All Saints – Incompatible Metaphysics

Incompatible metaphysics

Jesus said ‘Truly, Truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you have no life in you’
John 6:53

A catchy sermon title is always helpful 🙂 I have a friend with whom I meet up all too infrequently, and when we do get together we have a common lament ‘Why is no one interested in Ontology or Metaphysics?’ because without Ontology or metaphysics, you don’t know which way is up! . . . Metaphysics, of which Ontology is a subsection, is concerned with the Question of ‘What is?’ Or to put it a little more helpfully, what is the true nature of Reality. Our conversations are usually held over large cups of coffee, but I am sure that if we are granted enough years we may well graduate to Whisky and pipes 🙂

Of course this revelation might be met either with complete incomprehension – ‘What has that go to do with anything??’ To which the answer is it has Everything to do with Everything! Or, ‘Well I’m glad someone is thinking about these things, but the rest of us just get on with it!!’ To which the only reasonable response is – What is the It with which you are getting on?’

For it must be said, if the underlying story of our existence by which we live by is wrong, then we are in trouble – and if the Western World is anything to go by, then it might be safe to assume that we have the wrong story, or The Wrong Metaphysic . . . Certainly we seem to inhabit a World which is not conducive to Life. Modern Culture is wiping out Life on Earth at a rate that were it a LOT slower we might call Alarming. Somehow the Modern Western Culture doesn’t fit ‘within The Great Scheme of Things . . . and as for the Life of the Church, it would seem that the Western World is similarly Ill disposed to the Church – some form of decline pretty much everywhere you look. The collapse of the Created Order, and the Collapse of the Church . . .

Of course, someone might say, well at least here in the West we are free to worship without fear . . . yet we must ask whether this is truly a hopeful sign? If a Culture that is destroying everything is happy to let us do what we want in this reagard, then perhaps we actually believe the same story. Perhaps we have the same Metaphysic, or ‘we’re just like all the rest’ . . .
. . . which brings us to today on which we celebrate ‘All Saints’ . . . and to be a Saint is to have a very different metaphysic, to live out of a very different story, a story which I suggest leaves us at odds with the culture in which we find ourselves . . .

Saints – Moreover the problem of being a Saint in the Modern World – And we might find ourselves on familiar ground here. Back on the ‘on the one hand, but then on the other’ ground’ The Church and the Real World, Clergy and Lay people, God and Caesar . . . Saints on one hand and then on the other, we run of the mill Christians . . . Except that isn’t true . . .

The word Saint in Greek is Hagioi – it is the direct translation of the word ‘Holy’ in the Hebrew קםש — Set apart for God.

As we heard in Leviticus last week ‘Be Holy for I am Holy’ – as Peter tells us ‘Be Holy for I am Holy’. This ‘Holy’ is not primarily a ‘moral’ word, rather it is a Metaphysical Word – it is to do with Existence – it is a form of Existence – Yet we have a problem with the word Holy which in our culture has a ‘moral’ feel to it – in Te Reo, Tapu gets closer, but then we have to translate it and when we translate any word aside from words about objects, we always mistranslate – so we might call it ‘Sacred’. But none of these really do, words that are so shaped by our World –

As Always Jesus expresses it this ‘holiness’, in HIs Being, and his Speech

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;
for [your Father in heaven] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If we go into the depths of what it means to be a Saint, one of the Holy, it is this, it is to be a Child of God. Note how Jesus expresses our action – Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good . . . This living out of the Life of The Father is the Christian Metaphysic, and is beautifully revealed in the heart of prayer, when we say The Lord’s Prayer

I was asked recently, why do I use the words ‘As our Saviour Christ has both commanded and taught us, we are bold to say’ as an invitation to pray the Lord’s Prayer. (Words which come from the prayer book of the Episcopal Church of the US) Why? Because surely it is more than a little bold to pray in such a way as to Assume a relationship, that we have been born of God? ‘Born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God’

What is more we pray out of that assumption. Forgive us as we have forgiven, ‘We have lived as your children , reflecting the Divine Image in the World, Loving our enemies, forgiving all and sundry – therefore we make a claim on you, the One from whom our Life comes, the one who is the source of the forgiveness with which we have forgiven.

