Signposts, 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 14 2013: Acts 9:1-6(7-20), Rev.5:11-14, John 21:1-19.
Think of the first event that you can remember in your life. I remember the day I went, as usual, to my after-lunch sleep under my pussy-cat blanket on the sofa. When I woke, everything had changed. When I mentioned it, probably a few months later, I was told it must have been the day my sister Elizabeth was born in Mummy’s bedroom upstairs. I was about two and a half – eighty years ago. So we’re thinking about a series of related events that happened about 2000 years ago, 25 times the longest time I can remember. If you do the same sum for your earliest memory you’ll probably get a bigger number. Just think how many generations that means; how can something so long ago be important now?
When I started thinking about the way people lived in those days, and all the amenities we enjoy now, I stopped and remembered about some of the goodies they had. The Romans had wonderful aqueducts, to bring water not only for domestic purposes, but also for their public swimming baths. The Greeks had marvellous outdoor theatres, and a splendid repertoire of plays to perform in them.
The Egyptians had clever ways of preserving the dead bodies of important people, and elaborate collections of useful items for them to carry into the next world. The people of the lower reaches of the river Indus had a clever way of using the over-spill of the river, turning desert into fields and gardens, and got rich enough to build a beautiful city, as well as to design a wooden two-ox cart without a single bit of metal, to bring in the produce, identical to those that I saw on the road when I went to work in Pakistan in 1963. And the Hebrew people that we’re talking about had shepherds, and potters, and wood-workers at the lathe (yes!), as well as an amazing library of history, theology and liturgy, and cobbled together (in a somewhat clumsy fashion ) two stories to tell how the world began, and the way it was peopled by humans.
A single carpenter of middle age, practising in the separated northern portion of Israel country, had become concerned at the way his nation was mis-treating the laws that God had given to the leader of his people about 1250 years before. He heard about a preacher named John on the same track, who was baptising people who wanted to make a new start, in the river Jordan, so he went down and was baptised too. As sometimes happens to people, he was struck with a feeling that he had the drive and ability to add to John’s work. So he went off alone to think about it, and when he returned, found that John had been imprisoned by the district “king”, so he felt it was a good time to take up the work where John had been forced to leave off.
But he was a very different sort of chap from John. He preferred jolly parties given by inquisitive people, or to speak outdoors from a boat to a crowd on the lake beach. He wouldn’t say you should do this or not do that, he told stories which have an ending that challenged his hearers to decide what the right answer was*, a signpost.
That’s enough for now. It’s still Easter for another fortnight, so I’ll tell you the next chapter in a fortnight’s time.
*It seems that some of his closer friends were a bit thick, and had to have the point explained to them afterwards.
P.S. If anyone can guess who I’m reading now, you’ll get a friendly pat on the back. (Not Paul, I told him several weeks ago.)