A sermon preached on The Sixth Sunday of Easter at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete, on May 26, 2019 11:00 am.
Readings may be found here.
If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us. Acts 16.15
Where is home for you?
Is it the place you were born? Was it where you were raised, too? Or is it the country you come from – England, Wales, Ireland, the United States, or Canada? Is home the city you last lived in – say, Liverpool, or Norwich? Is it a county, like Lancashire? Or is it here, in Greece, in Crete?
Of course, for some people, it is the case, as a song that came out a few years ago said,
Home is wherever I’m with you.
The Home of God
In today’s gospel, we are told that God’s home is with us. Jesus says in the gospel reading,
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
When God makes us a divine home, we are transformed as a community, and as individuals. What does it look like?
The clue is in Revelation 21 and 22. While this might be read literally, and I have seen stained glass windows that do just that, the best way to read this passage is metaphorically. As you probably know from living in Greece, a μεταφορά is a transport truck, or that cart in airports that you put your luggage on – it takes your stuff and carries it from one place to another. So it is with words – a metaphor transports you into a deeper meaning from where you begin.
We know these last two chapters of the Bible are largely metaphorical because at one point (Revelation 21.1) it states, “and the sea was no more.” For the land-lubber Jews the sea represented the violence of chaos, and the absence of chaos in that verse suggests that the terror of the ocean is no more.
So when God dwells with us, we are that New Jerusalem. When God through the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we become the Body of Christ, a new and different incarnation of the Word from that which walked on earth. We are the new creation, transformed by grace.
- We are the New Jerusalem, beautiful, as if a bride on her wedding day.
- we are a city centered on the divine, for the Temple is the Father and the Son, and its light is not a sun but the Lamb of God.
- The gates of the New Jerusalem are always open, and the whole world comes to that city.
- It is described as being massive, far larger than any existing city, suggesting a generosity of forgiveness by God.
- There is nothing unclean in it, suggesting that it is pure and without sin, even as Christ was.
- The river flows from the throne, gives life.
- The tree of life is there, bountiful in every season.
- And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.
And so we have a list of characteristics of what happens when the divine makes us home.
- Open and inclusive
- Centered on the Divine
As the gospel would remind us, all of this is due to love – the love of God we know in creation, in Christ, and in the reflected love of those around us. Jesus leaves us with a peace, which is not simply the absence of violence or conflict, but the creative and recreative love of God which overcomes violence and death by love.
Has God Made us a New Jerusalem?
So, is this us? Does God make God’s home with us? Have we invited God to be with us, even as Lydia invited Paul and his companions to come to her home?
Perhaps we need to do an inventory of ourselves at St. Thomas, Kefalas, and look at the ways we are healing, bountiful, life-giving, pure, generous, forgiving, open and inclusive, beautiful, and centered on the Divine.
- Is this an issue for our next church council meeting?
- As we prepare to welcome Bishop David Hamid in a month’s time to ordain Julia Bradshaw to be a deacon in the church, how will her ministry in the diaconate assist us to be that divine home?
- For that matter, how does having me here as a priest or presbyter help?
- How does your ministry as the baptised people of God make us a New Jerusalem?
As we work this out and prepare in our souls and bodies a home for the divine, as the Psalm today says,
May God give us his blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.