The Last Sunday of the Church Year

Charlotte and I had an enjoyable week catching up with friends from Australia. We journeyed with them through northern France and into Belgium – lots of catch-up chats about our grandchildren while enjoying good food, beer, waffles in historic places. Some of the historical places were only just over 100 years old – World War 1 battlefields, historical places, and cemeteries – of particular relevance to Australians – and yes, these were more sombre times – as we found relevant tombstones, understood the history of the battle, imagined the chaos and the hardship, those who mourned and lived on, and wondered what it all achieved. What I hadn’t appreciated – having been on numerous WW1 battlefield tours – was the visceral impact such experiences can have on people. I knew details – numbers, dates, facts, specifics, consequences – but this wasn’t new to me and my experiences were more muted than shocked or horrified. I hope I never become blasé – or cynical – about such things, such rememberings, such experiences and remain committed to always seek peace and justice because every single person is precious.

It was Christians who brought this perspective into our world. Our world is used to – and expects – the message and behaviour that some people are precious to some people – and maybe some people are not precious to anyone – but when your God dies for ‘the world’ – for everyone in it – then everyone – from conception to death – is precious to Jesus and to his followers. And Jesus’ disciples now have 2,000 years of history trying to work out – with varying success! – how to live out the truth in our here and now that every single person is precious to God – every person is a person God loves and has rescued and that life with this Triune God in this world is better for being in a relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit than for not being this relationship.

At the end of the Church Year, like at any liminal time, there is a looking forward and looking back and Jesus is in both directions. Whether our days have been filled with tough times, heart aches, even death or we peer into the future and see dark storms – or maybe we can see sunshine in both directions at the moment (lovely!) – times do come when fear and regret, guilt and tragedy, suffering and the inability of humanity to learn weigh us down. Then we need assurances and one of the best times to be assured is the Divine Service – where God takes our past and forgives our sins and strengthens us for what lies ahead as we follow Jesus. God speaks to us and we hear ‘Not guilty’ for the coming week and he is not then going to trick us on Judgement Day. We are served with the ‘medicine of immortality’ in Holy Communion and God will not say ‘Just kidding’ when we see him face to face. And when we are blessed to go back out into the world that also means for the world to come.

When living becomes visceral and we wonder about the past or the future, Jesus and his Father and the Holy Spirit, assure us that we are not flukes in the universe living by survival of the fittest but that living with him means that all our wars can end and we can have peace.