Sermon at Saint Matthias’ Church on Sunday, 20th May
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13
Whatever we might think about the debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny, both of them are fairly incidental to the important things that are going on. One of the most important things happening in recent times has been the growth in the German economy. ‘What has this to do with me?’ you ask. Well, Germany is the biggest country in Europe; the German economy is the biggest in the Euro-zone. When the German economy starts growing German people have more money to spend and when people start spending more money it increases demand which pushes up prices. The European Central Bank must control inflation, so when the biggest economy in Europe starts growing, it seeks to keep inflation in check by raising interest rates. The lives of mortgage payers in Dublin are more directly affected by German consumers than by anything said by Bertie or Enda.
There are realities of which we are not even aware controlling our lives. Decisions are taken by people whose names we don’t know that determine how much pay we take home, how much pension we get, whether we have a job. When we become aware of these realities we begin to take them seriously. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to pretend that they are not there. Sometimes we prefer to think that we are in control. Bertie and Enda leaders continue with the fiction that they are in charge of the big picture when they are fully aware that the real power lies with the European Central Bank.
Big realities disturb us. Perhaps we feel more comfortable if we think that we are somehow in charge of things. It is worrying to think that there might be someone in Europe making decisions that directly affect the lives of ourselves and our families.
There is an even bigger reality out there and I think that we try to ignore it in the way that we try to ignore the European Central Bank and the international money markets – that reality speaks through St John in the Book of Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” If we are worried by the power of bankers and financiers we should be a great deal more worried about the power of God.
The Bible has no record of God being indifferent to what is going on. The Bible has no record of God wringing his hands and saying, ‘Oh, dear me’. The Bible has no record of God wondering what to make of it all and wondering what to do. What the Bible records, as in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, is God engaging in a head on conflict with cosmic powers of darkness and evil. What the Bible records, as in the Gospel reading, is God’s direct, personal concern with his people. What the Bible records, as in the reading from Revelation, is God’s promise to respond to everyone as they have responded to him.
This God is a reality from whom there is no escape, a reality that should have an impact upon our lives far greater than that made by any economist or banker or politician. Every time we gather for Holy Communion we acknowledge this reality. We talk about God as the one “to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden”.
Do we really accept this reality in our lives? Do we really believe that our dealings with God deserve the same seriousness as we would devote to dealings with the Revenue Commissioners or with the bank? Do we really read Scripture and seriously accept that this should have as much impact upon our lives as changes in tax and social welfare? Do we really?
There is a lack of seriousness in both what we believe and in how we seek to live out what we believe. What does God say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And what we say in response is, “No, God you’re not really what you say you are. What you are is someone whom we nod to on a Sunday morning when it’s convenient and who deserves whatever we have left over”.
If we took God on his terms we would be terrified by our failures. If we took God on his terms worship would not be about what we got out of it but about what we put into it. If we took God on his terms there would never be a question of how little we have to give of our lives, there would only be a question of how much we wanted to give.
God is not available on our terms. A God who fitted in with us would not be God at all. God comes on his own terms, a terrifying, arbitrary, eternal figure. He offers a hand to us, but he is not going to force us. God doesn’t need us.
Next Sunday is the day of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church, the day when the disciples were renewed in their faith and given the power necessary to go out to do God’s work.
In the next seven days each of us should think about this reality that is out there. Each time we switch on the television news we should think about this far greater reality that is out there waiting for us. We should think about what it is we really believe; what it is we are prepared to give and to do in response to this all-surpassing power.
Then next Sunday, the day of Pentecost, wherever we are for the holiday weekend, we should offer our own prayers to God, that he will enable us to be the people he wants us to be, that he will enable us to do the things he would have us to do. A simple request to be what God wants and to do what God wants, to people who are serious about God this should not be too much to ask.
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.