 years of marriage. They have lived for so many years in part because of the husband's determined interest in health food, vitamin tablets and regular exercise.
They are met at the pearly gates by St Peter who takes them to a fabulous mansion. It looks out on a beach with golden sand and waving palm trees. It backs on to a championship golf course. This week it is Pebble Beach, California, next week it will be Royal Lytham St Anne’s.
The old woman says, ‘It’s all lovely but we could never afford the house or the green fees.’
‘This is heaven’, Peter replies. ‘It’s free’.
He takes them to the clubhouse where top chefs cook whatever you want.
‘How much does it cost to eat here?’ asks the old woman.
‘Don’t you understand?’ says Peter. ‘This is heaven. It’s all free!’
‘Where are the low calorie and low cholesterol foods?’ asks the old man.
Peter replies, ‘That's the best part, you can eat as much as you want of whatever you like and you never put on weight and you never get sick. This is heaven.’
The woman looks at her husband and says, ‘You and your healthy diet and daily exercise. We could have been here years ago!’
John 14 is often used as a reading at funerals, offering comfort to the bereaved that their loved ones have gone to a better place where Jesus still cares for them. While I believe this is true, I do not think Jesus is talking here about his followers enjoying ‘pie in the sky when we die’. I think he is talking about living in the here and now.
‘My Father’s house’ is the expression used by the teenage Jesus in Luke’s gospel to refer to the Temple in Jerusalem. Controversially, Jesus claimed that he was the replacement for the Temple, meaning that Jesus is ‘the place’ where men and women can find God. He, not the Temple, would also be ‘the place’ where we can find forgiveness for our sins.
If we follow Jesus we find life, because following Jesus sets us free from fantasy and introduces us to reality.
For example, our fantasies about the best way to live include being rich, having lots of stuff and enjoying a certain status.
About riches, Jesus tells us not to be camels trying to squeeze our enormous humps through small spaces. The reality seems to be that the more equally wealth is distributed in a society, the happier it is. We will be much happier if we share what we have with others.
About stuff, Jesus said ‘A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’. And yet as consumers our creed is ‘Accumulate, accumulate, accumulate’. The reality is that this is not good for us, for the poor or for the planet.
In relation to status, Jesus says the one who wants to be great must be servant of all and he washed the disciples’ feet. As with income, the reality is that unless power is distributed more evenly, some sort of violence is the inevitable result.
Jesus said he had come so that we might have life in all its fullness. Although he didn’t have time to play golf, and although he seems to have owned only the clothes he stood up in, he found fullness in friendship and food and ideas; ideas like serving others, comforting those who mourn, caring for the vulnerable and the marginalised, and he seems to have practised what he preached.
A friend of mine used to say, ‘I would believe in redemption if Christians looked a little more redeemed’.
This is the challenge, to follow Jesus and to demonstrate that following him is the best way to live, is the way to be most alive. Can we live in a way that shows we have been called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light?