Sermon St Mary Sunday 11am 7 May 2023 Year A Easter 5
Acts 7v55-60 1 Peter 2v2-10 John 14 v1-14
Let us Pray;
Our Gospel reading this morning contains one of the greatest readings from all of scripture, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, I go and prepare a place for you”. This is a promise of great comfort to all of us who believe and have put our faith in Jesus as our Lord. It is one that is so often read at funerals for that very reason, it brings to us comfort when we hear those words from the Lord that he said to his disciples at the last supper. As we gather again together to remember him around the Lord’s table, just as he commanded us to do at that supper, those words should bring comfort to us all as we remember what Jesus has promised is in store for us as believers.
Those words recorded by Saint John are meant not only to bring comfort but also to transform the way we as Christians should view and face up to death. Death for us is not something to dread and it is certainly not the end. It is the beginning of the most wonderful experience and existence that we could ever imagine. As Saint Paul said to the Corinthian Christians (1Cor2v9), “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Can we ever even begin to appreciate a little of what it will be like to dwell with God, to dwell with our Lord Jesus. We shall not just dwell with God, we shall be part of His new great enterprise of ‘making all things new’ as Saint John tells us in his Revelation (21v1f). And if you look at the way we humans have abused and despoiled the beautiful and magnificent creation God has placed us in, you may appreciate what an essential part that will be in rebuilding this earth as God intended and as it was in the beginning.
You may ask but how do we do that? Well we shall not be able to do that with our present physical bodies, we shall be given new ‘resurrection’ bodies described later by Paul in Corinthians (1Cor1542-44) like this, “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body”. As to the actual nature and capabilities of that ‘new body’ I for one certainly wait with great anticipation to find out. It will be like the resurrected body of our Lord as he entered the upper room on the first Easter evening. It will be like those bodies given to Adam and Eve in the garden before they disobeyed and death entered the human race. They will be the form of bodies that God always intended for you and I. No more sorrow, sickness or pain, do you not long for a body like that?
It was so interesting that at yesterdays coronation the Gospel reading was taken from Jesus manifesto delivered in his home synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus proclaimed, ‘good news for the poor, release to the captives and liberty for those who are oppressed’-not speaking of those rightfully detained in our prisons, but of the millions held in subjection by oppressive regimes, and of sight for the blind’.
What an amazing time we have to look forward to, but also changes that we are meant to help initiate while we are still in these our mortal bodies.
The martyrdom of Saint Steven who was the first of many Christians called to surrender their lives down through the ages as they remained faithful to our Lord, just as many of our persecuted brothers and sisters are still called to do today.
Steven, as he was dying was given a vision into heaven itself, visions that have also been the case for many others, and as are still occurring for some today. You may have heard of some people who have experienced such near death experiences and lived to recount what was seen, but be careful with these.
Steven was not scared to face his death, and like our Lord prayed for those stoning him saying “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. That was such a heartfelt prayer of forgiveness, but not a prayer easy to repeat without the power of the Holy Spirit. And what was the vision granted to Steven at that moment? He saw into heaven itself, which must have been such a comforting sight at what was a moment of intense agony. And what did he see?
He saw our Lord Jesus standing at the most commanding of positions, standing at the right hand of God our Father till all his enemies become his footstool. A position from where we know that Jesus, who is our great high priest, always lives to make intercessions for us. And that is another comforting promise, and a promise given to sustain us in our pilgrim walk through this physical realm. A promise before we, at some time and we never know when, will enter that spiritual and eternal realm to join with our Lord Jesus and with all the Saints.
Finally let us remember the words we read from Peter and words of what God has for us who believe. Words to comfort us all together in the body of Christ, his Church, and something that will be fully realized in the life to come for we are to be ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation’, a people set aside to love, serve and worship God.
Let us pray:
Risen Lord Jesus, your wounds declare your love for each one of us and for all the peoples of this world, as we consider the wonder of your risen life, give us like your servant Steven compassion and courage to risk ourselves for those we love and serve, to the glory of God our Father.Amen