Jesus of Nazareth was sent by the Holy Trinity to tell us about, and to inaugurate, the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God.
This Kingdom of God is everything that the kingdoms of this world are not.
Take any aspect of government, of royalty, of dictatorship and you will find that the Kingdom of God is the direct opposite.
We find this unnerving. We find it very hard to swallow. We find it very difficult to accept and practise.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek.’ ‘It is like a mustard seed which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.’ ‘Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.’ ‘When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.’
Moses was on the run from the Egyptian police when God called him to lead the Israelites to freedom. He had a bad stutter and had to have Aaron to speak for him.
David was not even considered by his father when Samuel came to anoint one of his sons king. They had to send someone to call him from where he was herding the sheep and goats in the bush. Jesus of Nazareth himself came from one of the poorest hamlets in the poverty stricken province of Galilee. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ was Nathaniel’s reply when told that Jesus was from Nazareth. Jesus called his twelve Apostles not from the religious leaders or the privileged classes but from everyday working people.
Lastly, our exemplar, our Leader, our God is executed on a cross as a subversive and a criminal.
I could profitably spend some time thinking about the following quotation from Jesus of Nazareth – the convicted and executed criminal – who is my God.
‘This I command you: love one another. If the world hates you, realise that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.’
So do I belong to the ‘world’ or to the Criminal?
Jesus of Nazareth’s preaching and lifestyle was a great scandal, a great embarrassment, a great challenge, not only to the religious and political authorities but also to his family and relatives, including his mother. For the authorities it challenged their power and privilege. To his family it meant scrutiny from the authorities and the near certainty that their Jesus would be arrested and maybe executed. So his family made a number of attempts to dissuade him and bring him back home, by force if necessary. (What mother wants to lose her only child !!). So forget about any presumption you had that his family and relatives were all behind him and supportive.
Belief in Jesus of Nazareth only came to his family after the resurrection. We also seldom realise that the same was true for many of the priests, Scribes and Pharisees. Certainly nothing like the majority but a substantial number became Christians. As we read in Acts. at the council of Jerusalem. “some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.” ( In other words they wanted Gentiles to officially become Jews before becoming Christians). Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead was the decisive factor which prompted the Apostles and so many early Christians to give their lives for the faith. It was the decisive factor which finally changed the minds of his family and relatives. It was the decisive factor which prompted many of his one time enemies to become Christian. It was the decisive factor in the conversion of St. Paul.
Are you convinced of the Resurrection?
Are we perhaps just covering both wickets?
Does belief in Resurrection enliven your day, make your grief bearable, lift your joys to a new level, give meaning to the hum drum of life, inspire you to volunteer your time and abilities in helping others, make the aches and pains of old age acceptable?
If not then get with Resurrection from death and Eternal life with and in your God.
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Most of us have some photograph, or piece of music, or some household article, or piece of jewellery, or some saying or story etc. which we associate with a parent or parents. We treasure this because of its associations with someone we love, because of the memories it brings back.
For the same reason we see people putting some object on a coffin or on a grave.
These are symbols of the love that person has for us and we have for them.
‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’
‘In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.’
Jesus of Nazareth is the living symbol of the love God the Creator has for me.
‘Do this in memory of me’ Jesus said at the Last Supper.
‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.’ said St. Paul.
That is why we are gathered here today.
That is why we look on the image of Jesus of Nazareth executed on a cross.
That is why we bow down in reverence before what seems to be simple bread and wine.
The Eucharist. Holy Communion. The Body and Blood of Jesus of Nazareth. The Breaking of Bread. The Mass. Call it what you like. Is the great symbol of Immanuel. Of ‘God with me.’
Jesus says; ’I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.’
I do not need to go anywhere to be one with my God. The Eucharist is the symbol and the guarantee of this. Life is walking in the presence of my God at all times, in all places, in all circumstances. We come together in one place as one family to confirm our oneness with our God and to thank God, as one united family, for this great gift.
We need to come together as one family (God’s Family) every week, expressing our gratitude for ‘Immanuel’, otherwise all the above becomes vague and woolly and ceases to exercise any influence on my life and conduct.