Advent Sunday – Year B 2017

ADVENT SUNDAY

YEAR B

2017

 

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Mark 13:24-37

 

‘Eyes to See, Ears to Hear – Where and When we Are’

 

The other day, I was sat under the St John’s Oak, when I was joined by a male blackbird. He danced around on the lawn and continually chirruped – it took me several minutes for me to work out that he was talking to me 🙂

 

Now I realise that rumours of my insanity abound, but . . . when I was in England in June, I spent a day deep in the Devon woods learning about the five bird languages, the five different songs each bird has. The Blackbird’s chirrup, to which I was listening, and watching as his ruff bobbed up and down, was his ‘Contact’ call. That is the song the bird uses to establish if there are any of its own around.

 

Well the blackbird – looking at me with his beady eye – hopped closer and closer, until working out what he was doing, I replied. He didn’t recognise my feeble attempt at its contact call – and turned to the characteristic ‘Alarm’ Language as first he flew off, but then other birds in the vicinity, warned by his panic scattered, and for a few moments the air was thick with these alarm calls spreading as far as the ear could hear.

 

If you start to learn bird languages – Almost always, the first you would know would be the alarm language, for we pay little attention to the birds, far far less than they pay to us. Thus as we begin to learn to listen, we are still insensitive to your place in the scheme of things – we don’t know how to behave amongst birds and by default they are terrified of us. Bird watching may be a hobby for a few, but even then most of the time we pay them no heed, getting on with what we deludedly call ‘our own lives’, as if our lives had nothing to do with theirs. So we don’t live amongst them with gentleness and sensitivity – and they Flee! For we have no Sense of Where we are – of how We fit into Creation . . .

 

This is must be said is a particularly Modern failing – our Culture has very little or noo sense of our place in the scheme of things, how to live within the Creation. We may be able to give a detached ‘scientific account of it, but we do not Sense it, we do not truly Know it.

We have so much power, moreso in this age than in any other, and have used that power to separate ourselves from the wider Creation. Thus we live as an increasingly angry bull in a shop of the most delicate china. We have exacerbated this, even amongst ourselves, by dismantling so many structures and ways of living together, a sort of scorched earth policy for human existence. And all this is made worse as we have become almost an entirely Urban species, in practise if not always in location. Our sphere of the senses all but entirely taken up with human artefacts –  only seeing ourselves reflected back to ourselves. At every turn a humanly constructed environment, disconnected from The Creation, living in increasingly angry echo chamber of anti social-media. Place in Creation? – its for the birds . . . And so we are ‘homeless’

Unlike the Birds We have little or no sense of our Place in the scheme of things. Of who we are, of where we are in Place and in Time . . . Where are we? What Time is it?

 

Yet our Mother the Church in her Wisdom gives us a Place and a Time. And the Time is the beginning of our Year, Advent. This Time I given for Slowness. It is the beginning of the Year – we are called to Awaken – a time for Waking to Awareness – a time for Contemplation. This is the beginning of the Church Year and we should, despite every temptation not to, take time to Wake up to where and When we are, that we might Sense Where and When we are.

 

And indeed we Can do this. We have been given the capacity to See, to Hear, to Read the signs of the times. Jesus would not ask us to do something which he had not empowered us to do.

Last week you may remember our brother St Paul spoke to us of his prayer; that a spirit of wisdom and revelation be given us as we come to know the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory  [Eph 1:17-18] Coming to know God in Jesus Christ is the key to Seeing, to Hearing, the Key to all Knowledge and All Understanding. Knowing God in Jesus we have made Known to us who we are and where we are. Apart from knowing Him, this knowledge is hidden from us. He is the Door which allows in the light of the knowledge of all things in heaven and earth

 

 

And so as Paul opens his first letter to the Church in Corinth he does so with a reminder of our Capacity for Understanding Where and Who we are.

 

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

When we speak of reading the signs of the times – like a home owner who commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch – as Jesus says he has already told us all these things – Paul says we have been given the necessary gifts to discern as we spend time in prayer before God, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened. If these words of Jesus sound strange to our ears, perhaps it is because our spiritual senses and gifts have atrophied, as we have ignored the sense of our place in the scheme of things. And the Times . .

 

Of which there are strong echoes of our times in the words of Jesus

 

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

 

Words which speak powerfully of disorder on the Cosmic Level – affecting Everything. And what do we see around us but the collapse of the created order, and with it, woven through it, for we do have a place whether we recognize it or no, the collapse of social orders and structures. And, yet insulated by our Modern lives, Do we Truly see? After all, if we cannot walk down the drive of the Church – if indeed we do walk anywhere! – and Know our place in it within the Creation, how our lives relate and impact on all living things even at the most basic level of our relationship with the local birdlife, then how do we think we can read the signs of the times?

