Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 4 November 2018.
One thing to notice in any political campaign is the promises made by the competing interests. Elect me or us and there will be all sorts of goodies – which of course you will pay for yourselves.
And these promises can cover any existing area of government policy and even some areas that public policy does not yet cover. They do not quite promise rainbows and crocks of gold on show every day of the week but the promises can be quite imaginative and even extravagant.
And then the reality sets in: bills have to be paid and the law must be followed. Majorities mustered for votes and other interested parties which are not directly controlled by the regime must be persuaded.
But then there is another kind of reality as electors find that promises are not quite what they seem, and be beginnings of cynicism and criticism start to appear.
With all this in mind perhaps our view of the promises of the bible also begin to look a little jaded. A new Garden of Eden, a new Jerusalem, and a new promised land. A new dispensation with new principles and priorities.
And yet there is a place for these visions of the glory and the wonder of God as they affect our lives and circumstances. We do not have to abide in a land of permanent distrust and even contempt.
In this sense it depends on where we start from. Our personal lives may bear the scars of past disappointments and failed hopes and the people we trusted who let us down.
And yet there is still another dimension which we do experience and find to be real. It is there that we find that sins are forgiven and prayers are answered. It is there that we also find that there are new perspectives and visions of reality which do not rely on what others say for we find them coming into focus and into our understanding as we exercise our faith and deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ.
And yes, there is that sense in which colours are deepened, relationships find new purpose, harmonies become clearer and we begin to see resources that had been veiled from us.
Now the Kingdom of God begins to make more sense as we find that in Jesus Christ forgiveness is real and life does not wholly end when our breath fails.
Now we find that the sorrows and sufferings of the present do have some kind of rhyme and reason, as new purposes begin to unfold. Now we also find that in Jesus Christ what was vague begins to find its clarity and what was obscure is partly revealed.
Here we find that when God promises to wipe the tears from our eyes, He means it – and it is not just a figure of speech or a poetic flourish. Here He really is deeply and personally concerned in the things that grieve us and break us down. The things that, if unattended, will leave us cold and cynical and bitter, trusting in nobody and hoping in nothing.
Perhaps this is where Jesus’ raising of Lazarus means so much. Lazarus had fallen sick and Jesus deliberately delayed coming to him. Now in the grave Lazarus’ sisters put on that brave face and repeat the things of faith. Of course Lazarus would rise again – at the last day.
No, Jesus was going to do something else. The people would indeed see life from the dead as Lazarus was returned to them. And Jesus had done this before in raising the girl at Capernaum and the young man at Nain.
This time it would be a pointer for His own followers – there really was more to reality than the things that senses or instruments could discern.
Life and personality really did extend beyond the grave and if that was so then all the possibilities of the Kingdom of God might indeed be valid.
Maybe death and mourning would be no more – endured for a while in this life but banished thereafter. Maybe life really was more than the random actions of sub-atomic particles and there might be a pattern and purpose to it all.
And this is where we find that for all the failures and illusions of this life there really is more to be seen and known and understood.
Now we have a view of what really is there and what is more real than we could ever imagine. Death is no longer that great hole at the end of life into whose abyss all fall without hope or future.
Jesus had said ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ Last Sunday as we reflected on the passing of Graeme some of us saw a strange light in the sanctuary. It could have been a trick of the sunlight playing on the altar.
But it held our attention as we saw a little more clearly that this is a holy place, where the things of God are celebrated and proclaimed. Perhaps there was also the sense in which God was calling us: ‘Graeme has come home and I look forward to seeing you all – when your course and work here is complete and when you also may enter a deeper liberty in the Glory and Kingdom of God.’