Monday, 27 May 2019

You are never alone with Christ

Easter 6
Acts 16: 9-15. I don’t know how one distinguishes between a dream and a vision, but this one prompted an immediate reaction and  on arrival in Philippi the first convert was a “God fearer” – a non-Jewish lady who was nevertheless attracted by the Jewish understanding of God and morality represented by the Jews. She was an independent businesswoman and head of her household reflecting the importance of women in Luke’s biblical accounts of the faith.
Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5. Speaking of visions we enter the vision to end all visions – Revelation. One can simply wallow in the magnificence and the powerful symbolism of the scene painted by John of peace, light, healing, and abundance bisected by the river of the water of life. Everything needed for life to flourish is provided by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John 14: 23-29. Jesus prophesies the coming of his Spirit which will “make our home” with followers of the way. The conflict between the full presence of the divine present to believers as described here and notions of a “second coming” is most acute. “I am going away, and I am coming to you” (verse 28).

Physical loneliness is a terrible thing in my experience.
Having someone to talk with and share with is equally important in the good times as well as the bad times. Having someone to share with, to touch, to cry on their shoulder, to celebrate with when something good happens.
Emotional loneliness is keenly entwined of course because we are scientifically and theologically speaking a psychosomatic unity. This means that our minds and bodies are linked and cannot be separated. A simple example of this is that when our bodies hurt that causes mental trauma and mental illness has serious effects on the health of our bodies.
There is also a spiritual loneliness where one can feel that we are completely alone in a cold uncaring universe and it is this element of the Christian religion that speaks most eloquently and seriously to the human condition.
All religions try to do this but Christianity is very special because the God we believe in entered into our world to make that relationship with God that much easier. When we want to relate and get to know God and his character we have Jesus to get to know and in seeing what Jesus is like we know what God is like.
But what happens when that icon of God, that “image of the invisible God” as Paul describes Jesus (Col. 1:15) has to leave this earth as He did when he was killed on Good Friday?
We know that on Easter Sunday He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples but only for a limited time and in a localised form. He was a presence at a certain time in a certain place. To be present to all his followers all at the same time He knew He would have to return to His Father and ask his Father to send his Spirit to be with us all for ever.
The return of Jesus to His Father we celebrate as Ascension Day next Thursday and we celebrate the gift of His Spirit ten days later at the feast of Pentecost.
This is what Jesus is preparing His disciples for when John writes,
“My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them” (V. 23)
Later in that same piece Jesus says those enigmatic words “I am going away and I am coming to you” (v.28)
Layers of spiritual meaning are held within that phrase because the simple words “I AM” are of course the name of God that was given to Moses in Exodus 3:14,
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
God makes his home with us when the Holy Spirit is welcomed into our lives.
It is God by means of His Spirit that can direct, guide and teach you and perhaps most importantly just be with you. How that actually happens is not the important thing – the important thing is that you hear and respond to God’s promptings.
In the book of Acts Paul describes God speaking to Him in a vision to change course and go to Macedonia, in a move that changed the history of Christianity as it was taken to Europe out of Asia Minor.
God can speak to you via a vision, a dream, through other people, through a gut feeling, through circumstances. The medium is not the important thing, it is the message.
Like Paul, we need to be attentive and open to what is being said to us and direct our lives accordingly – as individuals and as a community.
In answering God’s direction, Paul found Lydia who believed and was  baptized, as well as her whole household and a church was planted in Philippi, the start of many churches in Greece and eventually all over Europe.
Returning to the gospel story and its message, it is absolutely clear that we are not alone in a cold uncaring universe.
God wants us to know that we are known, loved and cherished, and whatever happens to us here on earth we have a wonderful future where we will be joined with God forever in an existence that stretches beyond physical death into an everlasting future.
God’s Spirit testifies to the fact that you are never alone with Christ.

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