SUNDAY 16 JANUARY 2011    CR COMMUNITY CHAPEL

EPIPHANY 2 - ISAIAH 49:1-7.     PSALM 40:1-12     I CORINTHIANS 1:1-9.     JOHN 1:29-42

God's Children here and now

A friend of CR, a married ex-nun, from a staunchly Catholic American family, was educated at Marquette Jesuit University , which sounds fairly prestigious.  Her e-mail message was to the effect that the sermon in her church on the Baptism of Christ said that all this applies to us, not only to Jesus. That’s the whole point of it. It is we who have water and the Holy Spirit poured out on to us, it is we to whom the voice from heaven speaks “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

This is putting it rather strongly as preachers often do, perhaps more than is theologically sustainable but  there is a point here. We can be so hung up about our sins and our need to confess them not only in the confessional and by apologising – as Jesus told us to do:  “if your brother has anything  against you, first make it up with your brother before you come up to the altar with your offering” (Matt 5:23-24) and about the coming Day of Judgement too, that we forget all the other texts which say something different. We are sharers in the divine nature, partakers of His Divinity (2 Peter 1:4). “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

God’s children, not slaves but friends and heirs, brothers and sisters of his beloved Son, having the same relationship (at least potentially) with the Father as Jesus had himself. Filled with the same Holy Spirit. Having been baptised into his death, that we may rise with him to newness of life, that we may  have confidence on the day of judgement.

With the continual dilution of parish coverage by ordained clergy and with the divisions which are so tragically moving almost daily nearer, it is all the more important for ordained clergy to empower the people of God to share in the high priesthood of the Lord Himself.

The context of the first appointed reading, which we heard earlier, is Isaiah speaking to the first wave of returned exiles to Jerusalem . So few took up Cyrus’s offer. They mostly  prefer to stay comfortably in Babylon . So conditions in Jerusalem are pretty wretched. Isaiah says only when the whole nation returns will the whole world recognise the One God. This is the text (among others no doubt) that has been taken up so disastrously by the Christian Right in USA, that only when the whole land of Israel is under Jewish occupation will Jesus return, so in the meanwhile all efforts must be focussed on completing the Zionist vision.

Our vision of the new Jerusalem doesn’t depend on moving bodies from one place to another but on our all accepting the divine offer that we are God’s children here and now.

The psalm appointed but not used, Psalm 40, is cited because it teaches that obedience to the Law, praise and thanksgiving for God’s gifts, are more acceptable than sacrifice. That means no need to return to the earthly Jerusalem where sacrifice was made, no need for grovelling about our sins. The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (I Mark 2:10). They’re  forgiven aren’t they? That’s what Jesus’ sacrifice did, once for all. Yet it is easier for us to keep on grovelling, and keep on sinning, than to accept this free gift.

Paul’s start of his letter to the Corinthians names Jesus eight times in nine verses, like someone who can’t talk about anyone except his beloved. This Jesus calls us into fellowship = partnership with him and will see us through to the Last Day. In Jesus, God in all his power and love is personally present, summoning all people into his own family, equipping us all for his service.

John’s gospel is all the time telling us, what those who saw and heard Jesus found so hard to believe, that not only is Jesus the Messiah King who’ll free Israel from foreign domination but also the only begotten God. 

Only God can enable us to be what he has called us for. In his service is perfect freedom, because only in his service are we free to be ourselves, what he has called us to be.

In other places, we see Jesus calling disciples, calling us; not the practice of Jewish teachers, whose pupils chose them. Here in John, they come looking for him, as the normal practice was with rabbis and their pupils.  Then Jesus invites them: “Come and See”.  Jesus is already  looking out for them and calls them. That is our experience. We think we have made the choice, to do this or that, go to college, test our vocations but really we can see that all the time it is Jesus who is calling us, enabling us to come forward, to be his friends, his brothers or sisters, his co-workers, to bring in the kingdom to all nations, peoples and languages, to join in his offering and  sacrifice. We can do what he asks because he enables us to become with him partakers of the divine nature which is his and the Father’s.                                                

Antony Grant CR