Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief 6. Love, Actually (I look for the resurrection of the dead) Sunday, March 1, 2009 10 to 10:50 am, in the Parlor Presenter: David Monyak Primary Reference Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief, Rowan Williams, Westminister John Knox Press, Louisville, London, 2007 Primary Reference Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief, Rowan Williams, Westminister John Knox Press, Louisville, London, 2007 The Most Revd. Rowan Williams is the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. He was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 27th February 2003 Born 1950 Studied theology at Cambridge DPhil at Oxford 1975 Priest 1978 1977 to 1992: taught theology at Cambridge and Oxford 1986: Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity at the University of Oxford 1991: Bishop of Monmouth in Anglican Church of Wales 1999: Archbishop of Wales Dec 2002: confirmed as the 104th bishop of the See of Canterbury Considered by many the best Protestant theologian in the world today Also a noted poet and translator of Welsh poetry Tokens of Trust An Introduction to Christian Belief Jan 25. Who Can We Trust? (I believe in God the Father almighty) Feb 1: The Risk of Love (maker of heaven and earth) Feb 8: A Man for All Seasons (and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord) Feb 15: The Peace Dividend (He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again) Feb 22: God in Company (And I believe in one catholic and apostolic Church) Mar 1: Love, Actually (I look for the resurrection of the dead) O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. On Sunday, Book of Common Prayer, p. 835 This Week: 6. Love, Actually (I look for the resurrection of the dead) Citizens of Heaven Citizens of Heaven The Church is Where Jesus is Visible Our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20 NIV) The Church is where Jesus is visibly active in the world: It shows the face of Jesus to the world; Its own internal life embodies the life of Jesus. Citizens of Heaven The Church is Where the Trinity is Visible The Church is where the action of the Holy Trinity is visible – for: as God’s adopted children: baptized, “immersed” in Jesus' life; having disappeared under the surface of Christ’s love and reappeared as different person; invited to eat with Jesus, and pray to the Father with him, boldly addressing the Father as “Our Father,” as “Abba,” We stand amidst the three-fold rhythm of love: Father, Son, Spirit, within God’s life: love outpouring, returning, sharing; a gifting, responding, renewed overflowing of giving Citizens of Heaven The Church is Where the Trinity is Visible This three-fold rhythm of love: Father, Son, Spirit, within God’s life: Are: love outpouring, returning, sharing; a gifting, responding, renewed overflowing of giving, the “waves” that surge around us as we try to live as Jesus’ disciples, the rhythm that sustains the universe. We should think of life in the church as: less like signing up to a society, and more as swimming in an overwhelming current of divine loving activity. Citizens of Heaven Relationships Among the People of God The gift we have been given as God’s adopted children, in which: we have been taken up into the heart of Jesus' prayerful relation to the Father, we stand within the three-fold rhythm of love: Father, Son, Spirit, within God’s life, should inform and transform how we work out our relationships within the Church and with the rest of creation. Citizens of Heaven A Vision of Heaven To put it boldly, when the Church is truly the Church = when its life points to: that threefold rhythm of love, Father, Son, Spirit = that interwoven knot of action and love within which Jesus stands = the threefold life that is God Then what we see is a glimpse of heaven. The Church’s “roots” are in heaven; its real identity and dwelling-place is in heaven. Hence, St. Paul tells us Christians have their ‘citizenship’ in heaven (Philippians 3.20). Citizens of Heaven A Vision of Heaven Heaven is what is laid open: when the Church is truly the Church = when the Church is most clearly committed to the work of transforming creation The Resurrection of the Body Resurrection of the Body From Church to Resurrection That the Church, when it is truly Church, lays open a vision of heaven, may be why in the Creeds we move from: Expressing our belief in the church, to Expressing our belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting Resurrection of the Body Resurrection of the Flesh I believe in … the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting (Apostles Creed) “Resurrection of the Body” in the Apostles Creed: literally “Resurrection of the Flesh!” Do we actually want this lump of bone and fat and hair that we know so well to have an eternal future? Isn't such language rather creepy? Resurrection of the Body An Envelope for Our Identity? It ironic that in our fantastically materialistic society, there is actually little respect for the body. We prefer to imagine our body as a mere envelope for our “true” identity based in our mind and will. Resurrection of the Body Our Material Life However: We encounter God in this world as beings with material bodies, God revealed God’s self to us by taking on the form of a material body, as Jesus, God continues to use material things and persons to communicate who and what he is, Why then should we think life with God will ever simply sidestep our material life? Resurrection of the Body Our Material Life The Bible says little about life with God in heaven, But rather talks about: a renewal of creation, a new heaven and a earth (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1) Life with God, it seems, is