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Peter Collier QC, Vicar General of the Province of York and Cathedral Reader

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Sermon Preached for Evensong.

York Minster, Sunday 7 November 2021 by The Reverend Peter Collier.

 

May the  words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you , O lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

I wonder if you picked up the thread running through the scriptures that we have heard read and sung this afternoon

The Psalmist speaks of the nations being in uproar and the kingdoms tottering, but he introduces us to a God who makes wars cease.

The prophet Isaiah speaks those well-known words about a time when the wolf and the lamb will live at peace with each other. A far cry from those Attenborough documentaries with their dramatic footage of nature red in tooth and claw. Just for a moment imagine them without the drama of the chase and the kill?

The Psalmist and the Prophet are looking at the big picture, and to the end times. The Christian gospel proclaims that that there will be an end time and it will be a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God. It will be an age of peace and harmony and there will be an absence of so much that dominates our world – human conflict and natural disaster with their ensuing hunger, disease, and death.

But that age is not now and the Christian gospel is not just about a distant hope, it is about hope for the here and now.

It is in the now that Jesus promises to those of us who love him that he and his father will come to us and make their home with us

As we begin to make plans for Christmas, I am already looking forward to hearing the ABY read the prologue to John’s gospel with those wonderful words – the word became flesh and lived among us – or as the Message translation says – The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood. The Revised English Version has it as – the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.

That is wonderful news – God, the Word – came and for a period lived here in the neighbourhood, pitched his tent among us. He became one of us, he experienced life on this earth with all its ups and downs, joys and heartaches. But that was then. And we know that he died, and as we said in the creed, on the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

So the prophets might have looked ahead to the future and the story of Jesus takes us back 2000 years. But reading what happened when he was here can emphasise our aloneness now. We can feel very much on our own in a world that is not only hostile to us but also where there is so much destructive hostility at work across the globe.

But what of now? Well Jesus says he will come with his father and make their home with us.

Make their home with us?

Can we try and visualise that for a moment or two.

Imagine someone else coming to make their home with you. It happens in some families – they take in another family member, perhaps a grandchild. Some go further and take in a stranger, perhaps a foster child or a refugee. In a moment of crisis we once took in my wife’s brother. What I thought might be 2 weeks turned into 2 years. Whoever you take in, the act of taking them in has a huge impact on your life – they are there, at all times of day and night; they take part in everything – we are talking not about a lodger with a key to their room but someone who has come to share your home in every sense.

The result is that we have to adapt; it is disruptive to the pattern of life we had grown used to. It will mean making changes.

There are theological and philosophical mysteries aplenty here as Jesus talks about himself, the father, and the holy spirit; but in fact, in our experience we discover these mysteries and so come to understand their meaning.

We have the experience of remembering what Jesus said. And the more we read what he said the more we will be reminded. That is what the Spirit does.

Jesus went on to say that it was good that he was going away because he was going to be reunited with the Father who is even greater than him. This is where my understanding and my ability to put it into words fails. But we are grasping after something on a bigger and different scale than just Jesus here on earth. When he was on the earth he could only be with those he was physically present with. But when he had gone and rejoined the father, they can send the spirit to each and every one of his disciples in the same way at the same time.

And so they will come to live with each one of us, sharing our homes, our lives, our work, our recreation, our joys and our sorrows.

And they will bring not only disruption but true peace. Not like the world’s peace which so often is just a truce, a halting of hostility for now, a patching up, but deep down the cause of the hostility continues.

The peace Jesus brings is peace within, peace with myself, peace with others.

In a few minutes we shall sing together:

Peace in our hearts our evil thoughts assuaging,

Peace in thy church where brothers are engaging;

Peace when the world its busy war is waging;

This week wherever we are and whatever we are doing we have that promise, that assurance – Jesus and the Father have moved in to live with us – and that will bring disruption and change in our lives as we adjust to their living with us, but also they will bring us peace.

It is a foretaste of what the prophets spoke about. They looked to the day when the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

This week, day by day we can each know that foretaste for ourselves.

 

Amen

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