“WHAT IS LIFE AFTER DEATH LIKE?”
A sermon preached at the
father’s house there are many mansions…..
I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14)
sort of place?
What is this paradise
which Jesus promised to the dying thief on the cross,
and which we dare to hope that through grace
he may offer to us also?
What sort of life is the life of the Kingdom of Heaven?
there be clouds and harps,
and what if I don’t like harps?
There are of course no proper answers to these questions.
you read the sermon title and were hoping
for a detailed travelogue of Heaven,
complete with angel wingspans
and route maps betwixt the many mansions,
I have to disappoint you.
is beyond space and time as we understand them,
the very question “What will the place be like when I arrive?”
immediately shows how our thinking is earthbound, try as we will.
heaven is way beyond human words -
if we could encapsulate it without remainder in human earthbound language
we would by definition have described something far less
than that which we seek to understand.
But as we have only human words,
we have to do the best we can with them -
and like Paul talking of a seed dying in the ground
and rising again to new life -
we have to use metaphors, similes, sign posts, which offer
a glimpse of glory,
a dim reflection in the mirror,
a signpost pointing over the horizon….
So in that spirit let me offer you some Easter imagery -
Donald Eadie tells of a woman who died
with three young children.
A memorial service was held in her chapel.
As people came in the children stood at the door,
giving each person who arrived a paper caterpillar.
During the service the congregation were invited
to come forward to the Communion table and place their caterpillars there.
At the table each one was given a paper butterfly to take home….
Benjamin Franklin wrote his own epitaph thus -
“The body of B. Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book
its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here, food for worms, but the work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more
in a new & more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the author."
Rabindraneth Tagore describes
death simply like this:
He says “it is a putting out the lamp - because dawn has come.”
Ann Lewin describes death as the end of
a play –
“The actors have come and gone, some in one act others in another -
sometimes they have laughed and felt pleased,
sometimes they have forgotten their words
or fumed at others who have got things wrong,
some have been fearful to go on stage at all -
Then when the play is over, all the actors meet for a party –
they are liberated from the constraints of the play
and can enjoy each other’s company in a new way.
And there is time too to meet the author the play
and discuss their parts with him -
learning the value of each contribution,
which had never been in doubt in the author’s mind. “
many images of life beyond death within the Christian tradition,
all seeking to speak the unspeakable, define the indefinable
Each in their own way speaking
· of wholeness, of healing,
· of community, of liberty,
· of total understanding and wisdom,
· of the fulfilment of human potential,
· of being re-made in God’s image,
· of being at peace with ourselves and each other, and with God.
Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung asks
“What kind of Kingdom will it be?”
Here is his answer -
be a Kingdom where, in accordance with Jesus’ prayer,
God’s name is truly hallowed, his will is done on earth,
human beings will have everything in abundance,
all sin will be forgiven and all evil overcome.
be a Kingdom where, in accordance with Jesus’ promises,
the poor, the hungry, those who weep
and those who are downtrodden will finally come into their own:
where pain, suffering and death will have an end.
It will be
a Kingdom that cannot be described,
but only made known in metaphors:
as the new covenant, the seed springing up, the ripe harvest,
the great banquet, the royal feast.
therefore be a kingdom - wholly as the prophets foretold -
of absolute righteousness,
of unsurpassable freedom,
of dauntless love,
of universal reconciliation,
of everlasting peace.
In this sense it will be the time of salvation, of fulfilment,
of consummation, of God’s presence: the absolute future.”
So often modern society teaches us to fear death,
to treat it as the final defeat, the great unmentionable,
that before which we should look away
and lower our voice and change the subject -
But we know better -
we know that the great stone has been rolled away from the tomb,
that death, which can seem to so many a final end,
is but the doorway to a wonderful new beginning.
So, this Easter morn,
let us approach death boldly,
(whenever and wherever she may await us) -
let us run with Mary and Pater and John to the tomb -
And there we shall find that the massive and immovable stone
has been rolled away -
and there is an angel waiting to tell us
of the wonders of a new life
beyond our deepest hopes and dreams or deserving…..
Then let us run again - run back from the tomb,
and like Mary of old - tell the world -
Tell the world that Christ is risen,
Tell the world that we too shall rise
Tell the world what a wondrous future
awaits God’s children
because of God’s love
And let’s not just tell
the dream -
let’s start to live it -
let’s so live and dance the resurrection story that
through our lives and in God’s power
here in this world
the hungry and sad
may find a foretaste of the heavenly banquet
and all those who live in darkness
may even now see a glimpse
of heaven on earth!
Order of Service
Easter Sunday 23 March 2008
10.30 am Holy Communion led by Rev Andrew Sails
Organ: Fantasia in G Major - JS Bach
Offertoire pour le jour de Pâques (Offertory for Easter Sunday)
based on the melody ‘O Filii et Filiae’ by Jean-François Dandrieu
Greeting: Minister: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Hymn: 193 “Christ the Lord is risen today”
Prayers (Methodist Worship Book pp.160-161)
Bible Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
Hymn: 212 “Thine be the glory”
Sermon “What happens after you die?”
Hymn: 821 “Sing we the song”
Prayers of Intercession
The Lord’s Prayer
Minister: The peace of the risen Christ be always with you.
People: And also with you.
[The people greet each other in the name of Christ]
[members of Young Church join the rest of the congregation]
Hymn 214 “The strife is o’er”
(the collection will be taken and brought forward during this hymn)
Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Minister: Living God, on this most joyous day
we offer our thanks and praise to you;
creator and lover of all humanity.
Even when we turned away from you
you never rejected us,
but spoke words of mercy and love
promising to swallow up death forever
and to host a life-giving banquet for all people;
And so, with all the company of heaven and earth
we praise your holy name:
holy, holy is the Lord;
holy is the Lord God almighty!
God, this meal which we share today
is indeed the celebration that death has been defeated.
We celebrate how your Son gave his very life for us
that we might have life eternal.
he was at supper with his friends, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and gave
you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples, and said: “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
When supper was ended, he took the cup and gave you thanks, gave it to them, and said: “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and for everyone, so that your sins might be forgiven. Do this in remembrance of me.
God of all power, breathe your
Holy Spirit upon us,
and upon these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may be for us the life of Christ
and that we may make that life visible
through our faithful witness to him.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
[Bread and wine are shared among the people. All who wish are invited to come forward to receive bread and wine. Please come forward when the steward beckons your row]
Music during Communion (see below)
· Penny Smith: “I find your love” by Beth Nielson Chapman
· Organ: “Le Banquet Celeste” by Olivier Messiaen
Prayer after communion:
People: God of truth, we have seen with our eyes,
and touched with our hands, the bread of life.
Strengthen our faith, that we may grow in love for you,
and for each other;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.
Hymn “We shall go out with hope of resurrection”
[June Boyce-Tilman © 1992 Stainer and Bell Tune 238 CCL Licence 58752]
Korean Blessing English Blessing
Organ “March on a theme of Handel (Lift up your heads)”
by Alexandre Guilmant