life in a world that has something in common with the world we now inhabit. Resurrection of the Body Our Material Life How then might we do justice to what the Bible and tradition seem to be telling us, that we look forward to: The resurrection of the “flesh”, Life with God in a “new heaven and new earth”, a Holy “City,” a “New Jerusalem”? Without falling into embarrassing clichés, creepy language? Immortal Diamond Immortal Diamond Beings Living in Context & Community First principles: We are who we are because we have lived and grown within: A human context (family, friends, community) A non-human context (physical world) Our holiness is bound with other people and the things of this world: Our relation with God is made visible (or not) in how we conduct our relationships with other people and the things of this world. Immortal Diamond Beings Living in Context & Community Therefore, if we believe that life with God does not evaporate after our physical death, then it must somehow still be life: in community and context, life in a world where all our relationships with things and persons are fully anchored in the Trinitarian love of God and fully transparent to that love. What exactly does that mean? Literally – God knows. Immortal Diamond Beings Living in Context & Community But it does mean that: God does not redeem us by making us stop being what we are — beings who live in community and context; If God holds on to us through death, he holds on to every aspect of us — not just to a specially protected, “immortal” bit of us. Whatever life with God is after our physical death, it is not something more abstract or more isolated than what we now know. Immortal Diamond Bodily Resurrection In his poem “Nature’s Bonfire,” Gerald Manley Hopkins ends with a description of bodily resurrection: In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond. Immortal Diamond Bodily Resurrection In our present life, the “immortal diamond” in us is inseparably bound up with the not very impressive stuff of human nature (Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood) At the resurrection, it all becomes “immortal diamond” It is not just the present “immortal diamond” part of us that survives. We look forward to a relationship with God after physical death in the wholeness of our human nature. Immortal Diamond Not the Immortality of the “Soul” Christians do not really believe in the “immortality of the soul” Deathless existence is not reserved for just a part of us, a hazy spiritual bit, the solid lumpy bit falling away. We have a future with God as whole persons, no less. On the further side of death (which by definition we can’t imagine) nothing is lost. Immortal Diamond Key To Our Hope The key to our belief in a life after death, in the resurrection, in a new heaven and a new earth, is our belief in a trustworthy God. God will not let us go even on the far side of death. What God has made his own through the loving action of Jesus, he will not abandon. The Coming Judgment of Christ Christ’s Judgment The Coming Judgment of Our Lives The coming judgment of our lives by Jesus is something we must be aware of day by day. Death means something is removed that now stands between us and God. There is a frightening leveling of all we thought we had built or achieved (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5). We will put on a new “covering” that is Christ’s life (1 Corinthians 15:53-54, 2 Corinthians 5:1-15), but first we must take something off. Christ’s Judgment Naked Before Truth In some unimaginable dimension, Where all our usual strategies of hiding from ourselves are not available, Where the veneers we have constructed to hide our true selves from the world have dissolved, We will stand before God spiritually “stripped” and naked; and the truth about what is deepest in us, what we most want, what we most care about, will be laid bare before God and our own consciousness. Christ’s Judgment Proper Fear Before God’s Judgment To be confronted by God, the stark truth about ourselves fully revealed, should rightly makes us apprehensive. We may be properly disgusted by the extravagant and hysterical expressions of this moment that have characterized some ages of Christian history, but we would be wrong to brush away a sense of proper fear before God's judgment. We need a proper adult awareness of the fact that nakedness before God will hurt, because truth does hurt. To the degree to which we don't know ourselves — a pretty high degree for nearly all of us — we must think soberly of “the fire” of this moment of truth. Christ’s Judgment Proper Fear Before God’s Judgment Our hope is that if we have been accustomed to living with Christ in this life, something has been “constructed” that allows us to survive the terror of meeting the truth face to face: The truth, to some degree, will already be “in us” (1 John 2:4) We trust that we are gifted with the clothing of Christ, the “defense” we need. In the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy, we pray for “a good answer before the terrible judgment seat of Christ”. Purgatory and Hell Purgatory and Hell “Purgatory” In our encounter with God at Judgment, so long as we are the complex and self-deceiving beings we are, there will be a dimension of pain. Can there be any fallen human being who can face the prospect of confronting God's purity and light without shrinking? This is perhaps the original impetus behind the Catholic teaching about “Purgatory” The medieval teaching of it: a state where you worked off your debts until you become more or less worthy to go to heaven, deserved the criticism heaped on it by the Protestant reformers. Purgatory and Hell “Purgatory” It is not unreasonable however to imagine a process we