What is it currently that you can't see?
Is there anything at the moment that bothers you, that you don't get, that you can't foresee?
What is your current question? - is it a 'what'...? A 'how'...? Or perhaps a 'why'?
I find the turn of the year usually raises questions for me. 'What is going to happen?'
'How can I change this, that or the other?' And possibly even 'why am I doing what I am doing?'
At this time of year we celebrate Epiphany, the arrival of the wise men, the travellers, the seekers after the answers to their questions, who arrive at the house where Mary and Joseph
and Jesus were staying. - imagine that ring on the doorbell?!...
During our post Christmas break Philip and I took the chance to go the cinema and watch some new films, including a Sci-Fi film 'Passengers'. It's not my favourite sort
of film, but it was captivating. The story is as follows: a giant space-bus, the 'Starship Avalon' is on its way to a new planet with 5 thousand passengers. So there are lots of lovely Star Trek scenes of this enormous piece of metal, like a giant DNA, gliding through the heavens.
It appears that at this time Earth leaves much to be desired and a company has set itself up offering the chance of living not just in a new development but in a completely new world,
these are the supposed Pioneers of the future. The Airship Avalon is a wonderful machine, so hi-tech that for most of the 120 years that it takes to get to this new planet it can fly on cruise
control and all it's passengers have been put into hibernation, obviously they would not survive the lengthy journey otherwise.
So there they all are in suspended life, stretched out in their hibernation pods. And all is going tickety boo. The airship is cruising through the galaxies, purring nicely....ah...until it meets
a meteor shower. And a really giant and lengthy meteor shower...It has a hi-tech shield of course for this sort of thing, but sadly just one of the meteors is sizeable and striking the airship
it causes just a bit of damage. But nothing, it appears, that the ship cannot deal with. The problems arising are charted on graphs that appear on our screen, red lights flash for a while
and then solutions are found and the data goes quiet again and the journey continues. ....But not quite the same... In pod number 1856 (I made that number up) there is activity.... And
Jim wakes up…
Wonderful! - and on a screen above him a re-orientation 3D stewardess takes him through the correct procedure and it all continues beautifully. Jim goes off to his allocated cabin....
it's not until the next day when he turns up for the first seminar for his category of skills... that he realises he is alone...and a walk around the entire airship confirms this salutary
fact. Jim is completely alone.... For a whole year… And we watch him trying to make a normal life on his own in a giant airship. Some of this is very funny and some really quite sad.
Until... the next pod to 'malfunction' gives him the convenient company of a beautiful blonde. (well what do you know!)
So there are a the two of them... And...lucky them... a robot waiter who is charming and not a little funny, and extremely articulate.
But to cut across the humour and the budding romance like an icy chill of space air ....is the realisation of what is happening... they have started to do the maths...and although this is
all very nice....there are just the two of them, they have 90 years left of the journey and the prospect of no-one else waking up.
In other words: this is it. This is life for not just the foreseeable future but actually their entire future.... They will live out the whole of the rest of heir life on this ship.
So what do you do?
How do you fill your days?
And as they try various possibilities the looming question in the background is always 'what is my purpose....?'
How can I be human here?
What is it to be human?
'In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been
What is it to be human?
According to our Epiphany story: to be human is to ask questions, to search for our meaning.
To search for God.
Where is the child who can bring meaning? They ask...
That is what it is to be human.
When I first looked at the epistle reading for today I thought it was a bit offbeam. but then I realised it is full of references to something deep and hidden... 'the mystery was made
known to me by revelation' Paul says. The mystery? What mystery? 'the mystery of Christ'
... Well that's not exactly a mystery is it? Jesus was born, we,ve just celebrated it, in a rural backwater of Palestine. He was a good person, in fact, a Miracle worker and a great
teacher, and he was put to death because he was beyond the leaders of the day they were threatened.
And then, well then I suppose there is mystery…
Because he didn't stay dead, and witnesses of this wrote it down, several of them.
And the apostle Paul helped to explain it...
'the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;'
And millennia later people are still drawn to Jesus Christ...
And it changes them for good, the ones that really engage...
Yes there is mystery isn't there?
How did all that happen? God being squeezed into a measurable finite, limited span.
And what is the relationship of human and divine in Jeuss Christ? And how did that mix happen?
What is the purpose of all that?
The wise men, the magi, the Kings from the Epiphany story are the symbols of human endeavour, of human questioning and searching. They are the seekers, after mystery..
Because usually, at some point, sometimes even quite often, we. Find ourselves facing the airship question...
What is my life about? What is this being human?
Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah gives us an ultimate answer:
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
This is what you are born for..
Isaiah shows us a future, a new planet if you like, a new world awaiting us, a place of light, of gathering, of family, of thrill, of abundance.
This is all for you, this is what it is to be truly human, to be able to enjoy all of this, this brave new world of a recreated heavens and earth..
For just as in the film, this world leaves much to be desired, so this is not it this is only the beginning. For the 'mystery of Christ' is partly about starting to live our new life
and legacy here and now, there is no airship for us. And it is partly about the gift we are given in Christ, the life beyond this life in which our new life and legacy is given to us
Heaven is not about fluffy clouds, harps and other such daft stuff. We are promised a new heavens and a new earth, a new world in which we can be fully functioning human beings,
only without the death and the suffering and the evil...
Meanwhile for now we are passengers. We are travellers, seekers, and hopefully wise men and women.
And our question to take into this next year?
If I am here for a finite number of years, and then I am delivered into the next world system, the system of goodness, abundance, relationship and glory...what am I to do?
Of what should my life consist?
Let me know what you come up with?
I may be suggesting some things in the next weeks.
Meanwhile, enjoy your flight….
Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice
Ordained Pioneer Minister