How good are you at languages that are not English: Today I want to take you to three phrases of our faith – that are in a foreign language.
The First is in Italian.
These words are used by Dante Alighieri in his poem called “Divine Comedy” – which was completed in 1320.
In his poem these were the words written over the gates of hell –
“Abandon hope all you who enter here”.
This poem expresses the ideas of the Medieval Church of the 14 Century: put more simply: if you did not belong to the Christian Church when you died you went to hell – where there would was no more hope for you.
There are still many Christian who cling to this idea 800 years later. That some people have no hope of salvation and they might as well give up now.
My task today is to say to us that this is simply not true: There is never a moment when we abandon all hope: And I know this because Jesus went to the place without hope – and Jesus redeemed it.
And here I take us to the second bit of foreign language:
Here are the words of Jesus on the cross:
eli eli lama sabachthani
We read the translation in Matthew 27:46:
My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?
Here is the place where Jesus abandons all hope:
Here is the moment that the image of Dante becomes real: Jesus has entered that place of no hope – he is using an ancient prayer of desperation – Psalm 22 - and those standing at the cross hear him literally enter the gates of hell.
But here is the good news of our faith: not even the gates of hell could hold him….
Do you remember the Creed we say:
I believe in ….. Jesus Christ…
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven,
This is our faith: that nobody should abandon hope, because on the third day Jesus bursts the gates of hell and offers hope to all who trust in him
Nobody should believe that they are forsaken by God.
Because each person is God’s, and no matter how far you have strayed, God keeps loving you.
It is time to teach the last word:
At the end of 1 Corinthians St Paul Uses a word that is written in Aramaic: “Maranatha”
A statement of faith – and a cry of hope:
Translated as “The Lord has come – and may the Lord come”.
Today I am inviting us to replace our despair with hope – to learn the word “Maranatha”
Invite Jesus into our lives
Choose to live your life in the shadow of the teachings of Jesus
Instead of despair – speak this word each morning: Maranatha.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Intro: Today’s reading from the Bible tells the story of a bunch of losers hiding in a room: these were the disciples who had run away and left Jesus alone to face torture and death. These were Jesus best friends – and they had failed him… They knew what was right – but failed to do it.
Now here is the amazing thing: Despite their failure: Jesus comes to find them. And he tells them that God still has faith in them, and that they can continue to be his disciples: 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
They were not disciples because they had managed to earn a special place – clearly they had failed – they were disciples because Jesus loved them.
Here is the Good News for today: Just like those disciples - We are not left alone. Today’s Bible reading reminds us that God understands our failures and that even when we fail, God does not give up on us….
Brennan Manning is a Christian author who has thought deeply about the unconditional love of God: he writes that our Christian Faith “is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the grace of God.”
Instead of condemning his disciples, Jesus said to them – I will give you strength to get back on your feet. Jesus looks at his broken, failed disciples and these are the words he says to them:
.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Following Jesus offers us a different way of understanding our lives. We do not earn God’s love by trying to become better people / or gritting our teeth and attempting to improve ourselves We are not blessed by God only when we never make mistakes. Success as a Christian is not a case of faking it until we make it. Our Scripture passage speaks of a God who does not give up on us - even when we fail.
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For me this is such a relief. I speak out of my own personal experience – I know the kind of person that I should be. I would like to be someone who is kind and loving and brave – and just when I think that I have it all together - I fail to be that person:
• I make mistakes
• I say words that I instantly wish that I could take back
• I get irritated and impatient
I think of a moment when I said something that hurt a friend of mine – and I realized that I had just damaged the friendship – and failed to be the person that I want to be. I also know that I am not alone in this:
St Paul complained about this: Romans 7: 19…. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
I recently saw a quote on a coffee mug: “Be the person your dog thinks you are”…and sometimes it is only our dog who could love us…
And I am going to assume that you know what it is to fail – and to be disappointed in yourself.
Allow me to repeat the Good News for today: God does not give up on us: Like with those disciples in the upper room: he comes to us and breathes on us and blesses us with strength to get up and live another day.
Here is the invitation: to wake up each morning – say these words: “O God: today is your day – use me”.
At this moment - No matter how imperfect you might feel - it is no longer about you: it is about surrendering your day to God….and being curious about what God will do with it. Ours is a faith that speaks of surrender: we surrender our struggling spirits to God – and allow the Spirit of God to use us…. Allow the Spirit of God to guide our living and speaking. Be open to surrendering our frail, broken spirits to the Spirit of God – and letting God live through us.
Today is Pentecost Sunday We are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit can touch our lives:
Every time we share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion – the Spirit of God is particularly available – come today as an act of faith – ask God to touch you.
“That They May be One”