The Civic and Parish Church of Bournemouth

24th February 2019 Sermon – “In the world you shall have tribulation, but, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!”

Things are not always the way they seem.  You need to see the bigger picture.

Did you hear about the recent incident at Marwell Zoo? Their famous Gorilla died unexpectedly and he had been one of the biggest attractions – especially for the children.

Well, since half-term was just around the corner and they did not have time to get a new gorilla, one of the zookeepers came up with this idea.  They had one of the other zookeepers dress up in a complete gorilla outfit and pretend to be him.  This zookeeper really took to his new job and he got to be quite good at swinging from the branches, eating bananas and was fooling everyone.

One day, however, he was a bit too enthusiastic.  He ended up swinging a bit higher than expected and let go at the wrong time.  He ended up sailing out of his cage and directly into the cage of the lion.  He gulped and was barely able to squeak out a tiny “help!”

The lion sauntered over to him, got really close and whispered back. “Shut up, or we will both lose our jobs!”

Things are not always the way they seem.  You need to see the bigger picture.

Climbing a hill shrouded in mist – suddenly the morning breeze sweeps the mist away, like pulling back a curtain, and you can see the landscape – the bigger picture – that’s been there all the time.  Then the breeze drops and the mist closes in again.  You can no longer see the landscape – but you know it’s there!

The three Scripture readings give us a time-line and encourage us to look outside of that timeline for the big picture. It’s a little bit like taking a course of study that has five modules.  Each module is self-contained and has its own tasks, word limits and a time limit; but the entire course contains all of the five modules and they sit within its much larger timeline.  This ‘big picture’ reveals to us, as ‘the curtain sweeps back’, the big, reliable, ‘base your life upon them-type’ truths about God.

That’s how it is with today’s three Scripture readings.  There is a beginning and an ending, a bit like an individual module; but outside lies not a larger timeline but the timelessness of God.  Within the timeline of creation we get hints, clues – revelations – about the character and values of God-beyond-all-time.

We begin with Genesis telling us that when the timeline of creation started God  made humanity in God’s image and likeness.  Let us ‘park’, for today, that the story in Genesis starts with man and goes on secondly to woman.  That’s a different sermon.  Today’s point is that at the start of the timeline we find humanity wonderfully made and organically alive.

At the other end of the timeline, namely, the end of all time (end of this module), is the vignette from the book of Revelation about the end of all things being humanity’s falling down in worship to God.  We might assume from these clues that both these things we’ve been shown are actually true beyond all time.  Heaven, where we are in the closer presence of God, is, therefore, a state of being outside of all limitations of time, place, freewill  and the frailty and perversity of humanity, where we exist in the image of the Divine whom we continually worship.  The Gospel reading gives us another hot hint, namely, it reveals to us that, with God, the storms of life, which currently batter us so badly that they threaten both our sanity and our survival, will not be able to harm us.  God will say, as it were, ‘Peace, be still’, and so it will be.  As Mother Julian of Norwich said, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’

Now, that’s serious good news for when our time-line ends – that is, for the life to come.

But what about now?

Well, we can claim the life of Heaven for now and it helps to change it to be that way.  That is why we worship regularly, not just out of gratitude to God, nor just to prepare ourselves for Heaven, but to use our free-will to help God break-through his Heaven into the here and now.  It is the same with love towards others, and justice and peace and gentleness and joy …  However, let’s remember, again, that things are not always the way they seem on the surface.  With God, you need to see the bigger picture.  There is general agreement amongst scholars that Luke is not just describing any typical ‘storm of life’, no, this is divine revelation, not to be confused with mundane discomforts and upsets. Luke sweeps back the curtain to reveal, in this story and the one that follows it, two eternal realities.  It is the binary choice of our baptism all over again – ie – good or evil. Choose!  Luke presents us with the reality of demonic influence, pervasively, upon all life on earth.  And this chapter is so that we should not underestimate its destructive power.  For Jewish story-tellers, chaotic waters are about the disorderly powers of destruction – as in the flood!  This is paralled in this little vignette of Jesus on the lake suddenly caught in a demonic storm.  But the second eternal reality is clear to Luke, and should be to us, namely, that Jesus is Master of the Storm, and has, on the cross, absorbed into Himself the worst that all demonic power, and human perversity, combined, could do.  So Jesus’ words, ‘Peace, be still’, are to us, as well as to the storm, because they speak not of our day to day ups and downs but of nothing less than our eternal destiny and that of the whole cosmos.

As St John has Jesus saying:  “In the world you shall have tribulation, but, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!”

May it be for us.  Amen.