Monthly Archives: December 2017

31 December – The Judge Judged in Our Place

View or print as a PDF

Christmas 1

Revelation 1:1-6a
Psalm 8
Matthew 25:31-46

Sermon preached by Matt Julius

God, help me to say what is helpful, and help those that listen to judge what is not. Amen.

Those of you who follow the lectionary closely will have noticed that our Gospel reading for today has not been gone for long. A month ago the Christian liturgical year ended with the feast of Christ the King, and with it came our reading from Matthew 25. Today marks the end of the year within the civil calendar, and with it Matthew 25 is back.

And if it is back, let it come back with a vengeance.

In fact I mean that quite seriously.

The texts that accompany Matthew 25 today set the mood rather differently than the feast of Christ the King.

Our Psalm of praise expands our imaginations to a cosmic vision. Everything – all of creation – is caught up in the sovereign majesty of God. From the mouths of infants, to the moon and stars in heaven. Humans and beasts, over the earth and under the sea:

“O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8.9)

The persistent rhythms of this created order are expressed in today’s well-known reading from Ecclesiastes. There is a time for everything: living and dying, loving and hating, throwing stones and gathering stones, mourning and dancing, embracing and casting out. And standing above the constant hum of these rhythms of creation is the sovereign God. God who’s good gifts consist in our eating and drinking, and taking pleasure in work.

This background sets the scene of a God many people are familiar with. We have here a God that reflects much of what we confess in the first article of the creed: the article of God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth. Who stands sovereign over the created world, seemingly at a distance.

And yet our psalm begins to question this distance: “what are human beings that [God] is mindful of them, | mortals that [God] cares for them?” (Ps. 8.4)

What is, dare I say, revealed, in our reading from the Revelation of John is precisely that this God is not distant. The home of God is among us. Our hope is that God will dwell with us, and we will be God’s people. The old rhythms of living and dying, mourning and dancing will be interrupted. And the sovereign rule of God shall come down into a new and renewed earth – a new creation.

Today, Matthew 25.31-46 needs to be read with this background in mind. We have a building sense of two things:

On the one hand, a grand vision of God’s sovereignty over all of creation. The story we tell about God is cosmic, it expands to incorporate everything.

While on the other hand, this sovereign God seeks to dwell among humanity, this God seeks to embrace us as God’s people.

God is at once very big, and at the same time very close.

The coming together of God’s bigness and God’s closeness finds articulation in Jewish and Christian eschatological hope.

Eschatological: a term referring to the end times. When the normal rhythms of our world will be interrupted. When all of this big wide world will be wound up. And when the God who stands sovereign over this world will become – all of sudden – very close.

In much of the Jewish and Christian traditions this coming close of God is thought to involve a significant amount of judgement. As it turns out not everything for which there is a time is good. As one quite well-known writer has suggested: “the time is out of joint.”

And so when I suggested that Matthew 25 was back with a vengeance, I meant it. The whole chapter forces us to reflect on the quite harsh message of the Kingdom of Heaven – what other Gospels call the Kingdom of God. What we might simply refer to as the bigness of God coming close.

It is in Jesus that we see God closest of all.

And as God comes close in the ministry of Jesus many are left out in the cold.

The parables Jesus tells leave maidens wandering darkened streets for lamp oil, slaves have what little they have taken away. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, the wealthy and poorly dressed are shut out from a banquet. In today’s reading, the careless are cast out, gnashing their teeth in everlasting torment.

Jesus meek and mild I think not.

Jesus’ teaching cannot be understood as saying that there is no inside, and no outside. Jesus does not fail to give voice to eschatological judgement. Jesus does not fail to take seriously what it means for the bigness of God to encounter us closely, bringing with it judgement.

In light of these teachings about judgement many commentators note that what is distinctive about Jesus is the basis of his judgement. Unlike the religious leaders of his day, it is not righteous adherence to religious law that will sway the judge. Rather, it is love: enacted love is what sets some aside for embrace and others for casting out.

And so we have inherited a tradition marked by the command to love others.

But, we might ask: a command to love who? Who are the others?

In the most exhaustive study of the interpretation history of this text Sherman Gray sheds some surprising light on answers to this question.

