Liz Morris – May 15, 2022
Good morning and welcome to worship. My name is Liz and before we dive into today’s message, let me pray.
Lord God, help us to feel connection to You, to land, to each other. Help us to build each other up and to be reminded of the beauty of this world. I ask that the words I speak come from You and that we are able to apply lessons to our lives this week. Amen.
Starting the term, I walked into my Year 7 English class and was busily setting up the lesson. The desks were somewhat in disarray from a colleague’s previous lesson, but the students were piling in. One of my students was chatting away to me and then said ‘Miss, we’re in an archipelago’. As a reminder, an archipelago is “an island group or island chain, a cluster, or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands”. When he made this comment, I had my back to him as I was opening up the lesson resources on the front screen, and I mumbled a response along the lines of ‘oh, that’s interesting’, thinking they’d learned about what an archipelago is in Geography, but as I turned around, he pointed to the desks and said, ‘see, Miss, we’re in an archipelago’ and I saw he was at a desk by itself and there were clusters of desks elsewhere. He was commenting on the way the desks were scattered and it brought me such joy. All I could do at that point was to laugh and enjoy the beauty of the moment.
The days where things are most difficult for me, either in my personal or professional life, my Year 7 students ground me. They have this uncanny ability to always make me laugh, and I am always thankful for them. God reminds me of the beauty of this world through them, and He does this often. This world offers such beauty and wonder. There is curiosity and joy to be found in the most intricately designed places. Nature reflects this and I am sure you have had many moments where you have been in awe of the splendour of this earth. It was, after all, created for us by God to be a place we cultivate and cherish. We have much to learn about our spiritual connection to land, and I believe it is the design that we learn from our First Nations people to heal that severing between people and land.
However, as Christians, we seem to walk along this line of ‘we are not of this world, but in it’, rhetoric that I am sure many of you have heard before in various studies or conversations with other Christians. We walk this line so much so that we tip to the point where we see ourselves as not living fully, because how can we live fully in a broken world? And I get it. I see the veryspecific changes to the preposition – of is different to in. Yet, why is it that we disqualify ourselves from an eternal life whilst we are here on earth? The reason I like the Bible Project’s video that was shared before is because it talks about ‘Life Unto the Age’. God has always wanted connection with His people, and not at the point where we die in our earthly lives. He has always wanted to give us life eternal WITH Him. You cannot live in this world long without seeing the joy of it. And isn’t that a beautiful reality? We should not feel discouraged because we find joy in life, but it is a difficult complication for us when we are told to ‘work towards’ something. But what would it mean to realise that what we are working towards, we’ve already achieved?
Our reading from Revelation reminds us of what God has been detailing ever since Genesis. We get to the last book in the Bible and hear the exclamation “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them’. It is as though we’ve never heard this idea before. Consider, now, where God has made it clear that He dwells with us? This verse is written in such a way that sounds as though it is what we are looking towards and something that is yet to come. But we know about The Garden of Eden (although exiled), but we also know about the Ark of the Covenant (something I spoke about in a previous sermon), the cloudy pillar and pillar of light. God with His people in the Old Testament.
However, what else do we know? Let’s think about the New Testament! God’s son came to earth to dwell among the people. Jesus is the embodiment of God dwelling with us, and when he died, he was resurrected AND just in case we were tempted to say ‘see, God abandoned us’, He gave us the Holy Spirit. At what point, then, does God not dwell among His people? I think we need to reframe this because after this verse in Revelation, we hear:
“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
These words hold so much comfort for me. The view that there will be no more crying or pain, mourning, suffering, hardship is all so beautiful to hope for, but seems out of reach at times. So, the reframing comes in the fact that God himself will be with the people AS their God – another nice preposition. That we will BE His people because we have understood our need to reconcile with Him. Although we aren’t in a perfect position whilst we live a mortal life, we are in the position to cross over Ages.
In our Gospel reading today, I love that we hear this ‘new commandment’ which, simply put, is to love one another as Jesus loves us. But I also really adore how Peter’s response to this new commandment isn’t about the commandment, but highlights his preoccupation in what Jesus said before he gave this new commandment. Peter asks “Lord, where are you going”? Jesus repeats that where He is going, he cannot be followed, but adds to his sentence by saying ‘but you shall follow Me afterward”. When Peter is confronted with the accusation that he will deny Christ, it is a reminder of Peter’s need for Jesus, as it is a reminder to us too. I could go into a lot more detail on this passage, but the most important part here is to know that Jesus had todie for Peter before Peter could die for Him. Our ‘Life Unto the Age’ is completed in the blood of Christ.
In Acts, Peter has come a long way in his understanding and he discusses an important vision he has had. We are reminded of the importance of the Holy Spirit and the free gift of it to all who ask, and Peter queries “So, if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” And isn’t that true? This life and this eternal life is for everyone. But it does not need to start when we end our lives here on earth. We can transcend the idea of time and place because “God has granted repentance that leads to life” for all.
My challenge to you this week is to find joy in this world. We are living ‘Unto the Age’ and I believe God wants you to fully live in this world whilst, yes, not being of it, and in a way that is only through what he calls a ‘new commandment’. It is radical love:
- Jesus marks us as His disciples by our love for one another
- We can mark ourselves as His disciples by our love for one another
- The world can mark us as His disciples by our love for one another
It is in this way that we bridge the human archipelago. Let us not be scattered islands, but wholly connected to land, to each other, to God and to The Age.
Let us pray, Heavenly Father, it is by your radical love that we find connection to so much more than what we ever imagined. Help us to live a life that is fully with You, to find joys in this earth that You have created and to feel we have a place in it, whilst reminding us that we have a place with You. In Your Son’s holy name we pray, Amen.