 

Note how Jesus so often uses the wider created order as a metaphor – consider: the lilies; the mustard seed; weeds and wheat; indeed even the humble sparrow – to whom I will return. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

 

For too long perhaps we have now lost sense of how the spiritual and the material participate in each other – this is of course the heart of our faith, that heaven and Earth are woven together in Christ Jesus – this weaving together is ‘the message of Christmas’ for which Advent is our time of preparation. Losing that sense we think Jesus is engaged in a simple metaphor, as if there were no connection except in our minds – whereas for his listeners, they had a far deeper appreciation of that woven togetherness – that the Creation told a story of Spiritual significance – for it is the Temple of the living God, the Home of God, from which in a sense he has gone away for a time . . .

Finding our place in Creation is finding our place where the material and Spiritual are woven together, inseparable  . . . it is to find our Home

 

So disconnected are we, that I wonder what Jesus might be saying to us, to get us to Wake Up!

 

As he said to Nicodemus, If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? If we do not know our place within the material order of things, and it is woven into the spiritual order in Christ, how can we know our place in the Spiritual order??

 

Well, briefly let’s try – and in our imagination sit a few yards away, under the oak. And thereof we have eyes to see – we see several things.

It is strained – the building of the Rest home dropped the water table – and it is out of place, an English oak growing in alien soil, the weather too warm and dry for it – see the black fungus which decks its twigs – read the signs. We Moderns think little of place and how vital it is to health and move things around, yet everything that was given in Creation was given in a place – it thrives in its native soil – even Vicars :-). None of us are the same wherever we are – where we are is so important in the story of who we are. As humans we cannot just ‘go where we like when we like’ without doing harm to our very existence. We need roots because we need water. The roots of the Oak are wounded and yet it bleeds sap through its leaves at an alarming rate – it cannot keep on at this speed – What does it speak to us?? Out of place and hurried – a ‘metaphor’ for our Modern world – Accelerated we live in a culture of faster and harder and More . . . like the oak we will not see out our full span of years at this rate.

and perhaps for Now, for Advent? Are we Slow, Do we Know where we are?

 

 

Advent is a Gift given to us – a season in which we might yet step back, to pray, to watch to pray for the renewal of the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, of knowledge and understanding.

 

We cannot do this without Seeing the Creation, not purely as Scenery and Views, but Knowing ourselves to be woven into it – our place in it – What it Really is, and who we Really are – like the prodigal – consider, come to our senses. Use the Eyes to See and Ears to hear we have been given – heaven and Earth woven together. Advent is preparation for The Feast of the Incarnation – the woven-ness of all things – if we do not See in Advent, how will we See Christmas?

 

The Creation – It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch – we get so so tied up with the ‘how’ of Creation – Creationists vs Evolutionists, that we completely miss the point. What Has God made?

 

A place, The Place God chooses to make a Home for Himself – The Word becomes Flesh and dwells among us . . . and leaves us to watch over it

 

I close with that doorkeeper, on the watch.

Consider the birds of the air . . . If you are at all attentive to the birds, you will know the Sentinel bird which keeps watch here. No it is not the mighty eagle of St John the Evangelist – it is the humble sparrow who nests in the adjacent beech and from the early hours, sits on the corner of the roof of our house. His call is a contact call and also what we might call background song – the humble sparrow hasn’t a wide vocal range 🙂 but that call is nearly incessant, indeed if you pay too close attention to it it can drive you nearly mad 🙂 He is the Sentinel. He watched the whole patch. Usually he is the first to see a cat.  He is often the first to spread the alarm call as his cheep quickens and gets a little higher ion pitch. He knows his place. He is alert to what is going on around him . . . He reads the sign of the times . . . and others around him pay attention. We are Called by Jesus to be watchkeepers on God’s House, His home

 

Jesus says we are worth more than many sparrows. This advent, let us not be too proud to learn from Him [Let the reader understand]

 

Amen

 

Three (not entirely) wise monkeys . . . Sermon for OT33 Year A, 2017

Sermon for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2017 Sunday November 19th
Philippians 4
Matthew 25:14-30

Three (not perfectly) wise monkeys

I have to admit in advance that rather unusually I have chosen one of our readings today, as I missed the opportunity to preach on it a few weeks ago when it came round in the Lectionary – and that is our Epistle, however it does correspond to our Gospel this week.

