Sunday, 24 April 2016

Making All Things New (Rev 21.5): an Homily for the Sunday Before the Arrival of our New Priest, the Reverend Oz Lorentzen

The Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year C—with reference to Acts 11:1–18; Rev 21:1–6 and Jn 13:31–35

Jesus first. As usual. And thoroughly glorified, as we just heard in John 13. “You will look for me,” he said (John 13.33). And we do when we remember. But but we don’t always see him even when we’re looking. If we do see him we don’t always recognize him. Mary Magdalene didn’t at first when the risen Jesus showed up in the garden of the empty tomb—neither did Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. Yet even though not always seen or recognized, Jesus is present. He promised to be. With us always and to the end of the age he said in Matthew 28 (Mt 28.20). Jesus is Lord of all time and ages including ours. We need to know that in this time of transition.

Let’s pray a prayer from the Church of England’s Easter Prayer During the Day acknowledging that:
Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to you,
and all ages;
to you be glory and power
through every age and for ever.
Amen. (from Prayer During the Day: Easter Season)
This risen and glorified Jesus is not only present, but as we heard in Revelation, he is making all things new (Rev 21.5)—all the time. Jesus was making things new here at St Barnabas all the way back in 1884 when the Reverend Hugh A Tudor came to found this parish. He was still making them new when Ivor and Hilary arrived in 1977, when Jude and I arrived in 1999, when Dustin and Jolene arrived last year and he will continue making all things new when Oz arrives next Sunday.

Change can be difficult. But if it’s true that Jesus is making all things new, that means there will be lots of change. We’ll be changed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18) as we’re renewed. So will St Barnabas.

I was a different priest from Ivor. Dustin was different from me. Oz will be different again. He’s supposed to be because Jesus is making things new around here. I was supposed to be different, so was Dustin and so is Oz because the newness Jesus brings means we all need to develop new spiritual muscles. You all got to develop a new set of muscles when Ivor was here, once they were fit and working well, Jesus made things new by bringing me here so we could all develop another new set of muscles. He did the same with Dustin and will do it again with Oz. Things will be made new.

Using muscles we’ve never used, or haven’t used for a while, can hurt. I’m tearing out the old tile and drywall from our ensuite shower so I can put in a new one. I haven’t used my tile and dry wall tearing out muscles for a while. I’m a bit stiff and sore this morning, but if we want a new shower it has to be done.

Some of the new things Jesus will bring with Oz might cause me and you to use some spiritual muscles we’ve never used, or haven’t used for a while. Some of the new things Jesus brings may be just as disturbing as the “four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air” (Ac 11:6) the Lord showed Peter on that large sheet in Acts 11. And, like Peter, we might think them gross or inedible and will be tempted to resist. Some of you might even be tempted to say, “That’s not the way Dustin did it,” or “You’re just not Gene!” But, you see, that’s exactly the point. Oz isn’t supposed to do things the way Dustin did them, or to be me, because Jesus will be making things new in ways that Oz is particularly tuned and gifted. Oz is coming here because there are certain things for which Oz, in particular, is needed at St Barnabas at this time. It was the same for Dustin and me and Ivor and John Way and John Carter and Hugh Tudor and on back through the ages. After all, as all things are being made new, all the time, for ever and ever, amen—as we prayed earlier, all time and all ages belong to Jesus!

In the meantime, Jesus has told us the best way to get through all new things and the changes they bring in a new commandment. “Love one another”, he said. How? “Just as I have loved you,” he said. How does Jesus love us? 1 Corinthians 13 has a good list. Jesus loves us patiently, kindly, bearing all things, believing in us, hoping for the best for us, enduring all things for us (1 Cor 13.4-7). He also loves us fiercely, self-emptyingly, to death and for always (1 Cor 13.8).

And he shows us his love by including us and our parish in all the things he’s making new. So, following his example and just as Jesus commanded, let’s continue to love one another so Jesus will continue to be glorified and so that Oz and his family will feel warmly welcomed and will know we are, indeed, his disciples (John 13.35) who are being made newer and newer by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Gene+