Friday, October 25, 2013

Eternal Life ...

Sundays after Pentecost, Proper 25 [30] Year C

A long time ago, my mother and father bought a very nice and new Yamaha piano.  My dad played the piano and my mum played the mandolin and they did enjoy making music together.  But they always said that the piano was John’s piano – meaning that when they were dead and gone it was to be my inheritance.

Meantime, I had an old piano.  It was over 100 years old and it was rather tinny.  A piano mechanic could probably do $1,000 or more worth of work to get it up to scratch but it would still be a bit tinny.  But I held onto it in the sure knowledge that one day I would be able to replace it.

Well, that day came a couple of years ago when my Dad died, and now that lovely Yamaha piano is in pride of place in my lounge room – but I had to wait for my dad to die in order to get my inheritance.

Our Gospel reading today draws our attention to the idea of Eternal Life as an inheritance – and I want to explore this with you today; and I want to begin with a question (this one is a rhetorical question) – in what way is Eternal Life an inheritance?

It seems to me that there are both implicit and explicit texts in the Bible that give us the idea that this Eternal Life that we so often talk about is something we “inherit” when WE die – when we “go to heaven.”  This is a very common idea, and most of us don’t question it as an idea.  If we obey the law in the here and now (until we die) and if we are good to other people (until we die) then we will “enter into our reward in Heaven” and this is our inheritance – Eternal Life.

What strikes me as a little bit strange about this very common idea that we and generations of Christians have felt was completely proper is that in the proper ordering of things, an inheritance is something I should be able to enjoy during my lifetime.  Someone else – not me – has to die in order for me to obtain this inheritance.

Now that might seem a novel idea, but it is not really too far from the Gospel as we know it, for it seems to me that we can confidently say that because of the death – and resurrection – of Jesus, all who have been admitted as children of God, all who are followers of the Way he has shown us, all who have called on him as Lord, are able to enter into their inheritance in the here and now.

Eternal Life is not some “pie in the sky bye and bye when you die.”

Eternal Life is a way of living right here and now.

The next question then is “What does this Eternal Life of the here and now look like?”

There are probably many things I could say, but let’s just glean a few ideas from the Bible Readings that were set for us today.

1.         Eternal Life is a Way of Looking at the  World
One of the things that strikes me from the passage from Joel is the number of ways he is encouraging us to see the goodness of God in the world around them – the provision of rains and productive seasons in particular.

The Psalmist picks up some of this idea as well – not an uncommon theme in the Psalms.  There seems to be no end to the evidence of God’s goodness in the world around us.  The beauty of the landscape.  The wonder of amazing creatures.  All these are there to be seen by all – and those of us who have inherited this Eternal Life should have eyes that see all these wonders of God around us.

2.         Eternal Life is a Life Empowered by the  Holy Spirit

The prophet Joel points us to this – words we invariably read on the day of Pentecost.  “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

We who live in Christ, do so in the empowering of the Holy Spirit – which is both wonderful and a mystery.

There is a wonderful on-line news agency called The Huffington Post and I saw a story there this week that illustrates how this Eternal Life, empowered by the Spirit, works.

A lady was in a supermarket had her wallet pinched.  Something led her to believe she knew who had done it, and as she thought about challenging him about it a flash of inspiration came into her mind.  "As I saw him, a scripture came to me from Luke, which basically says 'If someone should take your cloak, you should give them your shirt as well,''

The passage inspired her next actions, as she approached the man and calmly said, "I think you have something of mine. I'm gonna give you a choice. You can either give me my wallet and I'll forgive you right now, and I'll even take you to the front and pay for your groceries, or I will call the police.”

He gave her back her wallet, and began crying.  He said he was so embarrassed, but she simply said, I have done a lot of stupid things that made me embarrassed.  She took him to the front of the store and paid for his shopping.  She rarely had cash in her wallet but his total came to $27.50 and she had just $28 cash on her – which affirmed in her mind that she had been prompted by God to act in this truly Gospel way.  That is what Eternal life is like.

3.         Eternal Life is Live in Intimate Relationship with God

The Psalm we read begins with some wonderful ideas about living closely to God.  It begins praising God, then speaks of coming close to God to confess our failings, and then about dwelling in the courts of God.

Then we have that lovely periscope that opens our Gospel selection today of Jesus blessing the children and saying: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child, will never enter it.”

This reference to children is most often understood as having a completely trusting relationship with God and I am sure this is a fundamental part of what Eternal Life is all about.

4.         Eternal Life is a Life Devoted to Service

Finally, it seems clear to me that when Jesus ever talks about Eternal Life not far from that place is some discussion of being committed to the service of others.  In this passage in Luke Jesus makes no bones about the need for the rich man to use his resources for the welfare of others, and it is this that becomes a sticking point for him.

What follows is really a reflection on how easy it is for followers of Jesus to let the many things of their lives get in the way of truly following him.  And truly following Jesus means to be devoted to helping others.

The Letter to Timothy echoes similar sentiments – that in all the many and various projects embarked upon in God’s name and for the service of others he would always know and could count on the provision of God to deliver him.  This is something of what Eternal Life is like.

And it is a life that we can all enter into in the here and now – the Inheritance has already been given to us.  Probate has been declared.  The challenge for us is to live every day in the light  and power of that inheritance.

Let us pray.

Our dear and loving God, you have blessed us in so many ways, and yet time and again we feel embarrassed by our failure to grasp this Eternal Life you offer us every day.

May your Spirit so dwell in us that we are truly able to enter into this life in you like little children and show those around us that Eternal Life is for the here and now.


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