There’s always someone, it seems, who believes that they know
when the end of the world is coming! All kinds of predictions have been made
down the centuries about when the end of the world as we know it was coming,
only for nothing to happen.
Take Ronald Weinland, for example. Ronald Weinland is the head of a Christian denomination with the rather long title: Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God. He founded it in 1998 in the United States. So much easier to just be able to say you’re a member of the Church of England. Weinland started predicting that the end of the world was due at any moment in 2008. And then declared that Christ would return and the end of the world would come on the feast of Pentecost in the year 2012.
When that didn’t happen, he changed his prophecy of the end of the world to Pentecost 2013. When that didn’t happen, he then prophesied that the end of the world would happen at Pentecost 2019. Yes – you, like me, may have noticed something of a pattern emerging here. Weinland hasn’t yet got it right yet. Of course, Weinland’s credibility with his fellow church members may have been somewhat undermined by the fact that in 2013 he was imprisoned for 3½ years for tax evasion – something he apparently didn’t see coming.
Last year we all, our community and the country, made such an effort for Remembrance. The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War saw us uniting to remember those millions who died, and especially those who died from this community of Caterham. The ghostly figures of the “here but not here” installation appeared in church for the first time and we made the wonderful poppy display which we have been able to use again. These acts of commemoration of the centenary of that war will be used for years to come.
We all follow Jesus. And at St John’s over the last three Sundays, we have been exploring our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points as, as a Church, we work out what it means to follow Jesus each day. Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving. Having previously thought about those three words, our final sermon this week is called: We are a Jesus community – and as this Sunday was All Saints Sunday it’s a particularly appropriate theme for the week.
A quick recap. Here at St John’s over the last two Sundays, today and next Sunday, we are exploring in more detail our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points.
Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving.
We have already explored Worshipping and Growing in the sermon slot on the last two Sundays. If you missed either of those, they are up on our website for you to read. Today we are exploring “Serving” – what it might mean to be a serving community.
I realise many of you will find this hard to believe, but I was a very well-behaved child. Despite that, I learnt from a very early age that my mother would often ask questions when she thought I wasn’t behaving as she would wish – questions which, however much I felt deserved an answer, I knew would result in her wrath if I tried to give one. Questions like: Am I talking to a brick wall? Are you deaf or something? How many times do I have to tell you? What did your last servant die of? Do you think I’m made of money?
And then – well all else had failed – as a last resort she would come
out with: Why don’t you just grow up! Bit
difficult really, when you’re only ten years old, but I was old enough to know
that telling her that was not going to get me anywhere or help the situation!
This week at St John’s we began a series of four sermons thinking about our mission statement. The first sermon has the title: We are a worshipping community. The preacher is allowed to depart from the set readings for the day but as it happens God was able to use this week’s set gospel reading which is the story of Jesus healing ten lepers – but only one returns, praising God, to thank Jesus.
Popular music is full of unanswered questions! And many of them ask somewhat deep and philosophical questions about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. And I know many of you think you already know the answer to the life, universe and everything (Chorus of ‘42’ from the congregation!)
Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? sang the
Baha Men. Who indeed? We never find out.
Should I stay or should I go? sang the
Clash. A question many of us try to answer – especially when we’re at a party
we don’t want to be at!
They get even more esoteric and though-provoking. Take the Smiths who
ask: How soon is now?
Or Queen, from the classic song Bohemian Rhapsody: Is this the real
life? Is this just fantasy? I think it’s definitely real life! But there’s
always the possibility some of you may be living in a fantasy world!
My own favourite song with unanswered questions comes from the hand of the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature – Bob Dylan of course – which begins by asking, but not answering, the question: How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? Dylan never tells us, except to say that the answer is blowing in the wind!
Many of you will know that each year, the priest I live with and I go to the same place in Crete for our summer holidays. Over the years we have got to know the family that own the complex where we stay very well, and each year we look forward to seeing what improvements they have made over the winter, and they now often ask us for feedback and for suggestions.
And – joy of joys – this year Kostas had installed a television screen behind the pool bar. With Sky Sports no less! And so, at 1pm – Crete being two hours ahead of us – it was possible to settle down in the sunshine with a bottle of cold Cretan craft beer, and watch the Ashes. I let Kostas know without holding back just how fantastic this was!