When the light gets in

October 27, 2019

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Preached by Canon Andy Trenier using Deuteronomy 32.1-4   John 14.15-26 at Festal Evensong for Simon and Jude on Sunday 27th October 2019, the last Sunday after Trinity.

This evening we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Apostles Simon and Jude.

About whom we know virtually nothing.

The Canon of Scripture is mute.  The tradition of the church is meagre.

Simon- is called The Zealot- was a political radical,

of the kind that later written about by the historian Josephus as

A movement devoted to assassination and violent insurrection”

Jude- or Judas (not Iscariat), sometimes called Thaddeus was the one who asks Jesus the question in this evenings lesson from St John.

We are told by early church historians that they both ended up in Persia

where their apostolic ministry led to their martyrdom around Ad65.

Simon (gruesomely) being sawn in two.  Longways.

What is very clear is that – like the other Apostles

Their encounter with Jesus

Changed the direction of their lives.

They entered and then lived out of a new reality.

The participated in a different, Divine, Economy.

The OT lesson prefigures what their lives were to become:

their teaching dropping like the rain,

their speech condensed like the dew;

 God’s gift to the world.

The contempory English theologian John Milbank reminds us

that this new life-changing alternate economy still exists.

It is the economy of the Trinity.

the overflowing of God’s self, into our life, for God’s purposes.

John Milbank is a quite interesting thinker.  He is critical of the passive nature of much of reformation emphasis on unilateral grace.

Though driven by laudable motivation

the result can be a very simplistic, and passive,

ecomony of salvation:

God saves us.  We benefit from his gracious gift.  End.

 

Drawing on medieval, patristic, even Calvanist sources

Milbank urges the Christian

to consider the Gracious Giving of God’s Self to us

to be a much more Active enterprise .

We can see why he might think this by remembering that very active, interpenetrative, mutualistic description in John’s gospel:

On that day you will know that I am in my Father,

And you in me, and I in you.

 They who have my commandments and keep them

are those who love me;

and those who love me will be loved by my Father,

and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

Those who love me will keep my word,

and my Father will love them,

and we will come to them

and make our home with them.

And round and round it goes.  A Gift Economy that is quite distinct from the mere economy or political economy that formed the world-view of Simon, Jude, their fellow apostles,

and still more different to the Competitive Consumer Economy

that defines and bounds our own consciousness today.

Whereas in these worlds of economics or politics

there is a mechanism of Gift exchange:

the quid pro quo

in the Economy of God ,

there is a mechanism of Self-Replication.

a purified gift replicating itself in cycles of gratitude and obligation:

From creation through redemption, God gives, Himself

and in giving brings humanity into the Divine Economy

where the human is always involved in a vital way:

in “active reception”, the Christian is invited into what we might call

the repetition of God.

One gives the love one receives from God to one’s neighbor

even as one is receiving it from God.

If that sounds a bit novel- never fear.

In his defining work On the TRINITY–

St Augustine reflects on this passage to the same effect.

For St Augustine this Repetition of God is the Work and Nature of the Holy Spirit.

And his name for the Holy Spirit, throughout that work is simply

THE GIFT.

And so here is what I want us to consider.  Could that Divine Economy, that so affected the Apostles Simon and Judas, affect us today?

Could we meet God is such a way that our work and prayer become inseperable.  And our life become a creative offering of your talents, gifts, passions, and strengths- back to God?

It rather begs the question- who, or what, else are they being used for now?    Take a moment to think about that for yourself?

I wonder what gifts God has given you that the rest of us need?

Some of them are very obvious- the gift of singing, or caring

Of intellect, or concern.

Some of them will be much less obvious.

Gregory Nazianzus taught that all our experience is a Gift to be regiven.

Even our weakness, our worries, and our wounds.

“Run with the star, and bear your gifts with the Magi”, he said

“as to a king, and to God, and to One who has died for you”

Perhaps more memorably Leonard Cohen put it like this:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

The Christian invitation is to let the Divine Light in

To allow our whole orientation

to be swept away and turned about

so that:

In response to God.  We would live for God.

You are God’s gift to humanity.

Would that, like St Simon the Zealot and St Judas of James

our lives as our gifts

be given back to Him.

AMEN