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Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday 14th April 2024 Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48


A great novelist said that we read so as to feel less alone. Who am I? What is my purpose? There is a pandemic of loneliness at the moment. People often describe how they feel separate, not part of the whole. We can all have days where we seem to lose the thread of meaning. Somebody who lives alone said to me, I sometimes wonder what the purpose of it is? I get up, go into another room, sit down.


Some of the Psalms can be heard or read as poems of a heart and mind talking to itself; this mind and heart may be on the heights or it may be in the depths. It is a voice which is always seeking meaning and the voice finds its meaning in its relationship with God. 'But know that the Lord has shown me his marvellous kindness; when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me. Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.'


I think for a lot of us, when we commune with our own heart upon our bed, we find a great confusion, and it is here when the sense of separation can really bite. The watches of the night may be times of struggle, times when we wrestle to find that deeper meaning.


The tragic suffering, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, the levels of violence, this unravels for many the sense of meaning, of a stable reality. But when the risen Christ stood among his disciples it was a moment of re-creation. After the reality of violence, suffering, abandonment and death, a deeper divine reality was shown. Christ called his disciples out of the separation of their fear and into a community of renewed meaning. "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see;". In the night of loneliness, in the midst of our separation, the invitation to come out of our terror and into relationship with the divine.


The question about meaning is central to coming out of the prison of our sense of separation. Life so easily deals us a succession of blows, dead-ends, elephant traps and surreal reversals that we end up shouldering our way through our days, grimly confronting a succession of tasks and enigmas, while we wonder what our ultimate meaning actually is.


There are no easy answers to how we discover this deeper dimension of meaning. But we may point to people who uncover a peculiarly powerful sense of God’s reality and in so doing discover that their own reality acquires its golden thread of meaning. Something of this luminous reality is revealed in the first letter of John. 'See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.' This is the radical shift in our identity: when we are no longer the separate suffering self but the beloved of God.


The golden thread of love, the thread of love linking us to our eternal lover, can become the thread of meaning through the apparent meaninglessness of so much of modern life. John writes out of his knowledge that God-in-Christ is the true measure and meaning of our identity. ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.’


To those nagging questions, Why do I feel so alone? What is my purpose? What is the meaning? What should I do? John might say, allow yourself to rest in God and allow Christ to be in you, and where appropriate to speak and act in you. Let the serving of an eternal love become your secret compass and your secret purpose.

Meister Eckhart has these concluding thoughts in light of our theme of moving out of isolation and meaningless and into a state full of God’s meaning. They are from a series of reflections called The Talks of Instruction.


'We should grasp God in all things and should train ourselves to keep God present in our mind, in our striving and in our love… This real possession of God is to be found in the heart, in an inner motion of the spirit towards God and striving for God… Whoever possesses God in their being, has God in a divine manner, and God shines out to them in all things; for them all things taste of God and in all things it is God’s image that they see… This person… grasps all things in a divine way and makes of them something more than they are in themselves.'


These words point to a way of being which is not easy to realise in our complex, fractured world. But they are an inspiration and an encouragement as to how to begin to live out of God’s love and meaning, and so how to see Christ in the confusion and complexity of the world, rather than to live locked and lost in the separation and suffering of the self.

 

The Reverend Ben Brown, Easter 2024

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