When I was growing up, my father was regularly absent from home, on business in the ‘oil rich’ nations of the Middle East and Africa. The company for whom he worked equipped hospitals across the gulf states and in Africa. The equipping involved everything from the latest surgical technology to gold plate taps for the personal medical suites of Saudi Royal Princes 🙂

On these trips he would always bring back a present for each of his sons and one year it was what now would be a little frowned on – three wise monkeys, carved from ebony – I still have mine, weighty enough to be an offensive weapon! For some reason mine was ‘speak no evil’, I don’t know whether it was chosen deliberately for me 🙂

Of course the council of the monkeys – hear no evil, see no evil speak no evil is not a bad council. Certainly there is great wisdom in not allowing things into our imaginative world which will only spread darkness. There is I think too little work done on the influence of violent or sexually explicit materials on our souls, perhaps of course because ‘we moderns’ no longer believe in souls. We still largely believe that we are ‘discriminating’ objective observers of the world who ‘can cope’ with watching such things, and in so doing our souls shrivel all the more.

I think in this regard even an ebony monkey is more wise than we. To pick up briefly on my theme of the last couple of weeks, we have an utterly inadequate ontology – we know not whereof we are made, We forget that we are but dust . . . we have little comprehension to use the words of Jesus, of that which makes for our peace . . .

Turning our gaze from Violence, closing our ears to gossip, and restraining the tongue (‘if you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all!’ as my mother would say) is Wise council, but if our approach to the World is primarily one of saying no, of shutting it all out, then we do not apprehend the Truth of our Existence

St Paul as he writes to the Philippians exhorts us in a very different way – a way that leads us deep into the Life of God

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 1) our disposition towards life is one of Rejoicing in the Lord, not saying ‘what a terrible time we live in!’ The Christian Life is not one of complaint, it is one of Rejoicing – why? How is this possible in this world??

Well, he goes on – 2) ’Let your gentleness be known to everyone.’ Gentleness is one of the Primary virtues of Christian existence – it is the antithesis of Violence and is the fruit of Knowing that ‘The Lord is near.’ The Lord is near, The Lord, is Here, God’s Spirit is with us . . . lift up your hearts, we lift them to the Lord Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, it is right to give him thanks and praise.

We learn as Christians to live in and through the Eucharist – Christ is at hand, near, present. Anxiety has no place, therefore – Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

The Always Rejoicing, Gentle, peaceful life is the Christian Life.

That Rejoicing Always is not I suggest the Happy Shouty Demonstrative Noisy – rather in the spirit of Gentleness it might be described using another forgotten word beginning with G – gladness. Echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah – the Servant of the Lord, Jesus himself – is the source of
‘the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.’

Do these things – Be Glad in the Lord, Be gentle out of non anxiety – Peace – And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Not hands over eyes, or ears or mouth, The Peace of God will guard your hearts and minds . . .

Rather than finding ourselves in a war to keep darkness out, rather that which wells up within us guards our hearts and minds in the peace of God – so Paul goes on, rather than keeping things out, focus your hearts and minds on that which brings Life – the wellspring of Life

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

We might say – whatever is good and pure and beautiful and true . . .

God is Good – All the time! All the time, God is Good! Fix your heart and mind on Goodness, and your eye will find its home in the Source of all goodness – The One who is the source of Goodness, Beauty, Truth.

As St Paul counsels elsewhere don’t get all tied up in controversy, arguments about words. Go about your life in humility and trust, doing that which he gives, keeping your heart and mind fixed on Goodness – He who is the Headwaters of your Life. Do not lose sight of This Living Water – Life coming to you in Christ Jesus.

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It is that Simple – Difficult at first for we have perhaps forgotten to so feed our eyes and ears and minds on those things which make for our health – forgetting we have souls of Eternal quality, we allow all sorts of things in. The counsel of the Gospel is ‘if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light’ Dwell on the Light, Goodness, Beauty and Truth, manifested in Jesus. Knowing Jesus our gaze is changed so that we See Goodness and Beauty and Truth coming to us in so many different ways. We Encounter the Goodness of God, and are freed from anxiety in the World.

Unlike the third of the servants to whom the master entrusts his business. In many respects it is true, we see as we are. The third servant in the parable, sees only himself when he says ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; – he accuses his master of being lazy, but of course he himself has done nothing whilst his master has been away! I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?”

The slave sees as HE Is!

With what has he filled his imagination, to ignore the work assigned to him? He does not see His Life as it were tied up in the Life of HIs Master. HE does not Know His Master – he Presumes to Know Him, but does not, for He sees no connection between his life and that of his master at one level – he does not recognise his fortunes as tied up in His Masters fortunes. And all he sees when he looks at his master is what he truly knows, himself . . . wicked and lazy . . . well if that is what you set your eyes on, that is what you become . . .

