Not dead but asleep

Sunday 13B (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Mark 5:21-34)

Our first reading today begins with that rather curious line – ‘death was not God’s doing.’ It points to what is in fact the teaching of the Church about death. When we read in the account of creation, in Genesis 1-3, we get the sense that in the beginning God intended for us to have a fullness of life; that death would not be the final word. And yet we know from our experience of the natural world, that death is simply a part of it all. We know from the past 4.6 billion years that the world has existed, that death has always been a part of it. It is just the natural cycle. At the moment here it is winter – a bit on the cold side. Looking outside we see trees that have lost their leaves; we know that in the springtime, the leaves will begin to bud and the flowers will blossom. I am sure that all of us have had some sense or experience of death – whether that is in the death of a pet, a farm animal or of someone that we loved dearly.

The difference that our faith makes is the way that we experience death. Not so much the physical reality of death, but the full spiritual or existential experience. This is the difference in the teaching of Christianity. The book of Wisdom that we read from (this morning) is very late, probably only written a couple of hundred years before the time of Jesus. It expresses the development of Jewish reflection upon this reality. They are struggling with coming to terms with what God intended for us – from the beginning. They ponder what we read in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and in other places about the way that God created us. That death wasn’t meant to be this terror over us; that we wouldn’t experience the dread and the fear at the moment of death. That death would not hold us in its throws; that death would not hold us in its punishment. But that death would simply be that point of transition. That simple falling to sleep to awaken in that new world which God has prepared for us.

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Storms in life

Sunday 12B (Immaculate Heart of Mary) – Mark 4:35-41

Last Sunday I received a call from the Drug and Alcohol Department of the RNSH. A friend of mine had been admitted after an overdose of prescription drugs. It wasn’t the first time that he’d been admitted to hospital; it seemed that things had just become too much for him. Later in the week I spoke to another friend whose close relative had just committed suicide. Once again I was at a loss of words beyond the ‘I’m so sorry…’

Sometimes life can become too much for us or for those who are close to us. It can seem like we are in a small boat that is being tossed about on the waves. Sometimes the storms that arise are like the one in the gospel today – sudden and unexpected. Sometimes the storms have always been there. Sometimes they have been brewing and building for untold ages and we cannot remember a time when they were not there!

In our first reading we have part of the Lord’s response to Job. Job has endured a terrible storm – he lost everything – family and friends, possessions and reputation, livelihood and health. He suffered and complained; he called God into the dock. Yet in the end, through it all he trusted. And in that trust he found his vindication. Trust gave him all that he needed – even if he never really found the answers that he was looking for.

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Body and Blood of Christ – Passover and Eucharist

The Gospel today (Mark 14:12-16) begins with a reminder that the Last Supper occurred in the context of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with the sacrifice and eating of the Passover Lamb. To understand this meal, we need to look back through Scripture to the first and most significant meals in human history. In this context, the first meal was when given the whole garden as a gift, Adam and Eve chose instead to grasp and grab the fruit, rather than receiving the gift from the hands of the Lord. When in later centuries the people of God were caught in slavery, the Lord delivered them first by gathering the community for a meal, where the Passover lamb was sacrificed and eaten as a sign of what God was doing within the community. Once we begin to understand the way that God continues to freely offer his life to us, then we can begin to understand what Jesus was doing throughout his life, as he ate and drank with saints and sinners, and as he continues to freely offer himself to us. All we need to do is receive him as the greatest answer to our hunger.

Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (10’36”)

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Commissioned in the Trinity

Matt 28:16-20. After the 96 days of Lent and Easter we move back into Ordinary time – but before we do there are two feasts to remind us of the whole direction of our Christian lives. Almost all of the other feastdays are connected with events in the life of Jesus and the saints, but this Sunday and next are really about the trajectory offered by every Sunday. In the closing scene from Matthew’s Gospel we are given the invitation to join the disciples to gather around Jesus and worship him. He then tells us that in him all authority has been given to him and therefore we are given the great commission from Jesus – to make disciples; baptising into the name of the trinity; and teaching the commands of Jesus. But just as at the start of the Gospel the angel promises that the child will be called ‘Jesus’, the Emmanuel, now at the end Jesus promises that he will be with the disciples until the end of time.

Recorded at St Michael’s, 6pm Vigil (10’14”)

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