Seventy years ago, when the Queen came to the throne, the world was such a different place. How things have changed over those seventy years. How many things that are a part of our modern world do we take for granted that were unheard of back then?
Take the mobile phone. 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 phone. And apparently there are more active mobile phones in the world today than there are people!
One of the most popular programmes on the TV 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.
Some time ago there was an exchange that I found particularly memorable.
One of the programmes people were viewing was a programme about railway journeys. 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. If you watch Gogglebox you’ll know who I mean.
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! What’s most important? The view? Or the phone?
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 instead of enjoying the view we’re obsessed with our mobile phones trying to get a signal and complaining. 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 who put the things of this world first and forget to just look up and enjoy God.
Jesus is getting ready to leave his disciples. And John makes it clear in our gospel reading 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 of people, mutually dependent, 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!
So – what to do to enable the new community of the Church to grow, to prosper? Jesus was going away, and he needed to ensure that he remained at the centre, the heart, of the Christian community. And the solution, of course, was to send the Holy Spirit.
And 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 it is just as true today as it always has been 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. And the Holy Spirit is ‘God with us’ here and now.
And yet the response of so many to that wonderful gift of God himself coming to dwell among us through the Spirit, to dwell within the hearts of believers, is simply not to recognise the Spirit’s presence or to take it for granted.
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 have their heads down fiddling about with their mobile phones trying to get a signal. Because what’s important is the here and now rather than the things of eternity.
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? 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. And this part of the sermon is really aimed at those who aren’t here this morning – though you’ll be getting it anyway! 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 in the earliest days of the Church of not being all together for worship – and those first Christians 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 about going to church 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 staring down at your 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 Test Match was on the TV – so you didn’t come. Or the sun was shining and a day out beckoned – so you didn’t come? Or it was raining – so you didn’t come. Or you just fancied a lie-in 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.
So why not today decide that in future you will follow the example of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Despite all she has to do the Queen, a woman of great personal faith in Jesus, has always found the time to be at worship every Sunday unless prevented by illness or travel. Her weekly church attendance has been a key part of her life throughout her seventy years on the throne. An example to us all.
So that he could be at the centre of the life of the first disciples and at the centre of the life of his followers Jesus has promised us all the gift of the Holy Spirit. And 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.
Don’t miss the glorious view because the mobile phone (the ordinary everyday things in life) seems to be so much more important! Look upon the beauty in the face of Jesus and put him first in all things, and allow him to put everything into perspective. And the ordinary everyday things in life will all fit into place.