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Sermon - Mother Camellia 7 May 2023

Easter 5 A Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-6, 17-18 1 Peter 2”11 John 14:1-14

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the account of the Deacon Stephen’s vision as he was dying, we note that when he looked to God his vision supported Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah. This angered the Jewish leaders who had condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy. The penalty for blasphemy, was death by stoning. { Leviticus 23:14} The religious leaders of the day were furious and had Stephen stoned without a trial. They did not understand that Stephen’s words were true, because they were not seeking the truth, but only wanted support for their own views.

In Psalm 31 we find David had also looked to God for deliverance. He wanted God to stop those who were unjustly causing trouble and he made his request based on what he knew of God’s name – what he knew of God’s character. Because God is righteous and loving he loves to deliver his people. David knew that he could depend on God, but he also knew that depending upon God requires complete commitment.

To say we have faith in God, what do we really mean? Do we mean to commit our spirit into God’s hands? Jesus said, “into your hands I commit my spirit” as he was dying on the cross, showing his absolute dependence on God the Father, confident, that in death he was simply passing from God’s earthly care to God’s eternal care.

Many of the first century followers of Christ were suffering, being abused and persecuted for believing in and obeying Jesus,

Beginning in Jerusalem, at the hands of their Jewish brothers, the pattern of persecution spread to the rest of the world. Peter knew persecution first hand. Beaten and jailed, Peter had been threatened often and had seen fellow Christians die.

As believers we are “aliens and exiles” in this world, because our real home is with God. Life with God operated according to God’s principles and values, is eternal and unshakeable. Heaven came to earth in the symbolism of the Jewish sanctuary, the tabernacle and temple where God’s presence dwelt. It came in a fuller way in the person of Jesus Christ, God with us. It permeated the entire world as the Holy Spirit came to live in every believer. One day the kingdom of heaven will rule every corner of this earth. John saw this day in a vision, and he cried out “ See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God. They will be his people and God himself will be with them.” {Revelation 21:31} This means that our true loyalty should be to our citizenship of heaven not to our citizenship here. Our loyalty should be with God’s truth, his way of life and his dedicated people. Truth telling is important, and these days we are hearing a lot about truth telling, but how many of us are taking this seriously.

Referring to the gospel story in John, we find that in the moments just before the portion we read today, Jesus tells Peter he will deny him on three occasions and then almost immediately Jesus is giving tantalizing hints on what heaven will be like.

We can look forward to eternal life because Jesus had promised it to all who believe in him. Although the details are unknown, we need not fear because Jesus is preparing for us and will spend eternity with us.

Just last week I travelled to Copmanhurst along Clarence Way, then to Coombadjha. I could have gone another way, but how would I know which was the best way to travel? I would seek a little more information about the way from locals who knew and trust their advice.

When Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” he gave us one of the most basic and valuable information passages in Scripture. How can we know the way to God? Only through Jesus. Jesus is the way because he is both God and human. So, by uniting our lives with his, we are united with God. Eternal life as a present gift and future hope is discovered through connection to Jesus. It is discovered through faith or through believing. To believe is the authentic response to the offer of eternal life. Believing in Jesus also means believing in God. Jesus Christ is the complete revelation of what God is like. Jesus explained to Philip, who wanted to see the Father, that to know Jesus is to know God. The search for God, for truth and reality, ends in Jesus Christ.

Eternal life is a gift in the here-and-now, just as creation is a gift from the same divine source. Containing the seeds of resurrection, both now and at the end of time, eternal life overcomes evil, suffering and death through the life-giving death of Jesus. This life is abundant, bountiful, rich and fulfilling, giving safety and nurture.

Eternal life is in the present and is found in the future, in relationship with God through Jesus. And it is the relationship that gives us this meaningful life. Eternal life is the consequence of knowing God, trusting deeply, loving God, and knowing Jesus Christ as the self-revelation of God.

When Jesus says we can ask for anything, can we remember that our asking needs to be according to God’s character? Can we commit ourselves completely to God? Commit all that we have and are to God? Have we really committed our way to him and have we fully realized that Jesus really is the Way?

Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me”. The way to eternal life is prepared, clearly and securely. The only issue that may still be unsettled is our willingness to believe. Amen

The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF Grafton

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