Up until the 8th century, less than half of commentators addressed the question of who we are called to love in Matthew 25. But of those that do: only 13.5% suggested we are called to love everyone — 86.5% suggest we are only called to love other Christians.

This overwhelming majority continues through the middle ages and into the modern era.

When I first discovered this I found it unsettling, to say the least.

Could the command to love really be so narrow in its focus?

Perhaps, the Gordian knot of this parable is not so easily untied.

The standard interpretation of this parable calling us to the command to love locates us at the centre of the parable. It is our moral virtue – wittingly, or more likely unwittingly – that counts in the end. In this we are at risk of losing the cutting edge of judgement that has run through this entire chapter – and many of Jesus’ parables.

Have we forget so quickly that we ourselves are under judgement?

Have we forgotten that we are the needy; we are the least.

We are the maidens left wandering darkened streets, slaves who have what little we have taken away. The wealthy shut out from a banquet. We are the careless gnashing their teeth in everlasting torment.

Christians are rightly the recipients of the command to love: for we are the needy; we are the least. And if it were a test of moral virtue we would almost certainly all be goats.

It is when we realise that we are such needy people as these that God comes the closest of all. We are not the righteous, following the command to love out of righteousness. We ourselves are the needy that receive love out of unrighteousness.

We see Christ in our experiences of suffering and loss when we remember that Christ too experienced suffering and loss on the cross for us. Suffering and loss we remember with cup and bread.

As we see ourselves as the least, we see a God big enough to hold our weakness, and close enough to care.

We see from behind the closed door the resurrected Christ – who passes through that door towards us.

As we see ourselves as the least, we see Christ as the big God who comes close, by himself becoming least.

We can take from this a moral lesson, indeed that same lesson of love. But no longer out of our own righteousness. No longer our means to sway the judge. For the judge is judged in our place. In today’s reading Christ the judge literally stands in our place.

Our love flows from our being loved. Our giving from our receiving the love of God. Love follows the way of Jesus, the way of the cross. It is our means of becoming like Christ, like the one who too became least.

And so if we are to find ourselves wandering the streets in darkness, let us clothe those we find there. If we find ourselves shut out from a banquet, let us provide food and drink for those also outside. If even what little we have is taken away, let us take ourselves to visit and care for the sick and incarcerated.

If we are to fall under judgement, let us follow the way of the judge who is judged in our place — let us follow the way of Christ, the way of the cross, the way of love. Amen.

25 December – Christmas against Christmas

View or print as a PDF

Christmas Day

Hebrews 1:1-4, 5-12
Psalm 98
John 1:1-14

With Christmas comes, without fail, the poignant reflection piece of the newspaper columnist.

The first I read this year was by Amanda Vanstone. It was a disappointment and the others didn’t improve much from there. But then what else could these pieces be if indeed there is any truth in what the church confesses about the baby in the manger? For we confess that everything we desire is given there. It is scarcely believable, but nonetheless it is the point of being in church on a Monday. So if, with Vanstone, most of the rest of the world, and most of the church most of the time – if, with all, we turn away from that gift, we must then find something to give ourselves. What that self-gift might be is precisely the subject of the Christmas reflection piece: the discovery, the revelation, of the stillpoint in the chaos. If the church is hypocritical and irrelevant, if family traditions are too burdensome or evaporating before our eyes, if gift-giving is corrupted by materialistic commercialism, if death looms to overshadow our celebrations, then how desperate we become for the one thing which will transcend all of this. Where is the infinite thing, beyond the failure of our best efforts, our ideals and our dreams, which will meet our yearning for something solid and reliable and enduring? It will not be found in average newspaper Christmas reflections. These, like all exclusively human endeavours, merely propose more that we can do for a better experience of the world. And they imagine that, for the first time in history, this new utopia will not sink beneath the waves of moral failure, our failure to do. The poignancy of such reflections at Christmas (or any) time is in their necessity – for they speak a truth – and in their hopelessness, for they cannot realise any further truth.

As a way towards the answer of Christmas to all our disappointment with Christmas, a reading from the Danish thinker, Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s concern here is what a believer looks like; this believer he names “the knight of faith,” in the sense of “champion of faith.” What features distinguish her from anyone else? How does the “heavenly” manifest in the way he conducts himself in the world? How does the longed-for infinite occur in the desperately finite?

