Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.
John 14: 26-7 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
· Is your vision of the Christian faith 2D or 3D?
· I was pretty skeptical of 3D cinema when it first came out.
· I’ve always found the cinema larger than life and extremely noisy anyway (not in a bad way but they have really beefed up the surround sound in recent years.)
· But now you can go to see a movie with 3D glasses on and it fairly jumps out of the screen at you.
· Try The Life of Pi, like I did, with 3D glasses, and the tiger with whom the boy hero is shipwrecked is absolutely terrifying! As is the very realistic capsizing of the boat on which Pi and his family are travelling.
· For children growing up today who have never been to a 2D cinema, I would imagine seeing a film in 2D now would be a very tame experience.
· Today we have a vision of the city of God set before us which is decidedly 3D.
· The book of Revelation is perhaps the most 3D book in the whole bible.
· What does it show us of the Christian life? How can it enlarge our vision of the peace and power available to us as we Christ today?
· We will look at this vision of the glorious City, the New Jerusalem, and particularly at the river of life which runs through it, and think about that river as a spiritual image for us here in our village, to see if we can begin to see in 3D…
· Revelation is full of terrifying images of dragons, beasts and warfare; but also the most beautiful and beatific images as well.
· Is the book of Revelation about heaven?
· I am constantly uncomfortable with the word ‘heaven’ because of the images it conjures up, which I find rather 2D; images of wispy clouds and disembodied people floating around or not doing very much.
· We celebrated this week the life of much loved priest in the Memorial Service to Angela Butler, someone who devoted her life to an energetic and active serving of her Lord and God.
· I cannot somehow imagine her sitting around in a whitish space not doing very much but being quite peaceful…
· We often say of the dead: ‘May they rest in peace’ and in many ways they may be at peace, but there’s a second part to that prayer: ‘And rise in glory.’
· ‘Glory’ is a word implying something active and alive; and that is the picture of the Holy City in Revelation.
· We can begin that exciting life here and now, and it continues when we inherit eternal life
· Let’s look at the 3D vision of the Holy City:
· It has no temple for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (in other words, it’s not buildings orientated.)
· It has no need of sun or moon because the light of God is so bright within it.
· This light is like divine guidance: the Kings of the earth walk by it.
· And there’s a river running through the middle of it.
· Settlements have always been built on rivers, because of the need for refreshment of course: they bring life to everything.
· The river is described as ‘bright as crystal.’
· It flows right through the middle of the city, down the city street!
· And the tree of life grows on each side, producing fruit which nourishes people in every season.
· What a different picture from many of the world's cities.
· What a different picture from war torn Syria, where in Damascus, armed militia are roaming the streets and daubing crosses on the doors of those they plan to kill, making it one of the most dangerous cities in the world at the moment.
· In the light of this violence, Obama is even considering arming the other faction so they can retaliate, a move that has little support across the world...
· It’s a far cry from the Holy City, the city where God is so present everyone can see him face to face, where the good things that grow there heal people, instead of killing them.
· Our gospel is one of the readings often chosen at funerals: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.’
· When we remember that Jesus spoke these words on the eve of his own violent death, we know he must have meant a kind of robust peace which can stand up in the face of all sorts of trouble; not just an airy fairy, vague feel good factor.
· We pray for peace because power without peace is often misused; but perhaps peace without power is too vague an idea to effect change in very difficult areas of the world.
· And perhaps we need the power of God as well as his peace in our lives; power to be transformed from the inside out.
· Peace and power are brought together in the person of the Holy Spirit of course.
· Returning to our 2D/3D image, when someone mentions the Holy Spirit, I wonder how you picture him?
· Francis Chan has written a book called ‘Forgotten God’, subtitled ‘Reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit.’
· Because the Holy Spirit is often the neglected person of the Godhead.
· If you have trouble picturing the Holy Spirit, try picturing that river in Revelation.
· Ezekiel, a prophet in Israel’s history also had a vision of the Holy Spirit, connected to a river
· In his vision the river began shallow - he started to wade in it, led by an angel, and it was ankle deep.
· He was beckoned to go in further; it became knee deep.
· He was beckoned in further; it became waist deep; even further and he couldn’t wade anymore; ‘it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed’ (Ezekiel 46:5).
· ‘And the angel said ‘Mortal man, have you seen this?’ (next verse).
· Have we seen this Spirit?
· Can we be envisioned by the Spirit for our life here?
· Have we experienced the rushing, the nourishing of something (someone) who’s alive and available to us every day?
· The life of that Holy City starts when we turn to Christ and open our lives to the Holy Spirit: He is the river which waters our lives and our communities.
· We have ample illustration of that river here in Whitchurch, with our own Thames, which frequently bursts its banks after too much rain.
· You cannot hold a river in; it’s ‘alive and goes where it will.
· Yes, it does offer a tranquil setting as summer dawns; everyone is drawn to a river which reflects back the blue sky on a cloudless day.
· But remember the river is about life and sometimes it’s quite unpredictable.
· Perhaps we could imagine a figurative river of life running through us here… down the High Street, past The Old Stables, up the drive and past the church door, blessing and healing as it goes; even through the church door…?!
· We are part of that river, inhabited by the Spirit, needing renewing every day.
· As we recall Jesus’ words ‘My peace I give to you’, we also remember he sent the Holy Spirit to fill us for service and mission.
· He even said that it was a good thing he was going to the Father; otherwise no Spirit
· They might have wanted to hold onto Jesus forever, in bodily form, but he said ‘do not cling to me.’
· Perhaps he was trying to get them to progress from 2D, to 3D vision…
· If we let God enlarge our vision from 2D to 3D, what will that look like in Whitchurch?
· It will be a vision that sees our community and all its life through the 3D lenses of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
· As we approach Pentecost, may the life of the Spirit of Christ nourish us and give us hunger for more, as we wade out into the river, even to the point of swimming.