I think there is a simple warning here. That we live in a world which has little time for God – and constantly we will hear many things which are untruthful about God. Where did the Servant get his ideas about his master? Where do we get our ideas about God?

For in truth, there are many, even in the Church who have decided on the truth of God, without themselves gazing upon him in love, To Behold Him, to Know Him

Fundamentally we Know the Truth about God for we have come to See Him for ourselves

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Set your heart and mind and eye on them, and Behold!! Look!!!

The God of Peace will be with you . . .

Amen

Good Lord, Deliver us!

Sermon for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A 2017

Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 70
Matthew 25:1-13

‘Good Lord deliver us’

‘And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved.’ Matthew 24:12-13

Last week we briefly considered  ‘Ontology’ – the question of ‘What Is’, of ‘What we mean when we say ‘Existence’’. And for getting into the heart of the matter, I  think that you could do far worse than talk to a farmer. Of course, coming from a farming family myself I may be biased, but Farmers are very connected to the Earth – they are grounded, we might say ‘humble’. They know far better than most modern people how dependent they are on a hundred and one factors which we pay little attention to – and know it not purely academically, they know it, because they live in it. They have a deep appreciation of Existence.

I remember well how the farmers in my old parish back in England spoke a great deal about climate change for it was affecting their rhythms and patterns of work, and I remember one particular conversation with a farmer who expressed to me his deep concern about Modern folk. That they had never lived through periods of food shortages. That as a society the folk memory of famine and want had been all but erased – for whom food shortage ‘was a thing of the past’, ‘something that happened to other people’. For not since the second war had folk experienced what it was for Everyone to know that food was short. My farmer friend thought this bode ill, that we had for too long lost sight of the importance of food security and agriculture to our daily lives, of our dependence upon the Good Earth, for history taught that famine was an ever returning aspect of the cycle . . .

In one of my churches we had a piece of furniture which was once common – The Litany Desk. On it lay a prayer book open at The Great Litany, a series of prayers with the repeated petition, ‘Good Lord deliver us . . .’ From amongst other things, ‘plague and famine and want . . . ‘

The idea that we might as a congregation pray weekly for deliverance from plague and famine and want, that we should be continually looking to God to preserve us from these things was something that in the eyes of my farmer friend and church member, something we had lost touch with – As Henry reminded me from Scripture – ‘we live in the seven years of plenty, but there are always seven of famine round the corner . . .’

Yet prayers about deliverance from plague and famine and indeed much more – seem to us to be ‘culturally irrelevant’. Would we give ourselves to pray the litany, three times a week? I must confess that in my own cultural blinkers, I removed the desk . . .

And what then of the Psalms? The prayer book of the Church as we know, but do we Know it? How much do they touch our lives , as we perceive them . . .

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonour who desire to hurt me.
Let those who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’ turn back because of their shame.

Do such prayers apply to us? We who have everything we need . . . One of the hallmarks of our age and culture seems to be its easy self sufficiency. Written deep into the myth of these Islands is ‘we enjoy the good life’ I remember a few years back reading a piece in the Star asking why the entrepreneurial spirit amongst Kiwis was not as strong was in other cultures and the response was – because here you don’t have to put in too much effort for the three Bs – BMW, Boat and Bach – or if you’re from a different class, Barbie, Beer and Bach . . . The good life – sit back with a glass of chilled Savvie blanc and watch the sunset . . . And say to your soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

And in so many ways the sun is setting – certainly over the Church which is rapidly dying in these parts? Perhaps because we have no sense of our Roots, of our Earthiness – of our Dustiness – of where Life truly comes from? Of our sheer dependence on everyone and everything that surrounds us
. . . and under all, in all through all and coming to us if we did but see, the Deep wellsprings of the Life of God who in Christ sustains everything – Christ – sustains everything . . .

No one is crying out – ‘Why have you abandoned us??’ No one seems to be praying, ‘From a collapsing Church – Good Lord deliver us’. How strong is, not our doctrine or our idea of our mutual dependence on one another and God, how Strong is our Sensation, that embodied perception that Knows that the myth of Independence is a Shallow and deadly lie, that in truth it is God who is Life, who sustains our lives moment by moment. How is this Perception lived out amongst us?

Independence tells us we can do it for ourselves, that we have ‘our own lives’ and that is how we experience life in the modern world if we have a modest income. This becomes the narrative of our existence, and even the church acts as if it is more or less independent of God

Last week we pondered Jesus’ beatitudes, His startling accounting of those who were blessed. Of how his words were Emphatic – Blessed are the meek – for THEY shall inherit the Earth . . . Blessed are the poor, meek, mourning, hungry, persecuted – THEY shall inherit.

