Summary: Remembering those who have died in past wars on November 11th, preaching peace, recognising that Heaven is nothing like earth through jokes
Sermon: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Remembrance Sunday
Text: Luke 20:27-38
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
They had been married for over 30 years. Thirty years of devoted, loving, blessed life together – in fact, a fine example of what Christian marriage is all about. Now, he was dying.
On his deathbed, she took his hand tenderly and asked him,
“You will be waiting expectantly for me in heaven won’t you?”
“Probably Not.” he replied.
Shocking, certainly. Hurtful, probably. But not at all inaccurate; for as this faithful Christian had understood, heaven is not simply a waiting room for the dead; not the bar seen in Randall and Hopkirk Deceased where Vic Reeves hangs out in a natty white suit drinking imaginary champagne whilst waiting to interfere with Bob Mortimer’s love life.
No. Heaven is our ultimate goal, our final destination; and we will be so moved, entranced and fulfilled by that beatific vision – the sight of God in all his glory, that we will in all likelihood be unable to tear ourselves away from that glorious sight and even notice who is standing on our left and our right.
Heaven is simply better than anything we can imagine. A promise beyond our imagination, and yet we try and bring it down to our own, mediocre levels: to try and make sense of what is beyond our senses.
There once was a very faithful priest, who. At the pearly gate he was asked by the gatekeeper: ’Have you ever committed a sin you truly regret?’
’Yes,’ the priest answered. ’When I was a young ordinand at St Stephen’s House in Oxford, we played soccer against at team from the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, and I scored a goal, which was off-side. But the referee did not see it so, and the goal won us the match. I regret that now.’
’Well,’ said the gatekeeper. ’That is a very minor sin. You may enter.’
’Thank you very much, Saint Peter,’ the priest answered.
’I’m not Saint Peter,’ said the gatekeeper. ’He is having his lunchbreak. I am Saint Stephen.’
A man dies and goes to heaven. It’s a slow day for St. Peter, so, upon passing the entrance test, St. Peter says "I’m not very busy today, why don’t you let me show you around?"
The man thinks this is a great idea and graciously accepts the offer. St. Peter shows him all the sights, the golf course, the reading room and library, the observation room, the cafeteria and finally, they come to a HUGE room full of clocks.
The man asks, "What’s up with these clocks?"
St. Peter explains, "Everyone on earth has a clock that shows how much time he has left on earth. When a clock runs out of time, the person dies and comes to the Gates to be judged."
The bloke thinks this makes sense but notices that some of the clocks are going faster than others. He asks why is that? St. Peter explains, "Every time a living person tells a lie, it speeds his clock."
This also makes sense, so the guy takes one last look around the room before leaving and notices one clock in the centre of the ceiling. On this clock, both hands are spinning at an unbelievable rate. So he asks, "What’s the story with that clock?"
"Oh, that," St. Peter replies, "That’s Jeffrey Archer’s clock. We decided to use it as a fan”
Do we really think, as these jokes suggest that heaven is at all like earth?
The Sadducees tried to catch Jesus out with this faintly ridiculous set piece, about whose husband would this all surviving wife be: a case of “one wife for seven brothers”, I suppose. But Jesus responds that heaven is simply not on those terms, it is simply better than all that.
The heaven which the faithful departed have gone to, is not a heaven of pearly gates, and St Peter (or even St Stephen) sitting in judgement, but a transcendent glory beyond our imagination.
Jesus Christ is, as St Paul said to the Romans, the Lord of both the living and the dead, that is why he died and rose, and through his victory on the cross, we have an entrance to real heaven; where considerations of whose wife is whose will not matter, where clocks and golf courses and the bar from Randall and Hopkirk will appear trivial in comparison.
Today is a day for remembrance, a day to recall the actions of those who have bravely gone before us, many of them in faith, many of them from this area and this parish, not only at the front, but in this very city.