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Sermon - 7 Easter

In the Name... I saw an interesting bumper sticker. It read, "Jesus is coming - look busy.” When Jesus told his disciples that he was going away, for the second time, they must have been perplexed, upset, and even felt hurt. Consider. They had enjoyed three heady years travelling with the prophet and miracle-worker acclaimed by crowds; they had endured the fear, isolation, and grief of Holy Week; and, they had experienced the confusion and elation of the Resurrection. And then, there was the amazing quiet of the forty days after Easter. Now, have you ever thought how strange this quiet must have been to them? After Easter, we don't read about Jesus healing the lepers and lame. We don't see him strolling through the Temple preaching the kingdom and confronting the High Priests. Hi, guys, remember me? Quite the contrary. He appears in glimpses, flashes. In a locked room, by a distant shore. We know he spent time with the disciples, but, no more parties with tax-collectors and sinners. No close encounters with blind beggars. No adoring crowds. If anything, he's the stealth messiah. The disciples must have wondered. What was going on? What's with the Elvis routine? Surely, Jesus could have made a comeback to surpass anything in history. Surely, rising from the dead would have silenced all objections, all opposition, all dissent. Caiaphas and Pilate, even the Emperor would have been forced to acknowledge him. He would have become the king and ruler so many had always wanted him to be. He could have used his power freely to heal all sickness, feed the masses, and bring universal peace on earth. But, is that why he came to earth in the first place? To make life better? No. He came to redeem, not to make better and making human life happier, healthier, and more peaceful is not redemption. Redemption is deeper and more lasting than that. Redemption affects not only the creation as we see and experience it. It affects the creation which we don't see and can't experience as mortal humans. Long before Adam and Eve fell from Eden, there was, as St. John saw in the Revelation, "war in Heaven", a cosmic clash of Good and Evil and the mission of the Christ was not only to save Mankind from the effects of that war, but, to save the very Creation itself. During the Renaissance, the Italian humanists adopted the pagan classical motto, "Man is the measure of all things" and that attitude spilled over from their art into their view of religion, as well. The reason that the Church of that period fought Galileo was not because he contradicted the Bible. It was because by moving the Earth from the centre of the universe, he moved Man with it. And today, the so-called creationists oppose study of creation for the same reason. Because it is the place of Man, not the honour of God, which is at stake. Pride had caused the Jews to believe that, out of all the humans on the earth, God only cared for them, and Pride can lead Christians to believe that, out of all the creatures on the earth, God only cares about humans. But, throughout Scripture, from the moment God said that each day of creation was 'good', though the covenant with Noah, which God said included all living things, through the vision in Revelation of "a new heavens and a new earth", there are hints that the work of redemption is greater and more encompassing than we may think. So, does this mean that Jesus died, not just for you and me, but also for the manatee and the magnolia, the mountains and Mars? Yes, and more besides. And, this is no 21st Century theological innovation. This view of redemption was the view of the 1st Century, of the early Church Fathers. This vision shaped how they saw life and what they did about it. St. Benedict and St. Anthony led their communities of monks out into the deserts, the forests, and the mountains, not to escape from people, but, to confront evil spirits. They believed that the earth itself was under attack and so they took the spiritual battle into places where the enemy might think he was safe. They saw themselves as Special Forces literally taking and holding ground - God's ground. And, they believed that they should do this because this was our purpose as redeemed human beings made in the image and likeness of God - to extend Christ's redeeming work to all the world, to every place and creature, in preparation for his return, his Second Coming. This concept of the Second Coming is essential to the Christian view of just about everything. The Greek word which we translate and interpret as Second Coming is "parousia" - and in Jesus' time it was not a religious word. It was a political word specifically used to refer to an official visit of a government official to a province or city. When Early Christians talked about the parousia, then, they were doing so with this image in mind. Jesus was coming, like an inspector general, to see what we had done with what he had given us. And what did he give us? Before he Ascended, Jesus told his disciples that he was sending them the Holy Spirit. That Spirit would enable them to do, as Jesus phrased it, "the works that I do and greater ones than these." It was the Spirit, he said, "of Truth, which the world cannot receive." A Spirit which the world cannot understand because it is not of this world, it is of God. The first lesson we heard today was an amazing story. Almost casually, St. Paul orders an evil spirit to leave a girl - and it does. The ensuing legal action smacks of farce. Here is demonstrated a power, the like of which had not been seen before, and instead of being amazed and awed, all people can focus on is a civil suit for damages. And, I think the purpose of this is to prove Jesus' words. The world doesn't get it. People who are caught up in this world don't get it. But, the spirits get it. They know what's going on. They know what Jesus was all about and it was more than mere mortal humans can even begin to imagine. Jesus kept a low profile those forty days before he ascended because he was spending the time preparing the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. And, when he comes he will ask how much ground have we gained for him; how often have we used the Spirit's power; and have we made ourselves the centre of the universe or respected that place as His. To answer those questions, we'll have to do more than just look busy. We'll have to be busy - busy for redemption. In the Name...

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