“I candidly admit that in my experience I have not found any reliable example of the knight of faith… People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, birds of rare plumage, queerly deformed fishes, ridiculous breeds of men … and they think they have seen something. This does not interest me. But if I knew where there was such a knight of faith, I would make a pilgrimage to him on foot, for this prodigy interests me absolutely…

“As I’ve said, I have not found any such person, but I can well think him. Here he is. Acquaintance made, I am introduced to him. The moment I set eyes on him I instantly push him from me, I myself leap backwards, I clasp my hands and say half aloud, “Good Lord, is this the man? Is it really he? Why, he looks like a tax-collector!” However, it is the man after all. I draw closer to him, watching his least movements to see whether he shows any sign of the least telegraphic message from the infinite, a glance, a look, a gesture, a note of sadness, a smile, which be­trays the infinite in its contrast with the finite. No! I examine his figure from tip to toe to see if there might not be a cranny through which the infinite was peeping. No! He is solid through and through.

“One can discover nothing of [an] aloof and superior nature … He takes de­light in everything, and whenever one sees him taking part in a particular pleasure, he does it with the persistence which is the mark of the earthly man whose soul is absorbed in such things. He tends to his work… He takes a holiday on Sunday. He goes to church… In the afternoon he walks to the forest. He takes delight in every­thing he sees…

“Toward evening he walks home, his gait is as strident as that of the postman. On his way he reflects that his wife has surely a special little warm dish prepared for him… Actually, she hasn’t, but strangely enough, it is quite the same to him.

“…he is interested in everything that goes on, in a rat which slips under the curb, in the children’s play, and this with the nonchalance of a girl of sixteen. And yet he is no genius, for in vain I have sought in him the incommensurability of genius. In the evening he smokes his pipe; to look at him one would swear that it was the grocer over the way vegetating in the twilight…

“And yet, and yet—actually I could become furious over it, for envy if for no other reason—­this man has made and every instant is making the movements of infinity. …he has drained the cup of life’s profound sadness, he knows the bliss of the infinite, he senses the pain of renouncing everything, the dearest things he possesses in the world, and yet finiteness tastes to him just as good as to one who never knew anything higher, … as though the finite life were the surest thing of all.

“…He constantly makes the move­ments of infinity, but he does this with such correctness and assurance that he constantly gets the finite out of it, and there is not one moment when one has a notion of anything else.

“It is supposed to be the most difficult task for a dancer to leap into a definite posture in such a way that there is not a second when he is grasping after the posture, but by the leap itself he stands fixed in that posture. Perhaps no dancer can do it—that is what this knight does.

“…to be able to fall down in such a way that the same second it looks as if one were standing and walking, to transform the leap of life into a walk, absolutely to express the sublime in the pedestrian—that only the knight of faith can do—and this is the one and only miracle.[1]

Kierkegaard points us to a humanity which lives the freedom of the eternal and yet looks just like an ordinary piece of the world: the one and only miracle. But as a miracle, it is beyond us. This is the pathos of all exhortations to do better at Christmas time, or any time: only a miracle will do, and we are not miracle workers.

Yet this is precisely the miracle of Christmas.

The church has long spoken of the “incarnation” of God in Jesus, imagining for the most part that there would have been something about him indicating that he was different – Kierkegaard’s cranny through which the infinite peeps. Even the Scriptures do this in their Christmas narratives, trimming the story with glimpses of heaven: a virginal conception, choirs of angels and a star of wonder with royal beauty bright.

Yet to say Jesus was human is to say, with Kierkegaard, that he was solid though and through, that he was in every respect like us – unremarkable but for the way in which he met God and God met him. This meeting was the play of the finite and limited with the infinite and unbounded such as Kierkegaard describes. What we’ve come to call the “divinity” of Jesus was evident only in his extraordinary humanity, which was his extraordinary meeting of God – for what meeting God does is cause the world to be itself. Our poignant Christmas reflections spring from the experience that we are not ourselves, and exhort us to perform the miracle of creating ourselves.

But for us to be ourselves is for us to be relieved of the burden of performing miracles, relieved of the requirement that we make real for ourselves the sublime in the midst of the mundane, relieved of the demand that we cause the infinite to be visible through some cranny.