go through at Judgment that is: a continuing journey with God as we become acclimatized to the fullness of love; (new metaphor): something like our lungs expanding to cope with a new atmosphere. Purgatory and Hell “Purgatory” In his poem Love, George Herbert (priest and poet , d. 1633, whose feast day we celebrated Feb 27) describes the small drama of this process “Love [God] bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back.” Finally the immensity of God’s welcome wins out: let my shame Go where it doth deserve. And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame? My dear, then I will serve. You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat: So I did sit and eat. In the end we will sit down with God at his table. Purgatory and Hell “Hell” The idea of “hell” is also something we cannot simply ignore or write off. As adults, we know we all have a habitual unwillingness to face truth. What if we make choices in our lives that: make us more and more desensitized to truth? make us incapable to opening our clenched fists in the presence of love? make us incapable of telling truth from lies? Purgatory and Hell “Hell” Can we reach a state of self-deceit so profound that we become eternally impervious to love? We cannot say for sure if anyone ever falls into such a state, but we must know the proper fear that the choices we make are capable of destroying us. Purgatory and Hell “Hell” Hell is our decision, not God’s (no one is predestined to hell). The most truthful image we can have of hell is of God eternally knocking on a closed door that we are struggling to hold shut. Repentance and Forgiveness Repentance and Forgiveness The Repentant Community The most truthful image we can have of hell is of God eternally knocking on a closed door that we are struggling to hold shut. Therefore: we must be aware of all those things that might bring us to such a state of terror and deception — and bring them today before God's judgment and mercy. Therefore: a Christian community doing its job is a community where people would be repenting quite a lot. Repentance and Forgiveness Hope The miracle is: the repentant community is a community that can speak profoundly of hope. We don't have to be paralyzed by our failures. Repentance and Forgiveness Forgiveness We live in a culture that is “easy going” about all sorts of behavior and manners, but strangely, deeply unforgiving of human failure. Look at the: media’s treatment of the failings of politicians and celebrities, harsh attitudes to prisoners and ex-prisoners, demand for legal redress for any human error or oversight. Repentance and Forgiveness Forgiveness The church is being very counter-cultural when we proclaim a belief in the “forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness is not: A form of sentimentality, An easy compassion that costs nothing, A leniency or a making light of an outrage. Only the victim can forgive the person who injured them. A person may be forgiven by their victim, yet it will still be right for them to serve out a sentence, or in some way have to deal with the consequences of their action. Repentance and Forgiveness Forgiveness Forgiveness is the restoration of a relationship: with the victim of an offense, with God, who loves both victim and the offender. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is to claim that: even the worst of our failures cannot shut a door for God; there is no situation in which God’s presence cannot make a difference. The Truth of God’s Splendor and Love Splendor and Love Acclimatizing to God’s Love Our job in the Christian Community is not merely to get acclimatized to the austerity of the truth of ourselves through repentance and forgiveness, but also: to get acclimatized to the truth of God’s splendor and love. Indeed, getting acclimatized to the truth of God’s splendor and love gives us the strength for repentance and forgiveness Splendor and Love Acclimatizing to God’s Love Eternity above all is a joy in the sheer reality of God, involving: a relationship with God which is centered in the heart of the continual exchange of life and joy within the Trinity. To “acclimatize” ourselves to God’s love requires adoration, prayer, and contemplation. Splendor and Love The Path of Contemplation Prayer and contemplation is about getting ourselves in a position where God can see us; that is: Taking off our defenses and disguises, Removing our masks of self-promotion and self-protection, Letting go most of what makes us feel safe or good, Moving into the silence and stillness of light of God’s presence, the naked me. This is why the path of contemplation is described as one of darkness as well as light. Splendor and Love The Path of Contemplation A life of a contemplative given to the unsparing focus on eternal joy is, paradoxically, one of the most utterly draining and demanding lives there could be; The monks and nuns and hermits who take on this calling show us: yet it shows what the truth is worth. something of the very heart of the Church, put into sharp perspective the fussiness of most of our plans and projects Without them the Church would wither and dry up. Splendor and Love Idols and False Gods Most of us are not called to the work of the contemplative, but we are all called to the same journey of letting God be himself for us. The first and second commandments warn us: there shall be no other gods before the true God, and no images should be worshipped in place of God We violate these commandments when we: make up our own expectations of God to fill up gaps in our needs and preferences, don’t strive through prayer to continually make more room for the reality of a God that is immeasurably greater than any mind or heart or imagination can take in.