Tuesday, November 25, 2008

During Advent I will be updating a special Advent blog - http://5minsspace.blogspot.com I hope that this will become a place where you might want to come for five minutes reflection and a chance to pause.

Each day during Advent I will post a short reflection there. I hope that as you spend time at your desk or at home, it might give each of us opportunity to slow down, still down and use Advent - even for just five minutes - for what it originally was designed for... to prepare for the Coming God.

Also, coming up during this holy season:

Sunday 30th November - Advent Sunday
10.00 am All God’s Children - a service for all
3.00 pm Seven Bells to Bethlehem - an Advent Carol Service

7th December - The Second Sunday of Advent
10.00 am A Communion service including a speaker from CMS

14th December - The Third Sunday of Advent
10.00 am A Communion service including a speaker from USPG

21st December - The Fourth Sunday of Advent
10.00 am The Lord is Here - a Communion Service for all the family
3.00 pm A Traditional Candlelit Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Every Sunday
8.00 pm Meditative Night Prayer (Compline)

Every Tuesday
12noon Midday Prayer

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living - an Advent Course. SIgn up in church.

Finally here is a draft of last Sunday's sermon.

We find ourselves at the end of the church’s cycle of readings, at year’s end, today. We have been introduced to Jesus, we have heard him preach and teach and seen his miracles. We have been with him all the way to the last supper, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. We have walked with confused disciples, following Jesus, who post Pentecost became the Holy Spirit filled leaders and preachers of what became the Church. But where is jesus now?

The end of Matthew’s Gospel that we have been reading through recently is all about preparedness. First of all, there are the foolish bridesmaids, who ran out of oil and so missed the wedding; then there is the slave who wasted his chance of increasing his one talent while the master was away; and now we have the sheep and the goats.

All of these people and groups are unprepared for what is about to happen, and they face terrible consequences. For the stories are not just about the importance of being ready, but also about judgment. But where is Jesus now?
The people in the stories make their judgments. The foolish bridesmaids decide there is no great rush. The slave with one talent decides to do nothing. The “goats” decide that some people are not worth bothering about. God then makes his judgment, and, unfortunately, it is completely different from theirs.

All the people standing at the throne of glory are taken aback by God’s judgment, and, more particularly, by God’s judge. They were not expecting to see the Son of Man up there on the throne, looking completely at home, with angels around him carrying on as if they thought he was God. Here is Jesus....

As the people are separated into two groups, one on the right hand and one on the left of this awesome yet recognisable figure, it is clear that both groups are equally puzzled. They are both, you might say, unprepared for this standard of judgment. Neither group had lived their lives expecting to have them judged by this man, in this way. As their sentences are handed down, both groups say: “We didn’t know we would be judged for that.”

The judge does not explain himself, but he could have pointed to both the Law and the prophets, which make it clear what God expects. The reading from Ezekiel, for example, shows God himself looking for the lost sheep and longing to care for them.

It also shows God’s judgment on those “fat sheep” who kept the pasture for themselves, and deliberately pushed away the hungry and the needy. Any well-brought up Jew listening to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats would recognise the justice of the judgment handed out to the goats. No one could say that they were not warned about the nature of God.
So how did they — and how do we — manage to be so deceived? How did we manage to persuade ourselves that there would be no real consequences for the way we live? As we gorge ourselves to death, how come we do not realise that we are the fat sheep, pushing the starving millions away from our green fields?

That is what makes Jesus, the Son of Man, such a terrible judge. Judgment is not something alien and distant, but something that bears the human face of the neglected, the tortured, the crucified.

God is not far away - his advent is near - he comes to liberate the oppressed, and we cannot plead that we did not know what he wanted of us fat sheep. We know perfectly well what the hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, sick and imprisoned people around us want. Jesus the Son of Man is to be our judge, and the human face he shows us is all too recognisable.

Because of the terrible nature of judgment, the seemingly awful exclusivity of it, society keeps telling itself that you don’t need to be religious to please God. Although the judge is Jesus, the King, the Son of Man, it is certainly true that the sheep didn’t think they recognised him in those whom they helped. But where is Jesus now?

Today, as every day, we are honouring the one who understands life, who destroyed death, and rose to eternal life in heaven - Jesus Christ. It is he who now has authority over all, things. Where is Jesus - he is everywhere and in every situation. Today he challenges us to continue to see him at work in his world in the poor and oppressed - and to respond, but not just to their need, but as if to him,

When we, his Church, acknowledge him like this as Lord and King in our lives, receiving bread and wine - remembering him as he commanded us, we become his body, we can have no illusions about what that body looks like. Where is Jesus now - but in each one of us...

We believe in God’s great power, at work in Jesus, to bring life out of death. And so we, his body, work to bring life out of the death all around us. We work to pay attention to the real human beings with whom God came to identify, and we look around us for the life that he created and redeemed out of love. Amen.

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