This is incarnation, and sacrament. This is Christmas against Christmas: gift against our tired exchanges, grace against hard-earned favour, aid against wearing demand; the infinite in the finite, dwelling among us and us invited to dwell in it.

In the beginning was the Word, John writes.

In him was life, and the life was light.

The Word became Flesh. And we have seen his glory: the glory of a human being fully alive.

Would this not be everything we need? Do we not long to be our very selves, and yet to be located in, connected to, part of the whole – the more than us – but not overwhelmed by it?

Christmas marks just such a humanity as the gift of God in Jesus, whether under a crown, on a cross or in a cradle, whether with sceptre, under scourge or in a stable (TIS 321): the miracle of a leap of life expressed in a mere walk, the sublime in its natural habitat: our ordinary.

Christmas would give us heaven because it would give us the world, each without poignant loss.

Now, and in the year about to begin, let’s take them both.


[1] Largely drawn from the translation of Walter Lowrie (Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Doubleday 1954, p49ff), although emphases added and language “adjusted” for a modern ear, with some guidance from Robert Payne’s OUP translation (pp.48ff).

MtE Update – December 21 2017

The latest MtE News

  1. Worship this Sunday Dec 24 will be a cycle of Advent readings, carols and anthems.
  2. Christmas at MtE this year
  3. Hotham Mission is again making a Christmas appeal for support of its food program over the holiday season. If you would like to make a cash donation this can be done on Sundays in Advent via the retiring offering plate or via the Mission’s online donation facility (gifts over $2 tax deductible  via the online facility).
  4. In the absence of a useful notice board to proclaim the sermon title for the coming Sunday’s service, we’ll experiment for a while with an online version on our Home page; the first one is here! The set reading for Christmas Day will be John 1.1-14, and you might prepare further by reading the Christmas reflections in the Opinion section of your favourite newspaper!

LitBit Commentary – James K A Smith on Advent 2

LitBits Logo - 2

LitBit: The future we hope for—a future when justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream—hangs over our present and gives us a vision of what to work for in the here and now as we continue to pray, “Your kingdom come.” The temporality of Christian worship—macrocosmically expressed in the Christian year, microcosmically expressed in particular elements each Sunday—trains our imagination to be eschatological, looking forward not to the end of the world but to “the end of the world as we know it.” In worship, we taste “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5), which births in us a longing for that kingdom to come, because this taste is also a bit of a teaser: it gives us enough of a sense of what’s coming that we look around at our broken world and see all the ways that the kingdom has not yet arrived.

James K A Smith, Desiring the Kingdom

How to use LitBit Features and Commentaries.

17 December – The God who brings death and life

View or print as a PDF

Advent 3

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Good news to the oppressed, binding up of the broken-hearted, proclamation of liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners; a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; the garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness, a garland, jewels…

The word of promise in this language is surely extraordinary in the ears of those who have lived through hell. Isaiah proclaims a great reversal, a turning upside-down of the experience of the people of God – the return of God to their midst as blessing.

But what about those for whom the world is not horrific, for whom life’s biggest challenge is along the lines of negotiating a shopping centre carpark a few days before Christmas or waiting out a kitchen renovation? What does Isaiah have to say to any whose life is largely devoid of oppression or ashes or unrighteousness? Because, for most of us – in and out of the church – life is mostly ok most of the time, and so Isaiah’s proclamation comes like icing on what was already a pretty good cake.

One way of hearing Isaiah under these circumstances is to imagine that he speaks not to us, but as us: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” or us. The word to us becomes our own word and, going further, we take it upon ourselves not simply to speak of the coming of God but to be those who realise God’s peace. We have received the Spirit, and we are to pay that forwards, for others.

Certainly, those who “have” are under a moral obligation to share and bless those who have not. But if this is all it’s about, then there is no possibility that God has anything more to say to us. Is there a word of the Lord – a blessing, heart-raising word – for the relaxed and mostly comfortable?

The question of our redemption is not pressing today, either in the church or in society more generally. Certainly we are constantly working towards something, and something better than we what we presently know but this kind of progress is not the business of Christian worship or faith. The heart of our confession is not the offer of a nudge from worse to bad, or bad to good, or good to better. We speak, rather, of life out death, of the creation of something out of nothing. Christian faith is, at heart, concerned with miracles, with the impossible. For when God comes, what he brings is not only the kind of healing we think we need but also revelation of the full extent of that need. In the breadth of Isaiah’s preaching God speaks such words of comfort as we read in worship this time of year, but also divine rage and accusation against the people for things about themselves they would scarcely recognise or be aware of.