What marks out the Blessed in Jesus terms? Those who are in need, in necessity – those who do cry out day and night to the LORD, Good Lord deliver us – those who knew their dependence on kindness of others and the goodness of God, not as dry doctrine, but embodied fact – Blessed are those who know the truth of their existence . . . Blessed are those . . .

‘who cry out to God day and night will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

Blessed are the un-noticed – Blessed are those who are looking for God’s coming to them . . .

Blessed are those who long for his appearing, for they will not be careless with the oil – they will be prepared – they will be ready. The parable of the wise and foolish differentiates between those who are attentive, those who know their need and their insufficiency, and those who have become careless, who consider their life is their own.
Jesus having preached several parables against the Pharisees, now warns his disciples. Your Master, your Rabbi is going on a journey – things are being put into your hands – there is a very stern warning in the verses before our parable which puts it into context – Jesus talking to his disciples says

Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.
But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(As one writer wryly asks – ‘which we may ask is worse, to be cut into pieces or to be assigned a place with the hypocrites . . . 🙂 )

So we have the wise slave who attends to his masters business, who is attentive to his coming, who knows his Life is tied up with his masters, who is caught up in that Love from the Lord, and too the Lord, which is the heart of mutual existence – and the wicked slave who gets distracted, separated out. The wise bridesmaids who are ready with their oil, and the foolish who haven’t given any thought to preparations, for what would they Need??

This parable with its stern closure – ‘I do not know you’ and the previous warning to the disciples take us back to that Sermon on the Mount which begins with the beatitudes of the needy, and takes us to its closure – its ending – the wise and the foolish.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Distracted from the small works of mercy, by grandiose schemes and plans – unknown to the one who comes in smallness and humility

Then the parable of the Wise and foolish – those who hear the words of Jesus, are attentive to his word, and act on them – the Wise who build their house on the rock of the words of The Other . . . and those who don’t – those who don’t act on the words of Jesus and build their house where they see fit . . . Which house will stand in the day of the Lord’s appearing?

It is a story about an approaching storm – The Day of the Lord as spoken of by the prophet Amos. Amos the uncultured shepherd prophet, who throughout cries out words of warning to the comfortable

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

Caught up in mutual independence in our neediness and love; or Independent, thinking ourselves to have a life of our own, not anchored to anything or anyone?

I must say I Love his turn of phrase – ‘as if someone fled from a lion only to be met by a bear!’ but its message is sober and clear

The closing verses of the Psalm place us – place us within the Reality of our Life before God, who Is our Life and give us a rejoicing Hope, and Orientation towards the One who comes to us in the Name of the Lord

Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, ‘God is great!’
But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!

A storm is coming – Good Lord, deliver us!

 

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 . . .

The Skip . . .

 

Approaching Church this morning I am confronted by ‘Progress’ – The Story has moved on. Amidst that which once formed us, Trees and Temple, stands the New Ikon of our Age, the very Goal of Progress! Our New Improved version of Heaven . . . The Skip!

Yesterday I had to endure once more what is one of the more Soul destructive of happenings, the visit of a Technician.  Soul destroying for it further wrote my own capacities, my own agency out of the picture. That is, there was once something which I could do myself, but now, thanks to Progress, I find myself unable to do. (Not I must add due to the increasing crankiness of my joints – for all of us, increasing age means a decline in our physical capacity, and thus physical agency in the world).

The Technician is the great Manifestation of Progress, for his appearing reminds us that Progressively we lack meaningful agency in the world of  Progress. He comes to put us in our place as passive consumers of things. This is a frequent occurrence in these blessed days of Consumer bliss. I now no longer can fix my own car, even bicycle gears are getting ‘a but tricky’. For things have Progressed – which obviously means that they are better, no? Change a plug??!! Why? When we have moulded plugs which are so bound to their ephemeral consumables, that even they, which used to be removed before disposal, now go happily to that place of oblivion.

And so it was that having done what I could, moved our electric cooker away from the wall, I stood back helpless as thanks to Progress, a task which I would have once readily done myself, replaced a faulty element, was done by the new High Priest of our age –  The Technician. (Of course this being Progress, he is a Technician only in a very narrow field, for Progress demands many things and no Thing must be allowed to remain as it is, but be refined to a plane where only those high priests of each individual Craft might be admitted – the rest pay to watch the show)

Increasingly unusually, there was a gleam of light in the visit, a sign that ‘The Old Things’ had not entirely been forgotten. Apparently The Technician could obtain a new element!! and, what is more, at a cost less than a replacement cooker . . . or at least he thought so . . .  So for a time, the cooker (by now an almost prehistoric 5 years old  – what ARE we thinking hoping that it might be repaired???) was spared from that Modern Nirvana, The Skip, even if that were not to be the case for the element.

