St Andrew’s Church, Lismore
6 April 2023
[ video ]
IMAGE: Wikipedia Commons. Iglesia de Sant Jaume, Alcúdia, Mallorca, Spain
Tonight our liturgy is closely connected with the services that will follow on Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day.
These are the great three days: the Easter triduum.
This year I have the privilege of preaching at all of the services, rather than sharing that ministry with colleagues as was the case when I was at the Cathedral in Grafton.
While I realise that not everyone can be at each service, I have been drafting my sermons as a set of three rather than as three standalone homilies.
The livestream recordings may allow people to catch up with the whole series even when they cannot be here in the building for every service.
In this first sermon for the Easter triduum, I am asking: What does the kingdom of God look like?
What is the scene in the Gospels?
A meal in an “upper room,” carefully prepared in advance, where Jesus could meet with his innermost circle for a Passover meal. Or—at least—a meal around the time of Passover and with Passover themes overshadowing their gathering.
So the first answer to my main question is that kingdom of God looks like a small group of people gathered for an intimate meal.
Nothing to see here, we might think.
But we would be wrong.
The dozen or so people at that meal were about to have their lives turned upside down, and in turn they were about to turn the world upside down.
With the possible exception of Jesus, none of them had any idea of what was about to happen.
In a sense, that is true each time we gather around of Table of Jesus—around the Table with Jesus—here at St Andrew’s.
These days we are usually a pretty small group.
Our numbers and our age profile do not suggest that the status quo is at risk. But that is actually the case each and every time we gather for Eucharist, as every celebration of Eucharist takes us back to this “night when he was betrayed” while also driving us out to spread the disturbing news of God’s reign (the kingdom of God).
This is true each time we say the Lord’s Prayer, with its call for God’s kingdom to come.
But it is even more true each time we gather around the Table of Jesus.
What is happening here:
- We are forming community
- We are keeping alive the memory of Jesus
- We are fashioning another “afterlife” of Jesus, in a set of afterlives
- We pray for God to set things right, and we commit ourselves to be part of the answer to those prayers.
- We celebrate reconciliation and healing of broken relationships.
- We break the bread and drink the cup; we step up to the call of the Master.
- We receive what we are and we become what we receive. (St Augustine, Sermon 57)
- We renew our discipleship.
- We go out on mission.
I remind you of the words from our opening song, “Here in this place.”
Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth,Marty Haugen, b. 1952
here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you;
nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
Take time to read and reflect on those beautiful words, whether here during the vigil prayers this evening or at home in the next few days.
Various themes swirl around us on this special night:
- The imminence of the cross
- The gathering around the Table, do this is remembrance of me
- The new commandment to love one another
- The call to serve one another
- The challenge to allow others to serve us
The service tonight will end in darkness and confusion, as we seek to recapture something of the disciples’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus is arrested.
But before we reach that point, we catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God among us.
God is among us, and God has work for us to do: here in this place, here in this city.