Friday, 28 September 2012

Wishing the Olympics would last for ever

View from the Vicarage – Village Newsletter

There are not many things in life we really don’t want to end. A memorable holiday. A run of fine warm and sunny weather. The Paralympic Games. A great concert. A family celebration. We all have our own list.

There’s a sadness when it’s time to move on. These past few weeks have been a case in point. Even those who had no interest in sport were caught up in the excitement of this most remarkable summer. We didn’t want it to end.

The question now being asked in various forms of media is What now? Will there be a lasting legacy? Will our attitudes towards disability change for good? Will the way we now feel about ourselves as a nation be transformed for ever? Fans of Andy Murray will say yes. Followers of cricket may not be so sure.

As with so many other aspects of the Christian life, wish fulfillment is turned on its head. We believe there is a transformed life to come. However good we feel about the here and now, or however bad, we look forward to what is to come with joy and hope.

It wasn’t always this way. When the early church spoke of the coming of Jesus Christ, they thought of a day of judgement. Nowadays, images of judgement are eclipsed behind our picture of a loving, compassionate God. Yet when we hear Jesus knocking at the door, should we not ask ourselves “Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place?”

The wartime theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said ‘We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us.” Bonhoeffer went on to say that only when we have felt the terror of the matter can we recognise God’s incomparable kindness, cleansing and sanctifying us in the midst of evil and death. “God makes us happy, as only children can be happy.”

Bonhoeffer’s words came from a well-known Advent sermon. For him, Advent is a time of waiting, of self-examination, or preparedness. But Advent is not just an annual event running though December until Christmas. Our whole life is waiting for a new order, a new heaven and earth. We are not reluctant to move on, but full of hope.

When will this come to pass? The first disciples asked Jesus, and received no answer. Down the ages, countless people have asked the same question. The Bible talks of the Kingdom of God coming in like a thief in the night.

Bonhoeffer’s sermon ended with the words “Yes – come Lord Jesus.” He was not even 40 years of age when he died. In the last few days of the war, Bonhoeffer met his end at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Robert Wright

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