A couple of years ago St Stephen’s held a Cinema afternoon fundraiser, the film was Mao’s Last Dancer. I had previously seen the film while on holiday and then, as ticket purchaser’s, we were invited to enter into a competition. Entry into the competition involved writing 25 words or less, what inspires you to achieve your goal.
I thought for a minute and couldn’t think of anything that inspired me except, and I wrote, the hope that things can be different from how they are now.
There is much that I enjoy about our present culture and lifestyle, in my family, in the faith community of St Stephens, in the community of Geelong, the nation of Australia, and even the world. But, and there is always a but, there is much that is not good, not wholesome, not enabling, not supporting, not fulfilling, not adequate, not real, etc., etc., etc.
The hope for something to be different, to be better than it is at present, is a hope for the resurrection.
Do you hope for something better?
I don’t mean, do you wish things would go back to the way things were in the past, although I acknowledge that there are some things of the past which I wish were still present, still a part of the way we / I live our / my life.
I love the computer. The computer has made life so much easier. To write a sermon or an article, to do a mail out to particular people on the data base, to produce readable and attractive advertising and notices, have all been made easier, if not possible, because of the computer. However, because these things are so much easier to do, we also do more work, put more expectation on ourselves and others, and now demand skills of people that were not required previously for the same job that was done once before. Our parish strategic plan has called for the establishment of a focus of organisation, a parish office with a parish administrator or administration team. But I am so aware that for all the tasks we want that parish administration to do, computer skills are now essential.
We can’t just go back, because when we go back to regain all the aspects of the past that were good we also find ourselves having to live with all the things that were not so good, even bad.
I continually feel some level of dissatisfaction with how life is and have a desire for it to be different, to be better. It is this desire that inspires me to push on to the goal that is before me. The goal itself is that it can be, and should be, and will be (even if not in my life on this earth), better than it was and is, even today.
This, my friends, is the hope and the promise of the resurrection of Jesus, for us. Yes, Jesus may have died on the cross to save us from our sin, and yes, this may be an invitation that we may have to suffer and die to things in our life to obtain the resurrection, but we are not the people of the cross, we are the people of the resurrection. We are the people of God who believe that there should be, can be, and will be, a better life than the one that is being lived today. The Christian doctrine of the resurrection is not something that is just about the future, it is a doctrine that is meant for us now, to inspire us now. To inspire us to get on with the task that is before us. To get on to bring into reality that which we hope for, where every person will live in the security of God, equality of the resources of the earth and respect of one another.
The resurrection is the stuff of Martin Luther King who said,
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
‘I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
‘This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”’
and now there stands a man of African heritage as the President of the USA.
The idea of resurrection, which Jesus gave us in his own resurrection from the death of crucifixion, knows no boundaries. His death was because of those who were sin, his resurrection was for those same sinners. The resurrection after our physical death is for all who die. It is after the resurrection that the judgement comes.
In that judgement, how are we judged? On what basis are we judged? It seems to me that if the one who is the resurrection and the life has the authority to execute judgment, then perhaps our judgment will be based on whether or not we have a relationship with him who is the resurrection and the life. If we are, we will be people who are people expressing the resurrection, living lives that are working toward the hope that things will be different, that the world will be the kingdom of God, heaven here on earth.
Those who we remember on All Saints and All Souls Day are those who have died in the faith of him who is the resurrection and the life, whether they are formally recognised as Saints, with a capital ‘S’, by the church, or as saints, with a small ‘s’, by those who knew their witness to the Lord Jesus in the world. We stand in assurance that those who have died in the faith of him who is the resurrection and the life know the fullness and completeness of the resurrection and are with him in the throne room.
We can be people of the cross, constantly whipping ourselves for our inadequacies and our sinfulness, or worse, denying them and blaming others, striving to achieve a vision and a dream that is concerned with what is good for me. Or we can be people of the resurrection, who yearn for the world to be different, working toward a world that reflects in this life what we hope for those we love who have now passed from our sight, a world of this life that reveals the heaven for which we would hope for ourselves.