Acts 11:1-18 Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6 John 13:31-35
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That little bit of Gospel we read has got an awful lot of stuff in it. It’s at the Last Supper. Jesus has just said that one of the disciples will betray Him. He knows it’s Judas, so He says to him ‘go and do what you have decided to do’ that is betray Him. Judas rushes out to betray Jesus’ whereabouts to the Chief Priests and Elders. You know what happens then – the disaster of Good Friday, the seemingly misnamed Good Friday, when Jesus’ earthly ministry ends in the degradation and pain of the Cross.
As soon as Judas leaves Jesus declares that now He and God have been glorified. That’s truly hard to understand, how can this be called glorification ? Well of course like Good Friday in human terms none of this is glorious, but we are forgetting the God Factor. God has this habit of looking long term with the benefit of foreknowledge. Out of this pending disaster will come Resurrection and Redemption. We are not able to know that in the moment but it’s coming. We should remember that when things don’t go our way, either physically, emotionally or relationally, there is a longer story that God has in mind for each of us. Sometimes things will end in pain and suffering for us but like Jesus every pain we suffer will be for another’s redemption from suffering.
I’m thinking of Bob Wilson a victim of negligence at Joseph Brant Hospital who is dying from untreated bedsores. That will never, ever happen again; routines and practices will be changed and others will be saved because of Bob’s suffering. We learn by our mistakes and there are oh so many mistakes to be made. Life is an unending stream of trial and error, because we are all unique, God made us that way, and I am glad about it. I am glad about who I am. I would not want to be another; George Clooney’s looks and money ? Perhaps not. I like what I have but maybe you should ask my wife.
Bob Wilson is a martyr by any reasonable definition. His agony will bring relief to others. That is what Jesus’ suffering did for each of us, and that is what our suffering does for others, although we may not see it, and we may beg with bitter tears that the cup of suffering we have been given will be taken away, it will not be. God will not save us from our own stupidity but God will be with us when we suffer Evil, when we call upon Him for help. God will still be with us when we are called to martyrdom for the sake of others.
It is one measure of the way we love one another, to bear things for others. Throughout human existence, life has got a little better, bit by bit, age by age. We don’t live in caves any more, we don’t live in anarchy although we haven’t learnt not to war, we have learnt to better our lives through trial and error, by scientific discovery, we have learnt to express ourselves in the arts and are able to enjoy the finer things of life, because others have led the way, often by pain and suffering. Why should we be any different ? It’s the human condition but we know there is a God who will be with us agony or not, who will give us a life beyond this wonderful, but grubby life. That’s what the New Jerusalem is about. Eventually we will have worn out all the bad possibilities and only good ones will be left.
But why put this Gospel reading here we are five Sundays after Easter, we have heard stories, even today, of how the Church is growing, why remind us of Christ’s pending doom, He is Risen ?
I suggest we are reminded of Jesus’ suffering because we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. It is because of His death and Resurrection that the Church grows. That’s how Jesus and the Father are glorified, by the growth of the Church, when more faithful believers come to worship and do the work they are called to do, that is to love God and love neighbour.
We are called to play our part in the Church, in its Mission and therefore in its growth and ultimately in glorifying God by so doing.
Then we will see the New Jerusalem, not only will the world be changed but we will see it in a different light.
Imagine if you got up every morning fully rested, ready to enjoy the day without bodily creeks and groans, the sun shining, breakfast on the table, nothing but good news in the newspaper, anxious to go and see friends and family to see them happy in their lives, to enjoy good conversation, have a relaxed lunch, easy afternoon exercise, time to read and relax or learn something new, stay a while watching the birds and the river, finding a cool spot for a little tea of delicate sandwiches, then a walk home where preparation of the evening meal is well underway, time to watch the Game, when you won’t be interrupted with “Dinner’s ready” at the two minute warning with the score tied. Then dinner, a little wine, then to listen to the evening news, which is all good and the Stock Market was up again, as it has been for as long as you can remember, watch your favourite show, maybe a hot chocolate and cookie, and then to the sweetest bed you have ever slept in to sleep, perchance to dream.
That’s the New Jerusalem. Why are things so good, well it’s because God is in residence. You will spend your time in constant worship, because God is worthy of it, it will not be a chore but a delight as all things are in the New Jerusalem. No more suffering or sores, no more martyrdoms or broken hearts. The New Jerusalem will come when Death is no more, when you have become righteous through your Faith, and redundant Evil has been thrown into the Eternal Fire and we are truly free. Amen.