When God comes, it is always as life out of death, as creation out of nothing. This means that when God comes it is always with bad news as well as with the good, the good revealing the bad. The broken-hearted may not know, or have acknowledged, that indeed their hopes have been dashed; the captives not know that they are imprisoned, the comfortable not know just how insecure they are.

We mark just this dynamic in our worship each week. We call on God, whether we are feeling we need God or not. We hear that we are forgiven, often of things we had not imagined we were guilty of. Perhaps quintessentially, we gather around a table at which is served a victim through whom salvation is somehow won.

All of this “works”, however, only to the extent that the bad comes with the good. If we speak of the coming of resurrection, we speak also about the coming of death. But we have to be careful here. The proclamation of resurrection is not for the dying but for the dead. We noted last week that we all know that we are dying. This knowledge, however – our mere mortality – is not the question answered by resurrection. Resurrection reveals death – a death we do not yet know – it does not merely nudge us through what we already know. Resurrection doesn’t answer our sense for death because we have not yet asked the question well enough, despite our mourning and ashes, as real as they are. The resurrection with which the church is concerned is that which identifies who is dead, including us dead who are still walking.

This is enacted also in the Eucharist. The Eucharist “works” only to the extent that we who receive the body and blood admit a culpability in its having been broken and spilt. There is no “nudge” here into a better life by taking a spiritual medicine which treats some disease in us, and so which could be substituted for a generic brand which is not called “body” and “blood”. The ritual kills in the accusation of our complicity in death, and raises in the creative grace of God. Death is but a means by which God can bless; the Eucharist is death and resurrection – Jesus’, and our own.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Isaiah proclaims, with the emphasis falling on the spirit, and not on the “me”. For it is the spirit of the Lord which creates and renews the face of the earth. This is the light John announced, which enlightens everyone (John 1.9), even those who do not yet know they are living in shadows. When God comes, the dark places appear and are flooded with light. And God is coming.

For this spirit, this light, all thanks be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.

MtE Update – December 15 2017

The latest MtE News

  1. Christmas at MtE this year
  2. Hotham Mission is again making a Christmas appeal for support of its food program over the holiday season. If you would like to make a cash donation this can be done on Sundays in Advent via the retiring offering plate or via the Mission’s online donation facility (gifts over $2 tax deductible  via the online facility).
  3. The Mission made the newspapers last week
  4. A Pastoral Statement with prayers from President Stuart McMillan to be shared with congregations, in response to the Royal Commission Final Report.
  5. For those interested in some background commentary to the readings for this Sunday December 17, see the links here.


Lectionary Commentary – Advent 3B (December 11 – December 17)

The following links are to the Revised Common Lectionary commentary pages of Howard Wallace and Bill Loader, and are suggested as preparation for hearing the readings in worship for the Sunday indicated above.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 see also By the Well podcast on this text

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 see also By the Well podcast on this text

John 1:6-8,19-28 see also By the Well podcast on this text

LitBit Commentary – James K A Smith on Advent

LitBits Logo - 2

During Advent each year, the Christian year teaches us to once again become Israel, recognizing our sin and need, thus waiting, longing, hoping, calling, praying for the coming of the Messiah, the advent of justice, and the in-breaking of shalom. We go through the ritual of desiring the kingdom—a kind of holy impatience—by reenacting Israel’s longing for the coming of the King. The repetition of this year after year is a training in expectation (and it is replayed each week of the year in the celebration of the Eucharist, by which we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Thus Advent shakes us out of the presentist complacency that we can be lulled into. Instead, we are called and formed to be a people of expectancy—looking for the coming (again) of the Messiah.

James K A Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 157-158.

How to use LitBit Features and Commentaries.

10 December – God is coming. And it is the end of you.

View or print as a PDF

Advent 2

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85
Mark 1:1-8

To those looking for peace comes the cry,

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.”

God is coming! Make the way straight! “Cry out!”

And what shall we cry?

