Monday, 22 January 2018

'Date Nights with Jesus!' - transcript of sermon 21st January 2018

Sermon St John the Baptist Tixall 21st January 2018

Revelation 19 v 6-10 and John 2 v 1-11

In 2016 our former Rector Adrian and Esther were married

In 2017 my daughter Tabitha and Peter were married

In 2018 Prince Harry and Meghan are getting married

Both of today’s Scripture readings are about marriage.

John records Jesus turning water into wine and calls it ‘the first sign.’

Marriage is a rich metaphor that runs throughout the whole of the Bible with Israel often referred to as an unfaithful spouse - note in particular the Book of Hosea.

The account John recalls here, of Jesus’ turning water into wine at a marriage feast presages the Wedding Banquet that will finally and fully usher in the New Age.

Indeed a Christian marriage carries that overtone – it is a picture, a symbol of the ultimate marriage of Christ as Groom to the Church as Bride to live forever in a new reality.

This is what is happening in the glorious picture we heard from the Book of Revelation?

“You have saved the best until last” said the master of the banquet. So it will be with the Master of the Heavenly Banquet when we will experience  such abundance – such is the nature of God, only the very best and in such superabundance.  

Jesus here in this story produced 454 litres of wine.

Marriage is also a rich metaphor in helping us understand our life as the People of God and as individual Christians.

Sadly as many of you will know Adrian’s first marriage broke down.  Not ideal but a sad reality of living as we do in a fallen world. 

Yet coming together as Adrian and Esther did speaks about forgiveness, of new beginnings, of new possibilities.  

We will fail, falter and fall as Christians – and yet we know that ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1.9

When Tabitha and Peter got married I led Tabitha down the aisle. A few months prior to the wedding Tabitha had resigned from her position as Cabin Crew for Monarch. Two of her bridesmaids were also Cabin Crew. Therefore Tabitha decided to have a bit of fun with the ‘welcome to Church and here are the exits and toilets, etc. I took Tabitha down the aisle but stopped short and went into the pulpit and gave ‘flight instructions’ as the Captain for the Wedding Ceremony. Tabitha and her two Bridesmaids were spaced down the aisle, offering the safety instruction, pointing exits and explaining the ‘Favour Bags.’  

It was really a lot of fun and helped people relax. What neither Tabitha nor anyone else who was in on this little stunt had thought about was the symbolism that was picked up by Liz who was playing the piano for the Ceremony. 

She said that Tabitha came in and then went through her ‘old life’ and then turned around to begin her ‘new life’ with Peter. True coming to Faith and repentance is turning 180 degrees and going in a different direction!

Marriage here helps us to understand something of the commitment we make publicly to enter into a new state of being, of living...

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2.20

I did that on the 1st January 1975 as a New Year resolution at the age of 24.

When Jane and I got married we had a honeymoon in Dorset.

There was an older couple who looked after the holiday cottage; both had grown up in the same village street, he lived one end and she at the other, they married and then stayed living in the same street.

Jane and I first met in 1980 and married in 1982. 

Some of us have always known God, perhaps since our childhood. What might be termed cradle Christians.

Others will experience a conversion to the Faith later on in life, what we might call conversion Christians. 

It’s not the length of the journey but the quality of the relationship now that matters most.

Nuns consider themselves to be married to Jesus.  I think that is a brilliant way to consider our own lives – and helps us to think about a journey to faith.

For the most part there will a journey towards marriage. 

Attraction – courtship – engagement – marriage

Consider this and ask yourself this question – where am I in my relationship with Jesus,

Attraction, courtship, engagement or marriage?

Nothing wrong in being at any one of those stages as long as we recognize the ultimate goal which is to become ‘married to Jesus.’

And just like marriage – we make a vow for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, etc.

But here is the sweetest part of this particular marriage – death will not part us but bring us closer together as lover and beloved.

Any good marriage requires work – it takes time to remember the other – to spend quality time with the other – to have the other always in mind.

It is no less so in our relationship with Jesus –  and we are to stir each other up and encourage each other and call each other to account  ‘until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’
Ephesian’s 4.13

Christmass reminds us that God became human so that humans can become divine – not in the sense of becoming God or god’s but in the sense of being caught up in the Divine nature.

And that begins now.

One of the things that makes Jane and I smile is that on some photos we have begun to look alike.

And you see that in some couples, they seem to know intuitively what the other is thinking or what they want.  They have become in effect one flesh as ordained of God in creation.

Or sadly in other cases, they have neglected the other and have become distanced.

Like the Church in Ephesus in The Book Revelation 2.4 – ‘Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.’

That holds true for us as Christians.

One of things Peter and Tabitha have decided upon is to have regular ‘date nights.’  A time when they will be purposefully available for the other and do something together – a meal out or a special meal at home, or a theatre trip or going to the cinema.

If we are to grow and develop in our relation with Jesus then we also need to set time aside, we might even say we should have a regular date night with Jesus.

When Moses had been in God’s presence his face shone with the reflective glory of God, so much so that he had to put a veil over his face.

However, today our goal is that having spent time in God’s presence  ‘…we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

One good spiritual discipline is called Examen – when at the end of the day we purposefully reflect back over the day and see what we have done, where we have been, with whom we have interacted. 

In this first month of 2018 can I invite and encourage you to do the same for the past year.

Spend some time reflecting back over the past twelve months and see if you can detect how you have grown as a Christian – how you are more Christ like in your actions and attitudes.

(Have a look at Philippians 2.6-13 for one way of measuring if we have the same mind as Christ Jesus)

Are we displaying more of the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness and self-control?

And because of our changed and changing nature we will reflect more of God’s will and way in everything we do and thereby begin to see a realized Lord’s Prayer – where indeed God’s will is done in Tixall (or wherever we may find ourselves) as in heaven. 

It is a prayer that anticipates that great day when heaven – God’s realm – and earth – humanities realm – are conjoined as Groom and Bride.

It is a prayer that is often upon our lips but less so in our hearts and in our hands and feet in action to make it a reality.

I hope that at the beginning of this year you are excited about the year ahead.  

Excited about what God might do in you and through you, both as individuals and as a Faith Community.  Excited that God is going to use you to bring others from a place of being attracted to Jesus to becoming married to Jesus. Excited about the way you will do business and live your lives, reflecting more and more of God’s will and way, working in partnership with God for the redemption of the world. 

Excited that in you and through you people will look and say, ‘ah, now I see how we are supposed to live as authentic human beings, how to live in community, how to care for the sick and lonely and the bereaved, how to conduct our business affairs and so much more. 

Because if they do not see God in you and in me, individually and corporately they may well take wives from other places – and if we want to know where that leads then we have only to read and study the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament.

I have copies of today’s passage from The Book of Revelation along with a few questions for you to ponder and pray over in the week ahead.

Revelation 19:6-10
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

11)   Have you responded to this invitation?
22)   Who might you tell that they are also invited?
33)   Knowing that this is earth’s destiny, to be conjoined to heaven, how does this affect your daily life?

Let me close using these words of Mediation from His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XV1

And only where God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
Each of us is loved,
Each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel,
By the encounter with Christ.
There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.

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