“For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18)
In May’s edition of the parish magazine I wrote an article on impermanence entitled “Nothing lasts forever”. I think I have had more people positively comment to me about that article than any other article I’ve ever written.
Then when Ingleton parish also asked me to start writing for them as well, instead of producing something new I sent them that article. I have been thanked for it personally and last week Sue Edwards who prints the sheet phoned me and said that she had never had such a response to the vicar’s article.
It is such a simple truth yet that is the point. It is true! Everything and everyone will die. In a hundred and thirty years from now everyone now in this church will be gone – everyone – because everything material is finite – everything dies – and one day even the earth itself will die burnt to a crisp by our Sun which will itself be in the midst of its death throws. Humanity will be gone and everything we ever built and strived after will be extinct along with us.
No-one can contest this. It is just an undeniable truth. One of the first goals of the spiritual life is to align ourselves with truth.
You may now be all thoroughly depressed, but really there is no need to be frightened of the truth. Especially there is no need to be frightened of that truth if we also perceive that beyond or rather within the physical created universe there is a mysterious depth to the universe – another truth more difficult to name and pin down – a mystery that we can intuitively and intellectually relate to – a depth to life we have named God, or you may want to call it the universe itself or the pure being that indwells all creation.
It is to that mysterious depth to life that we commune with when we will share bread and wine together later. What that means when we do that is that we are all of connected, connected with each other and with God. We are held together in the palm of God’s hand. In this case we really are all in this together. We all live and we will all die – but we say that we are also all held and there is no need to fear death.
Likewise when we baptise Maxwell in a minute we are saying much the same thing. Maxwell has just been born, and he shares the same fate as all human beings but today we are saying and demonstrating that Maxwell need never fear because God is always with him. We use various signs to demonstrate this – I anoint with oil, I ill pour water over his head, I will give a candle to his parents – but this is all basically saying the same thing. He is held in the palm of God’s hand, God loves Maxwell and looks kindly upon him. Now Maxwell may never return that love. For all I know Maxwell may grow up to be an atheist. But though I believe that would be a shame, it won’t alter the fact that God loves and holds Maxwell, now, and for the rest of his earthly life and beyond, no matter whether he believes in God or not.
God’s love is free, constant and not in the slightest bit dependent on whether you ever return that love or not. If that sounds too good to be true – well that is what we call GRACE.
That love, that being held, that Grace, is not just for Maxwell, or me, or any select bunch of people it is for all of us, no matter who you are. Everything we do in church today is an affirmation of God’s Grace, which extends as Buzz Lightyear would say – to infinity and beyond.
We all of us have a deep well of fear inside us which manifests itself in many and various ways in our lives but the root of this fear is the fear of death. But there is no need to be afraid because as Paul writes in another place – perfect love casts out fear. And as we say, God is Love.