“All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass…”

You’ve gotta love the Old Testament prophets for their capacity to punch, square in the face, any easy forgiveness or cheap attempts to leap out of the world as it is into sentimental notions of paradise on earth or of eternal life! Isaiah declares: God is coming. And No One. Gets Out. Alive. Comfort, O comfort my people…

How do we respond to this? Horror, revulsion or terror would make sense to any normal person who took it seriously. But what about the people gathered here today? Does this horrify, terrify us as well? Are we “normal”?

The abnormality to which we are called as conspirators with Isaiah and disciples of Jesus is that we not be horrified here. Rather, we are to find ourselves set free with the realisation that we are not divine. That we are grass, that we are mortal, is the mark of our creatureliness.

We need, of course, to speak carefully. There is here no exultation in our mortality. It is not a thing to celebrate; it is just “a thing.” “No one gets out alive” is the law. It is, simply, the case. The function of law is to limit: only drive this fast, only drink this much, keep your hands to yourself; that far and no further. The law constrains, which is precisely what Isaiah declares here: you are constrained. You are flowers and grass, and will wither and fade.

We all know this, of course. What matters is the impact we allow the fact of our mortality to have. If our mortality is fundamentally offensive to us, then we labour to keep it at bay, to preserve ourselves as long as possible, to hold death at a distance by whatever power or influence we have. Life understood in these finds Isaiah’s mortal realism horrifying, terrifying, or repulsive. Who needs – or wants – to be reminded of the enemy when the work of our lives is to keep us hidden from that enemy for as long as possible? We see this in ourselves and in others, and we might characterise it as a deathly mortality. It knows only the law and its limits.

But Isaiah’s proclamation does not call us to this but, rather, to a lively mortality. This is a mortality – a creatureliness – which knows the limit and exults not in it but in the freedom which comes with it. This is the freedom not to have to survive, the freedom of not being necessary. The gospel in Isaiah’s proclamation is not simply that Israel’s “sins are taken away”. The content of those sins was the drive to make ourselves necessary, the denial of death’s final claim on us and of the possibility that we might cease to be. Isaiah’s gospel is that when God comes that kind of striving and anxiety is no longer required.

A deathly mortality is reflected in the corresponding deathly life: a life lived at heart in fear of – or revulsion at – the God who defines us as creatures, as grass. This is a life which finds it insufficient to be in the form or image of God and grasps at more (Genesis 3; Philippians 2).

A lively mortality is one which would live life to its fullest. A lively mortality celebrates the approach of God because it is when God comes as Creator above, and beyond, and yet for, us that we come to ourselves.

Here the law finds its end – its purpose: God being God, creature being creature, in the same moment. (This is, of course, what we say is the meaning of Christmas: the coincidence of God and the world, Christ as the end of the law, not only in his death but in his birth.)

In neither the lively nor the deathly experience of our death is that death any less real. All that matters is which way death’s shadow falls.

If it falls towards us, on this side of our inevitable definition in death, then our life is lived in a valley of death’s shadow. We live and die in a twilight; aware of the hint of more but not able to do much more than light candles and fires against the encroaching gloom.

But if death’s shadow falls away from us, on the other side of death, this means that death is obscure, that we cannot see what is beyond it, what it holds for us. This is to say that death is incomprehensible. And this is to say that we – who are mortal – do not yet now what we are. What it finally means to be a creature is still hidden from us, even if we walk now in the light. But we need no longer be jumping at the shadows.

This is the death – and the life – to which we are called, in all its incomprehensibility. And the word about all this is given in Isaiah for our comfort: when God comes, we become as we are created to be.

In the church, of course, we also hear rumours of resurrection, of death overcome and of life without end. At heart, this way of speaking is to say the same thing with a different emphasis or accent. Resurrection does not deny our death but only changes it; the “only”, however, is momentous: freedom from fear, life along straight and level pathways.

The gospel is that God is coming. And this will be the end of you. And a new beginning.

God comes that we might know that we are not God, that we are not necessary and do not need to try to be. More than merely necessary, we are loved, desired, by the God who created us in order that he might come to us, and we to him.

And God will come, and come, and come, and come… until we are his.

Now and always, all praise and glory be to the God who creates, sustains and sets us free. Amen.

« Older Entries