Along the way we spoke of the ridiculousness of it all (after all ‘I have a degree!’ in that sort of stuff, and indeed used to teach it), before he pulled out his ‘phone’ to photograph a thermostat, which was playing up. Together we marvelled at the picture quality, before the fateful words ‘of course the latest one has an even better camera!’

This brought to mind the wise words of my Biology teacher, Don Passey, and earnest youngish teacher – who told us that the joke of HiFi (remember that?) was that when you were old enough to pay enough for decent sound quality, your hearing had already deteriorated to a degree by which you were unable to tell the difference between that and HiFi half the price. As I looked at the photograph of the Thermostat, (an Image at which I suppose even Michelangelo would have marvelled . . .) I must admit to thinking ‘I’m not sure I’d be able to tell . . . but I suppose it must be worth having?’

I gather that Progress now is becoming more explicit in its goal, hence the new prophetically named iPhone ‘Ex’. This most expensive ever (read ‘for the time being’), has sold out almost overnight. At the Cutting edge of Progress, iPhone ‘Eyeye Exes’ will start to gather dust. Like the elderly in rest homes – or as one Aged Care ‘Manager’ once named them, ‘End of Life facilities’ – they will be forgotten and wait their turn ‘to Pass’, to The Skip . . .

The myth of Progress is probably the most destructive we have ever known. It hides itself in many guises, some of them Religious, but all religious. Out of the ‘planet’ everything is dug, and then Progresses to end up in a hole in the ground – Everything. Phone, element, agency, person, Skipped as we Progress ourselves to The New, The Improved!

Why, even the Skip comes with doors nowadays, to ease our passing . . .

 

The First and Great Commandment

The First and Great Commandment

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Proverbs 9:10

So, if we remember, God’s relentless pursuit of his people in Jesus is coming to a head. Jesus has come into Jerusalem in triumphal procession, albeit on a donkey, he has cleansed the Temple, he has cursed a figure for mot bearing fruit and then told two parables against the Pharisees, one of the Vineyard and the other of the Wedding Banquet. One a parable of the Son being killed and one of His Marriage – The Pharisees, and the Sadducees are trying everything possible to stop him, by asking questions to do with the Law, and relentlessly the focus is drawn back to Jesus – even over the question of paying taxes to Caesar . . . Do you See? Do you recognise Me? You recognise Casar and his blasphemous claim to be the Son of God . . . but what of the one stood in front of you? Like Pilate and his question when Jesus is stood before him, ‘What is Truth?’

All the questions, testing Jesus, trying to trap him in terms of the Law and one last time they try. ‘One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”’ Which commandment . . . which reveals their problem . . . you see, for the Pharisees there were 613 commandments in Tanakh, The Law and The Prohpets – 613!! Indeed there are! And the Pharisees in their concern not to break one had added lots of interpretative laws as well – for example there were 39 specific types of work forbidden on the Sabbath . . . or the question of the neighbour – Who is my neighbour – a matter of vigorous dispute amongst the various schools in Judaism – especially for the pharisees who wanted desperately to preserve National Identity by keeping anything, or anyone unclean out. They strongly believed that as long as they did this, they were safe from God’s judgement and that therefore their uneasy peace with the Romans would be sustained. If we just keep the Law properly then we won’t end up in exile like our ancestors . . . Keeping in with the occupiers, especially when the occupiers made sport of crucifying people . . . who really can blame them??

So, which commandment, because there are so very very many – like a world of distractions, like poor Martha . . . and Jesus response is like that of the prophets before him is Simple. “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.
And of course the Pharisees knew this – Everyone knew it – why, one of the 613 laws was to recite these words every morning! Shema!! HEAR O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. This, says Jesus Is the First Commandment, and it Is the Greatest. “And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” as for the other 612 ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’

Now, we tend to think that Jesus adds ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ because we think that the Pharisees were concentrating on the First to the exclusion of the Second – except of course they weren’t. For As Jesus had already pointed out, the Pharisees cared little for God. They loved rather the praise of the people – or were afraid of the crowds – it is two sides of the same coin 🙂 And they loved money . . . As Jesus had said, ‘you can’t serve both, for you will love one and hate the other, or serve on and despise the other’ . . . No, the Pharisees problem was that they did not love God OR their neighbour. The two commands are inextricably linked – No, rather Jesus is saying, You know the First commandment,and as for the other 612 t boils down to this, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ Which is precisely how we find it described in Leviticus, of all places . . . and in precisely that form

