Sunday, 3 June 2012

Daniel - a vision for a jubilee

Don’t we do things well!

I think there are occasions when you can take a real pride in what we do.

And this was one of them.

It was basically such a simple idea.  A Jubilee New Testament using the latest edition of the New International Version.  Sue recalled how each member of the Sunday School on 31st May, 1953 was given a little Coronation Testament and so Sue ordered fifty of the Jubilee New Testaments.  It was great handing them out this morning.  And if anyone wants one we can order more!!!

Do you know more than 650,000 have been sold for this weekend making it the best selling paperback so far this year!

And then the lunch.

Such a simple idea.  Everyone  having lunch at the same time – just a Sunday lunch with invitations from around the country.

Nothing elaborate – just a lunch.  And to think people all over the country were sitting down to lunch with friends and neighbours.  And we had more than 80 including half a dozen of the households from the houses immediately around the church!  What a simple yet thrilling thing to do.

And then there was the flotilla.  One of our neighbours wanted to be back for the start at 2-30 as their sister was rowing.  Someone else had someone in the family sailing.  I visited Raymond and Brenda who took a great pride in the Evesham mayor’s narrow boat that had sailed the canals all the way from Evesham to be part of the procession.

A wonderful gift of a book.

A wonderful meal together in the community.

Wonderful pageantry!

One thing is without a doubt this weekend – for an 86 year old to have been doing their work for 60 years … and still to be going strong is simply remarkable.

And one of the things that keeps her going is simply the faith that has meant the world to her down through those years.  Wasn’t it interesting hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking of her wonderful sense of humour, her willingness to tease and to  be teased, and the deep and profound faith she is all too willing to share.

Good to read the statement issued jointly by the Presidents of CTE – our own Michael Heaney included.

'We join the nation in its rejoicing at Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As we celebrate, we give thanks to God that her personal commitment to her role as monarch, and her service to the people of the United Kingdom, are grounded in a deep faith in Jesus Christ which is an inspiration to countless citizens of nation and Commonwealth.  Her understanding of the wholeness and harmony of the nation is a crucial factor in strengthening our commitment to one another. 

There can be no better way for the Christian Churches to celebrate the Jubilee than to take the opportunity to dedicate themselves anew to the service of God, and to seek the common good through love for their neighbours near and far.

We acknowledge gratefully Her Majesty’s faith and her dedication to service, and assure her of the prayers and good wishes of her fellow Christians for the years of her reign yet to come. We pray that all may be inspired by Her Majesty's service: that together we may create a nation where all know they have the dignity and value of the children of God.'

On the threshold of the Year what a Christmas message she gave – so straightforwardly and simply a Christian message.

In a funny kind of way the three elements of today come together in our reflections this evening.

I start with the gift of a Bible.

There are many powerful passages that speak in the Bible.  One of the strengths of the particular New Testament we had to share this morning was the couple of pages at the outset that have suggested verses to read at times of difficulty and anguish.

Addicted? Afraid of dying?  Angry?  Anxious?  Depressed?

Verses to turn to.

Overwhelmed by a sense of the world falling apart about your ears?  Be it personal circumstances, national calamity or world-wide problems?  Again the Bible has something for all occasions.

The Book of Daniel is one of those books for such occasions as that.  The first half is a powerful antidote to the fear that can be so destructive when the world seems against you.  Stand up for what you believe!  Dare to be a Daniel!  And in the fiery furnace there will be another presence with you, alongside you, to comfort and protect you.  In the Lions’ Den there will be the angels of God watching over you to shield and defend you.

And faced with a world that falls apart – hold on to those visions that speak of an ultimate victory through so much that is destructive.

Those visions spoke volumes to people who had come through so much oppression.  As the Babylonians gave way to the Persians, the Persians to the Greeks, the Greeks to the Syrians and Egyptians, and then all to the Romans – there was a power that seemed to have the last word.

But the vision of Daniel go beyond that.  The powers that be won’t have the last word.

And the vision seems to be inspired by something grand and full of pomp and ceremony.  Make no mistake about it the Babylonians could do it, the Persians could do it, the Greeks, the Syrians, the Egyptians and the Romans – they could all do it.  They could stage pageantry at its finest and at its most splendid.

It’s as if Daniel asks you to imagine in your mind’s eye the most regal and splendid of all the greatest royalty imaginable.  And today we can do just that.  It’s a coronation in 1953, a state opening of parliament, and a flotilla of boast such as has not been witnessed on the Thames for 500 years all rolled into one.  Imagine the splendour.  And then magnify it ten fold and a hundred fold and a thousand fold.

This is the vision Daniel has

“As I looked,
“thrones were set in place,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat. 
His clothing was as white as snow; 
    the hair of his head was white like wool. 
His throne was flaming with fire,
    and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
    coming out from before him. 
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
    and the books were opened.

And this Ancient of Days won the victory over all that was going wrong.

And then comes the crowning vision …

Beyond all human majesty … one came in that vision to the Ancient of Days … and he was one ‘like a Son of Man’

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Jesus faced the oppression of a mighty power and as he approached his death this was exactly the vision he drew on.  Hold on to this vision he urged his followers and God will be with you … you will share in the victory.

Through death and resurrection those followers of Jesus sensed a remarkable victory Jesus had won … and they looked to him as the one who reigned supreme in the power of his kingdom.

That’s the vision to hold on to – those wonderful words in Revelation 5!

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, 
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb 
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

This is a remarkable vision to hold on to.

And where do we sense the reality of the conviction contained in this book?  Where can we sense the wonder of that vision of ultimate glory?

It is as we gather round to eat the simplest of meals and anticipate a heavenly banquet beyond all our imagining.

And here at this table in the breaking of bread and the sharing of a cup we can sense the wonder of that love of God that nothing can separate us from.

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