To live out of the Life of the Father, in imitation of the One whom we Love with all our heart and soul and mind. Jesus is of course the First amongst the brethren, the One who only does what he sees the Father doing – His gaze is on the Father and as we set our Gaze of God in Jesus. Being Holy, Being a Saint is the same as Being a Child of God. It is knowing Life from God – it is having a different form of existence in the World


An old Saint of the church died a year or so ago. To this day I don’t know her name, but someone who was with her when she died told me a beautiful story which I think speaks to this and indeed to the whole question of Metaphysics, what we are, and why Christian metaphysics is incompatible with the story the World tells about itself, insofar as it has a story.

Shortly before she died in hospital, which itself tells us much of the World’s story, a doctor on his rounds who hadn’t met her dropped in. Making small talk . . . for without a better metaphysic what Are you going to talk about? . . . he asked her ‘Where are you from?’ And without a moments hesitation our Sister replied ‘From God’ . . .

In our Baptism, we are identified with Jesus, marked as His People, and we are granted the Gift of the Divine Life – the Life from above. This life is unlike other life in the world, although it is the source of all life in the World.
The early Christians were not seen in modern terms as ‘one religion amongst many’ Those are terms set by the Modern world with its categories and boxes, trying to manipulate things to fit in with its story. No, they were seen as a separate Race, a new humanity and such language fills the Scriptures of Course – as St Paul says, ‘if anyone is in Christ, S/he is a New Creation’ a New Creature – through the Life of God in Her, she is a foretaste of the Once and future Kingdom of God

And if we still don’t get it, this Different Metaphysic, then what of the words of Jesus? Do they speak to us of the world around us?

Blessed are the poor, the poor in Spirit, the mourners, the meek, the pure in heart, those hungering and thirsting, the persecuted for the name of Jesus . . . They are the Blessed.
Certainly we cannot see the world as Modern people and find the words of Jesus are anything but madness . . . they are incompatible with the Modern World . . . The Meek inherit the Earth? No, the Powerful, the strong etc etc It is no surprise that the words Jesus are continually being twisted and reinterpreted for in the Modern World they are Irrelevant . . . you won’t get far in the Way of the World if you take Jesus at his word. How are you going to get on in school, in your career, in getting a good standard of living etc etc with this blessed life?? Taking Jesus at his word, Jesus who Manifests This Life, finds us living out of a very different Metaphysic, a different Existence

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, that he had come from God, and was going back to God got up from the table, took off his robe and wrapped a towel round his waste. You see if You are not the Source of your own existence, if you don’t have to prove yourself, make a name for yourself, ‘get on in the World’ – then you do not have to secure your existence in the World – you don’t have to make it fit, you don’t have to make it relevant, you can just let it Be.

The story of the Modern World is that you are responsible for Your Life – You create our own life. As one writer puts it, it is hardy surprising their is such an epidemic of depression faced with the Command to Be Yourself . . . But if your life is not your own but comes as Gift from The Father, and what is more it will return to the Father, then that struggle falls away. We are Free with Jesus to be the poor in Spirit one, the mourning, meek, pure of heart one, the hungering and thirsting one . . . The Blessed One. Free to be Saints –

Whatever story the world has of those who are blessed it isn’t the Jesus story – indeed the two stories are incompatible. The story of the modern world is epitomised by the Skip which was on the lawn last week. We who are no more than a collection of atoms, mysteriously living, for we have no story about what Life itself is, beyond a chilled white wine and a nice view. . . dig dead matter out of the ground, exert our will on it, make it into something, sell it to someone, who eventually puts it in a skip and it goes back into a whole in the ground. Insofar as there is a dominant story about what it is to be human, it is veering towards a similar disposability of dead things.

It is a story moving from non existence to non existence, a story From death to death

Jesus said ‘Truly, Truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you have no life in you’

We are her to remember who we are – to remember our story as Christians

Our story – the story of the Saints, the Story of The Children of God is from Life to Life – from God, To God, The Divine Life – and shedding Light and life abroad . . .

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