Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year
Proper 29

Text: Ephesians 1:18-20
I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. 
I am David

Going home

David is twelve, an orphan who has been in a concentration camp somewhere is Eastern Europe since before he can remember.  A man helps him escape from the camp.  He gives him a compass and tells him to get to Italy and then go north to Denmark.  He sets out alone and afraid.  On his journey, David learns about forgiveness, beauty, colour, happiness, trust, religion, love, generosity – things that he had never experienced in the hard life of a prison camp. David prays each evening always ending his prayer with, “I am David”.   

As he walks from Italy into Switzerland he meets an elderly lady who takes him in and during his stay David finds out that his mother is alive and living in Denmark.  Now he knows why the man at the camp had told him to go to Denmark.  There is a reason for this journey. 

His journey has highs like the time he is taken in and cared for by a couple and their children and also lows when a farmer treats him like a slave.  Many times David is afraid of losing his new found freedom.  The world is frightening place, full of danger and threats.  The whole journey almost becomes too hard for the 12 year old but he is determined to reach his goal. 

Grief stricken following the death of a travelling companion, a dog who sacrifices his life so that David can get past border guards, and almost at the point of exhaustion, he finally reaches the front door of the address he had been given.  When the door opens, he looks at the woman and knows she is his mother.  He is home.  (I am David, a novel for young readers by Ann Holm, 1963).

David could be any of us.  Like David we are on a journey that will take us to the place we call home.  David starts off with a skewed view of life.  Then a whole new world opens up to him but in spite of the new experiences he has on his journey which include forgiveness, happiness, trust, love, generosity, and kindness the going is still tough.  Mixed in with this, there is cruelty, exhaustion, hunger, anger, hostility, fear and death.  It’s interesting that the writer leaves us at the end of the book with the exhausted David about to cross the threshold into the waiting arms of his mother.  What happens after that, we are left to our own thoughts.

On this last Sunday of the Church Year, we turn our attention to the end of the history of this world and to the end of our own personal history in this world.  Our thoughts turn to the end of our journey and much like David we stand even now on the doorstep of the future and one day we will stand on the threshold of the doorway into the life beyond this one. 

David had experienced so much on his journey to that doorstep of his home, and now that he was home, his life would never be the same again.  He would enter a new life with his mother that would be something totally new and wonderful.  It would be something he had never felt before – the unconditional warmth and love of another person, his loving mother, for the first time.  That’s how it will be for us when we enter our eternal home, only so much more wonderful and beyond our comprehension from this side of the doorstep. 

It’s interesting that unlike the novel, our reading from Ephesians today doesn’t focus on the travellers or the journey but on who it is that enables us to reach the goal of stepping through the doorway into life forever with our heavenly Father.  The focus is on God’s eternal plan and how that was accomplished through Jesus.  Paul says,
“God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.  He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven” (Ephesians 1:4-5,7).

He then proceeds to write about how God used his power and authority to raise Jesus from the dead and to lift him up to sit at the right side of God in the heavenly world with glory and majesty and power over all rulers, authorities and powers.  He uses this same power and mighty strength in us and calls us to share in the same victory and bask in the same glory as Christ.  Paul prays “that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you.  Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people” (Ephesians 1:19-20).

All along Paul is determined to keep the eyes of his readers focussed on Jesus and the strength and power that come from being joined in him.  He gets excited talking about how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is and prays that this love take over the hearts and lives of the believers and that there be an ever growing appreciation of how wonderful and powerful this love is for every one of them.  Excitedly Paul proclaims, “To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

Paul has his eyes looking ahead to the forever and ever, to the eternal glory of being with Jesus in eternity – there can be no doubt about that, but at the same time, he doesn’t forget about the journey in the here and now.

The novel I am David, isn’t a religious book but it could well be a parable illustrating the Christian’s journey.
There were times when David didn’t know where his journey would take him,
there were scary times,
there were times when people let him down or he misunderstood their intentions,
there were times when he didn’t know what to do or who to trust,
there were times of exhaustion, grief, and upset.
Mixed with all of this were the wonderful new things he experienced for the first time; things like the friendship of other children or even another adult who wasn’t trying to take advantage of him.

David kept focussed on one important goal.  He didn’t always understand why especially in the early part of his journey but he kept going.
He didn’t really know from his own experience what it would be like to be a son or to call someone ‘mother’ or to have a place he could call ‘my home’. He had experienced good and bad homes along the way.  But that didn’t put him off seeking his mother and his home.

In the end it was all worth it.  David is described by others as the boy who never smiled.  I imagine when he stepped into the arms of his mother and felt her warmth and her tears, yes, maybe he was a little confused at first having never been held this close before, but I believe he would have finally smiled for the first time in a very long time.

Friends, we are going home.  We have no idea what the journey in the future will be like.  We have our struggles and joys in our travels at the moment.  Each of us is travelling on our own personal journey and no-one else can do it for us.  There are people who can help us along the way and we are blessed by their strength and love and reassurance.  We are blessed to have our Saviour travel with us who is able to give us contentment and strength even in the toughest moments.

At our baptism and through his Word, God has promised to journey with us through life with all its highs and lows until that time we walk through the door into our heavenly home.  In our baptism, God promised to love us as a parent loves a child and will not abandon us, even in the hour of our greatest need.  There may be times when we doubt his love for us but his love for us will not be quenched. As the opening words of the Old Testament reading today stated, “I, the Sovereign Lord, tell you that I myself will look for my sheep and take care of them” (Ezekiel 34:11). And when the journey is over we have Jesus’ promise, “I have gone to prepare a place for you” and “those who live and believe in me will never die.”

When I was reading I am David at the beginning I wasn’t too sure whether he would ever make it all the way to Denmark.  It was tough going.  I thought he might give up seeking his mother and settle with a family along the way.  I was fearful that even if he went all the way that he would find that his mother wasn’t there or that this woman wasn’t really his mother.  He must have struggled with these same thoughts.  He met some really difficult people and some really nice people and he often didn’t know who was what.  This was a tough journey.

Maybe you can identify with David along his journey at some point –
maybe you’re uncertain about the journey ahead;
maybe you’re okay with heaven but there are way too many hassles to deal with right now and they’re taking up all your energy;
maybe it’s the people, dare I say it, the church people, around you who are making things difficult:
maybe the journey is sometimes just plain hard going.

Paul is not unsympathetic with the difficulties of travelling life’s journey, after all he had those difficulties too.  However, he comes back to the one focus – Jesus.  We are going home and Jesus has made it possible.

The choir sang this beautiful anthem a while ago and we joined in.  Here are some of the words again.

Going home, going home,
I'm just going home.
Jesus is the Door …;
Work all done, laid aside,
Fear and grief no more.
Friends are there, waiting now.
He is waiting, too.
See His smile! See His hand!
He will lead me through.*
  (Going home, William Arms Fisher and Ken Bible 2002)

Friends, we can be certain – because of Christ, we are going home.

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
23rd November 2014
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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