We heard a couple of verses from the beginning of Leviticus 19 – The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Or as St Paul puts it – be imitators of God as dearly loved children 🙂

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. I must admit I shudder when I hear that one – how is it possible in the world to day to make a profit apart from by the blood of our neighbours? You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

There it is – right at the end, summing it up – you shall love your neighbour as yourself . . . if we desire to know what it is to love our neighbour as our self, here we have plenty to go on – in Leviticus. Leviticus which is perhaps the book most concerned with the right worship of God – Right in the heart of what many think to be the most important chapter in that book ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself – I am the Lord’

When we hear these two commandments we can end up with a bit of a conundrum, as if we have to choose, and the choice seems to be a tricky one – for if you love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind – what is left for the neighbour? But the answer is given in that repetitive strain – ‘I am the Lord’ It is in the face of God – with our hearts and minds and souls set upon him, that we learn to love our neighbour as our self – Loving Him with all we are and thus knowing ourselves to be loved we are set free from our own concerns. Looking always to God, like the Psalmist, whose delight is in the Law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night, our lives bear the fruit of the Life of God whom we love . . .

The other day I was pondering how to express this in practise, this Loving God with all we have and are, and how it led us to the Love of neighbour as ourselves. For surely if we Love God in all and above all and through all, we shall love truly, and with Good discernment and judgement . . . After all, we have our mind on so many things . . . Loving God, Loving neighbours – as if God and Neighbour were different things in a world of things – and I was reminded of Magic Eye pictures. Do you remember them? [Here is one] Can anyone see the picture??

The trick, so I am told, because I have never been able to do it, is to focus BEHIND the picture. To bring your gaze to rest at a point beyond . . . in heaven you might say . . . and when you do that, Then the picture leaps into life.

Fixing our heart and mind and soul upon God – letting our gaze rest on Him – we then see the World in all its clarity – Resting our gaze on God, God’s image is now not just some useful slogan but something we truly discern – and I must say we genuinely do not merely ‘think of the world differently’ – because as modern people, this is what we think ( 🙂 ) it is all about, no we truly begin to See differently – we receive the world differently as we open our eyes and let them rest on God. it is the true meaning of the contemplative life, not to hole ourselves up but to learn to rest the gaze of our heart and soul and mind on God and then to use our strength as we truly encounter our neighbour . . .

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

The Fear of the Lord, the knowledge of the Holy One, the Love of the Father – all one and the same – all opening our eyes to The Real World

Well at that point people may well say, ‘but Eric, you said last week that this was all about Jesus!’

And it is . . . ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The Pharisees were afraid above all that Jesus had come to trash everything – after all he seemed to ignore the Sabbath – they were afraid that his coming would so stir the crowds that If we shall let Him alone like this, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and will take away both our place and nation. – that he had come to abolish the Law and the prophets – But Jesus says , ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. At the end of all the questions – Jesus finally draws their attention to the Whole Law, for He is the fulfillment of that Entire Law – Loving God utterly, only doing what he sees the Father doing – and doing for his neighbour what as he would want them to do for him, laying down his life for them – befriending them, neighbouring them.

And so once more he asks? Do you see? Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” . . . Whose Son is He? Do we see?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and mind, Love your neighbour as your own life . . . and we will See

Idols – sermon for Evensong, Sunday 17th September, 2017

Those who make them will be like them . . .

The poet Annie Dillard makes the following observation about those who go to church

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

One of the great gifts of Evensong is its lectionary which ploughs through the Old Testament with an anachronistic lack of concern for our Modern sensitivities. And thus this evening , we find ourselves amidst the niceties of the English Choral Tradition listening to the words of the LORD through the prophet Ezekiel. And we wonder with Annie Dillard why we didn’t bring a crash helmet.

Thus says the Lord God: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob—making myself known to them in the land of Egypt—I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

 

I swore to them that I would bring them out of the Land of Egypt – from the place of slavery and death – into a land that I had searched for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious all lands – into the place of freedom and Life

God’s purposes in the election of Israel in choosing and calling them, to bring from death to life, to reveal once more the Life that is God’s purpose for his creation – that amongst all the people’s there would be a people who LIVED, who revealed the Life of the Creator in and to the Creation – that their might be the Image of God in Creation . . .

but they didn’t want it.
But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; not one of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.

