There are apparently, and according to the UN, more mobile phones in the world than there are people! If you want a symbol of the modern world and what is at the centre of people’s lives, look no further than the mobile phone! For so many, daily life is ruled by their mobile.
One of the most popular programmes on the TV at the moment is Channel 4’s Gogglebox. Just to explain, for those of you who don’t watch it, the idea behind the programme is that families and friends are filmed watching television, and we see their reactions. Each week a variety of different programmes are watched, and cameras inside people’s houses record their reactions to what they watch.
On Friday, just back from holiday, we sat down and watched the previous week’s episode, and one of the programmes people sat back to enjoy was a programme about railway journeys made by Paul Merton. As we were treated to an aerial view of a train travelling through some of Britain’s wonderful countryside, we then saw the reaction of two of Gogglebox’s regular participants – two sisters from Leeds.
One said: I like train journeys like that where you go on really beautiful, scenic routes.
To which the other replied: I don’t because you lose signal on your phone! Really P’s me off!
Two people sharing in the same journey, the same train – and yet what different experiences, different outlooks! And it just struck me what a brilliant metaphor for our journey through life.
Are we really enjoying that wonderful God-given view? Or are we missing it all because we’re obsessed with our mobile phones trying to get a signal and complaining. Spend your time fiddling with your phone and the view will pass you by, you wont see the world around you – like the one-third of people who cross the road while texting on their phones and don’t look at the traffic. In spiritual terms think of it like this – enjoying the view is a metaphor for enjoying our life with God, fiddling about with the phone and getting annoyed because it won’t pick up a signal is a metaphor for those ignore God’s gifts, who put the things of this world first and find the world wanting, because ultimately it can never fully satisfy
Are we allowing ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God, or does the spirit of this world win out? I’ll come back to that image of what is more important – the view or the mobile phone coverage – later.
Jesus is getting ready to leave his disciples. And as we hear in our gospel reading this morning he says to them: the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
John makes it clear in this chapter, chapter 14 of his gospel, that the intent of Jesus is that when he is gone there will be a community of believing and obedient people. Not a group of individual Christians, who come and go as they please, who dip in and out when it’s convenient, but a real and thriving community, doing the work of Jesus and with Jesus at its centre, at its heart.
The thing is, Jesus knew full well that if he just left his disciples to get on with things that sooner or later this new community would simply seize up! They might have managed for a while, and on the outside everything might have looked fine, but sooner or later everything would have ground to a halt. With Jesus no longer at the heart of all they were doing they couldn’t keep going for long.
So – what to do to enable the new community of the Church to grow, to prosper, and to do the greater works that Jesus promised they would do? Jesus needed to ensure that he remained at the centre, the heart, of the Christian community. Yet he was going to the Father – that’s what he told them.
And the solution, of course, was to send the Holy Spirit: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever … the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I said to you. The way that Jesus sustains his Church, the way that Jesus is able to be right at the heart of the Christian community, his body on earth, is through the presence of his Holy Spirit.
And, of course, it is just as true today as it was then, that Jesus must be at the centre of the Church and at the centre of each individual’s life if the Christian community is to work properly, do the works of Jesus, and the greater works that he promised it would do. And what a wonderful and beautiful gift we are given to enable us to be the community that Jesus calls us to be. The gift of God himself to us in the Holy Spirit. And how can anyone not respond to that gift, to the knowledge that God wants to fill us with himself, in anything other than praise and worship.
And yet it is manifestly clear that the response of so many to that wonderful gift of God himself coming to dwell among us is not one of praise and worship. To go back to the story I told at the beginning about the two sisters on Gogglebox – too many people are missing the glory of the view because they are more concerned with fiddling about with their mobile phones trying to get a signal. Of course, everyone in that situation has a choice – look at the view, or look at the phone even when it’s not working.
So what’s the choice for you? That’s not a rhetorical question! When faced with the choice of the glorious view out the window, or of playing with the phone, what choice do you make? When faced with the choice of being embraced by the Spirit of God and responding in praise and worship, or of doing other things because they seem so much more important and after all everyday life is so important and we convince ourselves that Jesus doesn’t mind about our choices, what choice do you make?
Take Sunday worship as an example. The first day of the week has been set aside by Christians since the very beginning of the Church as the day of resurrection, and the day to come together as the body of Christ to worship God and give thanks for all his blessings. There was no concept of not being all together for worship – and they also knew that if anyone was absent the whole community was weakened. Jesus was the centre of the lives of those first Christians – there was no choice but to put him first in all things.
And yet how many today make choices and end up thinking Jesus will understand because he knows what life is like. And that brings me back to the question I asked earlier: So what’s the choice for you? When faced with the choice of the glorious view out the window, or of playing with the phone, what choice do you make?
Think about choices you have made recently about gathering for worship together on a Sunday morning. Perhaps you had friends round – so you didn’t come. Or the London marathon was on the TV – so you didn’t come. Or you had some email to deal with which wouldn’t wait – so you didn’t come. Or the sun was shining and a day out beckoned – so you didn’t come? Or you just fancied a lie in bed because it’d been a busy week and you deserved it – so you didn’t come. You are free to make those choices. Yet every time we make one of those choices we choose to put something other than Jesus first. And we are very good at convincing ourselves that Jesus understands our choices and doesn’t mind. And the reality is that while we may not want to admit it, Jesus is not at that moment at the centre of our life.
And we need to understand – and I cannot emphasize this too much – that if Jesus is not at the centre of your life, at the centre of everything you do and everything you are, if Jesus is not at the centre of your being – then something else is, something else is taking the place that Jesus should have. And that’s a choice you have made but it is not a choice that Jesus wants you to make. It’s not a choice he gave to the first disciples and it’s not a choice he offers us. And so that he could be at the centre of the life of the first disciples and at the centre of the church he asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit.
Is Jesus at the centre of your life? Is he at the centre of our church community? If we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus from the Father, into our lives then not only will Jesus be right there in our hearts and the heart of our Church, we will then be able to go out as the first disciples did and do those greater works that Jesus promised.
And all because of the gift that Jesus sends us from the Father. The Spirit who helps the Christian community remember all that Jesus did, the Spirit who helps us to know Jesus, the Spirit who helps us to be obedient to Jesus and do his work in the world. The Spirit upon whom we must rely if Jesus is to be at the centre. Don’t miss the glorious view because the mobile phone seems to be so much more important!
Let us pray
Father, open our hearts to receive your Holy Spirit into our lives and our church. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may put Jesus at the centre of all that we are and all that we do. Through the power of your Holy Spirit may we do the works of Jesus, that our anxious and troubled world may know the peace that only Jesus can give. Amen.