Sermons 30th October 2022

Readings  1 Peter 1 , 3-9, 13-16,   Luke 6, 12-23

In the first letter of Peter we read

“In God’s great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

In just a sentence, Peter sums up the promise of the Gospel message for his readers and for all Christians since. In this simple, but profound truth we hear of God’s mercy, the overcoming of death and sin by Christ, the transformation of our lives that is possible in the new birth that results from belief in Jesus and anointing with the Holy Spirit, the hope that death is not an ending, but a beginning and that there is life to come that will be perfected in God for eternity.

All that derives from, all that transforms our lives, comes from an inheritance, an inheritance of faith of those saints that have gone before us, from before Christ right up to today. As Christians, transformed by Christ, the church today can draw on a wealth of tradition reaching right back  through the Old Testament scriptures to  Abraham, a nomad who wandered in faith and hope toward an inheritance which had been promised to him by God. Or the Hebrews  led by Moses wandering in the desert on their way to Canaan, David, imperfect yet faithful,   or the exiles hoping, praying day in day out in Babylon awaiting the day when they could return to Zion.

There is a wealth of inheritance in  all the rest of Old Testament of faithfulness to God through both the prophets and the people, through hard times and good , of peoples seeking a more perfected relationship with God, a perfected nation, perhaps we might say, God’s kingdom on earth.

But that perfection was never possible, despite promises and covenants made, because humankind, with the God given gift of freewill, so often chose to live its own way, not God’s way, with all the problems that brings. Not until God interceded, not until the resurrection of  God’s Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and through faith in his sacrifice, not until Christ, did all that become a real hope that humankind can reach their divinely appointed destination, however we understand that.

Such is the inheritance of the saints we remember today, but not just those Biblical saints or the apostles or indeed those beatified by the church over two millennia, but the faithful, those who have passed this inheritance, this gospel, this hope, from generation to generation through their faithful lives, through their sharing of the gospel, through their acts of servanthood and love and through their prayer.

It is an inheritance, of people and of faith for which we can only be thankful and celebrate as we remember what we often phrase as the communion of saints.

But as much as we might celebrate and remember, as much as we might know in our faith the promise of eternal life, the inheritance that does not spoil or perish or fade, we still, in our created selves retain our humanity and the capacity for love and, because of love, sorrow.

I often think of my mother as a saint, and I’m sure God would see her as that despite, perhaps because of her humble servanthood during her life. She wore her faith on her sleeve, and her love. I spent endless hours as a teenager helping her in the kitchen or walking with her in the countryside, as she spoke of faith, of her love of God, of nature, of people. She would stand every Sunday, rain or shine at the entrance of the church and welcome every single person, sharing words and greetings, she quietly supported my father’s ministry caring for him, for us and for so many in the community. And always quietly, without fuss, always putting others before herself, even on her deathbed. And I loved her deeply. Walking away from her hospital bed for what she and I both knew, but would not voice, was the last time over 30 years ago was the most difficult thing I have ever done and still causes me pain, but I am sure, so sure of her place in eternity with God and so was she, and in that I am blessed even though she is still mourned to this day.

Inherent in our own nature, indeed the inheritance of God’s image in whom we were created, is love, for that is God’s own nature. And for all the joy and comfort and deep emotion love embraces, when we lose the people we love, then, inevitably there is sorrow.

If we did not love, there would be no sorrow- the depth of our sorrow reflects the depth of our love, it is but another dimension of love, another aspect of love which we never desire, but which is inevitable if we give ourselves up to a true and deep love.

But because sorrow is another aspect of love, when we read words such as those in Luke in the Beatitudes where it says “Blessed are those who mourn” it may help us to understand. If sorrow is part of love, then as love is the very nature of God and our human love a faint reflection of God’s great love, then we can be sure, we know, that God shares that sorrow too, he stands alongside us, his comforting arm is there for us, he weeps for our loss and mourns that space in our lives which was once so filled. And how are we blessed? We are blessed because within God’s love we know there is also the knowledge of that inheritance of faith we spoke of earlier, that surety of the promise that culminated not in the death of Christ, but in his resurrection, not in the ending of life, but in the beginning of eternal life.

And as much as we miss those no longer on earth with us, God’s promise, which we inherit, that comes to us through all the saints, is that those we love are at peace in the mysterious grace of God, in the eternity into which all have been welcomed through Christ.

And in that there is, indeed, a great blessing.