The Text of Fr Paul’s Sermon for Trinity 1

Homily for Trinity 1

The last verse of the Gospel set for today “As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment”.

For me, this sums up my entire belief about what we should be about as Christians. When we talk of the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of heaven, we need to be aware that the kingdom of heaven has already come. It is no longer a far-off pipe dream, it is no longer just in the future, as our Gospel states, we should be curing the sick now!  Raising the dead now, cleansing lepers now in other words doing God’s work now, not just waiting for a perfect time in the distant future. It is at hand—that means the reality of what Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel is already reachable, touchable, present even now.”  The kingdom of God or the Kingdom of heaven is a metaphor for transformation into a more creative, more conscious, more caring, loving and fulfilling life now, with our fellow human beings.”

Do not ask me why, but during this pandemic I have certainly been reflecting a lot on what the kingdom means. Last week at a Zoom Clergy Chapter meeting for Thanet Deanery I was privileged to participate in a very honest and frank discussion with my fellow clergy about the impact this lockdown has had on us all. I was taken aback at some of the comments made by my colleagues.  Yes, we all feel tired, stressed, fearful of the future, all that I can fully appreciate, but then it forced me to ask myself, what does this Gospel say to us as clergy and as a Christians. Let me share with you a quote from a book entitled “Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again”.

“What I love about the Bible is that the story isn’t over. There are still prophets in our midst. There are still dragons and beasts. It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning. The light is breaking through. So, listen to the weirdos. Listen to the voices crying from the wilderness. They are pointing us to a new King and a better kingdom.”

This was written by ― Rachel Held Evans, Rachel tragically died in 2019 – aged only 38) she was an American Christian columnist, blogger, and author.

Rachel Held -Evans gave me hope to see the events of now pointing to a better kingdom, but sometimes we do have to listen to the weirdos, the voices form the wilderness, even of Covid-19. When Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of God is very near’ he is really saying to us only what he hears the God the Father saying to him, and he only does what he sees the Father doing’. Therefore, the kingdom is something we must experience, to articulate, and do, and the Kingdom is already here, but not yet fully! That is the problem, the fullness of the Kingdom is not yet realised!

To quote Rachel Held Evans again, she says “The kingdom, Jesus taught, is right here–present yet hidden, immanent yet transcendent. It is at hand–among us and beyond us, now and not-yet. The kingdom of heaven, he said, belongs to the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful, and those who hunger and thirst for God. It advances not through power and might, but through missions of mercy, kindness, and humility. In this kingdom, many who are last will be first and many who are first will be last. The rich do not usually get it, Jesus said, but children always do. This is a kingdom whose saviour arrives not on a warhorse, but a donkey, not through triumph and conquest, but through death and resurrection. This kingdom is the only kingdom that will last.”

How I need to hear that reassurance right now. It was the great GK Chesterton who said so intuitively “What we are to have inside is a childlike spirit; but the childlike spirit is not entirely concerned about what is inside. The most childlike thing about a child is the curiosity and appetite and power of wonder at the world.

I must rediscover the childhood curiosity and appetite to wonder again at the mystery of the world and God’s part in it all. For me, my life as a Christian has proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that the kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. It beckons us to gamble all, to dare to trust radically, to even come and die so that we might live, and to give our lives away!  Yes, giving our life away is a total paradox. It is losing so we can win. It is giving so we can receive. It is risking for security. It is faith. The kingdom of God means living that tension.

The Covid-19 experience has taught me that lesson and so much more. In our search for deep certainty, solid answers, strong assurances and knowledge of safety, the message of Jesus is clear. There is only one certainty, and that is God and His Kingdom. The great theologian St. John Chrysostom, once said “Find the door of your heart, and you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.” So, it is inward that we must turn, and not outward – but inward in an incredibly special way. He was not saying that we must become introspective. No, he asks that we must not go inward in the way one does in psychoanalysis or psychology. It is not a journey into my own inwardness, it is a journey through our own self, in order to emerge from the deepest level of self into the place where He is, the point at which God meets with us.

How very strange that although we really do know that the Kingdom of God is found within us, yet all our lives, we keep searching somewhere else.