We’re starting a new Church Year today, Year A in our three-year cycle. In Year A, most of the Gospel Readings come from the Gospel According to Matthew. As usual, on the first Sunday of a new year we start not at the beginning of the story but at the end.
We heard a snippet from towards the end of Matthew 24 today. Commentators sometimes call this chapter the ‘little apocalypse’ (along with the parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21).
If this is a little apocalypse, is there a ‘big’ apocalypse? Well yes, there is; it’s the Book of Revelation. The word ‘apocalypse’ means ‘revelation’.
These aren’t the only apocalyptic writings in existence. We have the Book of Daniel; but two thousand years ago, there were many other apocalyptic books around the place. Apocalyptic was a type of literature, like science fiction, fantasy or historical fiction.
What is apocalyptic writing about. I’ve said that ‘apocalypse’ means ‘revelation’— but what comes into your mind when you hear those words?
Haggai 1.15b — 2.9
In his argument with the Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:
Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
What does it mean to be a ‘child of the resurrection’? Let me mention two things:
- It means to be a person who even in grief or disappointment lives in hope of the living God.
- It means to be someone whose way of life reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living is marked by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A child of the resurrection is not determined by the past, by its hurts and slights or even by its abuses. A child of the resurrection lives out of the future, God’s future, God’s new world.
A friend of mine, a child of the resurrection, recently wrote:
…we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.
A child of the resurrection receives the strength to have this courage and belief through the presence of the living Jesus within.
Let me tell you about the first time I went to church after I gave my life to Jesus. Some of you will know that it was the church of my best friend at school, and that it was an Open Brethren congregation. He’d invited me, and I was glad to go.
I’d been brought up as a nominal Anglican, rarely setting foot inside a church.
The Brethren have a particular style of worship, which includes a weekly Memorial of the Lord’s Supper. So I’m sitting in church, and the bread and wine (real wine!) were passed around the pews. I receive the Lord’s Supper.
Unbeknown to me, this causes quite a flutter of consternation. Who is this teenager who comes to church for the very first time and partakes of the Lord’s Supper?
After the service, my friend comes to me. ‘The elders’ have taken him aside. They want to know who I am. Is your friend a Christian? they ask him? He says he thinks so. He then tells me I have to go and talk to them.