If we are alert to the story we know how, having been brought into the place where God, their life was revealed and made known to them in the wilderness, they just longed to go back to the country of slavery and death. ‘Oh if only we had died in Egypt . . .’ ‘‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’

Like someone roused from sleep, they just want to go back to their comfortable dreams . . . back to sleep, back to death . . . And the LORD just doesn’t get it – as he says in Ezekiel 18 – Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Why will ye die, O house of Israel?? What is it with you people??? Hear the word of the LORD, the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ – I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

God who has called a people to himself for life – desires not the death of ANYONE, but that they might turn from their wickedness and LIVE! Yet, throughout, over and over and over one particular charge is laid against this rebellious people – ‘not one of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.’

The Lectionary softens the blow a little – we miss the next 22 verses wherein we hear recounted the repetitive strain – The LORD did this . . . but not one of them cast away their detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake their idols . . .

Now let us be careful here to to fall into that lazy and blasphemous trope, beloved of all ‘sophisticates’ that ‘the God of the Old Testament and that of the New are not the same’ – Listen to the warning of our own patron, our beloved St John ‘Little Children, keep yourself with idols!’

As the Impact of the glorious gospel comes to Asia Minor, to Ephesus, the Centre of the cult of Diana – known here as Artemis – what is the great ruction, the riot caused by??
The charge laid by Paul as reported by Demetrius – ‘this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.’

‘Gods made with hands are not gods’ . . . And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute . . . It is worth noting in passing that idolatry and economic security go hand in hand . . . ‘Gods made with hands are not gods’

Things that we make – that we create do not have Life in them – and thus they cannot cause us to Live. Rather when we put our hope in the work of our own hands, we become even less than we are – as the Psalmist says ‘The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, and there is no breath in their mouths. There is no Life in idols – there is no life in things we make Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them.

 

Those who make them will be like them . . . We are made to be like God, possessing Eternal Life – instead we make lifeless things to give our lives meanings which we choose for ourselves . . . and become like them . . . lifeless . . .

In this age that is most clear in the devotion we give to dead technology, more broadly to machines which more or less subtly form us in their image. Just this week I was reading an article which suggested that the rise of ‘intelligent robots’ called into question the whole issue of what it meant to be human . . . the fruit of idolatry laid bare – we look at a robot and allow it to address us regarding our own nature . . . human dignity and freedom and glory reduced to a latex covered machine, an imitation of what we have come to call life, with a so called intelligence based on the horrendous assumption that our brains operate like computers . . . do you see?
We make computers, then we begin to talk of our selves as biological computers – we make robots and as we have already submitted so many of our fellow humans to work of such profound degradation that all agency and freedom is stolen from them, made them robots, and now we think we are like them . . . . And this then affects our philosophical outlook life – and we make yet another fatal, death dealing error of confusing increased sophistication in the things we make, ‘better machines’ with our progress as humans, whilst all the while leading us deeper into Death . . .

Yet it is SO easy to go with the flow – the modern technologies, and so much of what makes this world of artifice is SO seductive – we feast our eyes on it, and we wish we were as ‘clever’ as bright and shiny, as dependable as . . . insert your preferred adjective . . just Like . . . and we so love to sleep . . . to die

So as the elders of Israel gather in a mockery of obedience, ‘to consult the LORD’ – they too have a hidden desire – which as Jesus reveals the thoughts of the hearts of those around him lie exposed before the LORD

And shall I be consulted by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be consulted by you. What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’ Let us go back to Egypt, let us go back to the certainties of the things we make, let us write our own story, let us go back to sleep, let us return to the sleep of death . . .

Yet mark this – Thus saith the LORD – what is in your mind shall never happen . . . I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. You shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors. There you shall remember your ways and all the deeds by which you have polluted yourselves; and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways or corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, says the Lord God.

God will not have us make idols – He wills not that we become like the things that we make – that we make things which we then give our lives over to , that we worship the created rather than the Creator – because that way is the way of death –

Rather God wills that we become like Him, and Live. This is why the Christian Life is about being born again into a New Life – which is the Life of God –

This is the witness of all of scripture and this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . The Crucified One – when God Reveals himself amongst His people – ‘all we have is this manna to look at . . . – he does so in the Crucified One – that which appears to our blind eyes as death, is the Door of Life – the hard work of Christian Existence in the world is as St Paul puts it – that we ‘become like him in his death that we might attain LIFE. . .

yet like sleep, it is easier to die than to live.

Jesus himself lays this choice before us – ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’

My little children – keep yourself from idols, for in truth, those who make them shall be like them . . . but GOD wills it otherwise and whether we choose death or Life His name will be glorified in all the Earth. If after we are done with the Creation, only the stones are left to declare the praises of God, they Will cry out in praise of their creator – even the stones know their maker . . . Let us press on to Know him for to Know Him is Life [John 17:3]

Amen