A sermon loosely based on the readings for today, Mark 13: 5-13. Preached to students at Queens on their first day of term. It might be simple and even sound a little trite but somehow I believe it.
For the last six weeks my 18-year-old son has been unable to walk. After a six day stay in hospital and numerous tests he has a vague diagnosis of arthritis. He is getting a bit fed up now but even in his most fed up moments he says that the ‘why me’ question is not one he can be bothered with.
My son, at 18, has a better grasp than me that rubbish things happen. Jesus had the same awareness. He saw what lay ahead was not a bed of roses for his disciples. There is quite a catalogue of unpleasantness in this short reading. Jesus is not offering the sort of life that goes with the traditional testimony – before I met Jesus my life was terrible, now everything is wonderful and I am a total angel.
Instead he is warning of persecution, conflict and natural disasters with no Get out of Jail Free card for those who follow him.
So what does he offer? I think there are two things. Two huge things. A reason not to fear and some kind of salvation for those who persist to the end.
How is it possible not to be afraid. How is it possible for us not to be afraid now with a pandemic stalking the globe, the existential threat of climate change, new ministries on the horizon for some of us, economic hardships ahead and whatever else we are carrying personally.
The only way I think we can not be afraid is to know that we are so loved that we are saved. You decide who the ‘we’ is in the last sentence but I didn’t mean a small group of people who say and do certain things. How are we saved by love? Perfect love casts out all fear because fear has to do with punishment… these are some of my favourite words in all scripture. What do we fear? Do we fear failure because we think we will be punished for it.? Do we fear abandonment because we associate it as punishment? Do we fear death because we have been told that after death is judgement and we associate judgement with prison sentences and other forms of rebuke.
We are so loved that we do not need to fear. That love is not like some kind of insurance policy or hazmat suit that will protect us from any harm. That love means that we will be sustained in all things. All things in life and all things in death. When we grasp that we are protected from nothing but sustained in everything fear loses its grip on us.
A fearful world needs a fearless church. A fearless church needs fearless people. As we regather for a new term take time to remember you are loved without limits. The Holy Spirit will give you the words and strength you need, your Creator holds you and will never leave you and your Incarnate Saviour promises you eternal life.