I don’t know about you but sometimes it seems to me that everyone is obsessed with vision and legacy. Everyone seems to want to leave a legacy of some form, sport-stars, business leaders, politicians all seem preoccupied with legacy. They all also state in categorical terms that it is vitally important to create, and then peddle, a compelling vision where the vision becomes the animator of everything else. You can’t, it seems, leave an enduring legacy without a compelling vision. But the reality surely is that very few people or organisations deliver on the vision? Didn’t someone quip that ‘all political careers end in failure?’(In fact it was Enoch Powell)
On the cross it seems for all the world as though Jesus’ vocation has ended in total and utter failure. Only a very few of his family and friends are there for him at the time of his greatest need and it looks as though the only legacy he is to leave is that of yet another false messiah; someone who seemed to offer a compelling vision, with the guarantee of an enduring legacy and yet who fell woefully short. And yet, we know that this is not how it turned out. Believer and unbeliever alike must surely accept that Jesus did leave a real and lasting legacy?
Today’s gospel reading and the reading from Revelation are about vision and legacy. Revelation, the Bible’s closing book, is a visionary book, and the reading we have heard is from the penultimate chapter of Revelation and in it we are given a picture, or a vision, of what things will be like at the end of time where the nations will walk by the ‘light’ and the ‘kings of the earth will bring their glory, into it….the temple of the Lord…...where the Lamb’ reigns supreme. What we are given is a picture of our final and ultimate destination: the New Jerusalem. It’s a glorious vision and one we do well to hold before us as we seek to live in the here and now.
But, what we mustn’t do is say to ourselves ‘oh well, it will all be alright in the end’ for this would be to render ourselves passive recipients of religion rather than as active members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Saying to ourselves ‘oh well, it will all be alright in the end’ would be a rejection of the Lord’s prayer, where we ask that something of the beauty of the New Jerusalem becomes actualised in the here and now. The readings we have heard over the last few weeks from the Acts of the Apostles make it clear that the early church was far from passive, indeed it was hyperactive and to stand in the apostolic tradition means that we too must be an active, authentically evangelical and missional church. But, how on earth can we do this? How can the church, and all her members, witness with power and authority to the truth of Jesus Christ? What would it take?
The good news is that Jesus himself provides us with the answers: an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit amongst us, prompting us, guiding us, unsettling us, challenging us, and leading us combined with the gift of the Jesus legacy: ‘peace.’ Or, more precisely, the ‘peace’ which the world is incapable of giving.
Peace means lots of different things in the Christian tradition. It means good and Godly relationships within the household of faith, the sort of relationships that sustain us and keep us moving forward. But here, I think, we are talking about an absolute inner conviction that through the work of Jesus on the Cross, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit amongst us, both corporately and individually, combined with the vision we have been given in the Revelation of John, we have all the certainty, or surety, we need. This inner certainty combined with an eternal perspective is what allows us as Christians to thrive in the here and now; to go from church to ‘in peace to love and serve the Lord.’
The church has been given the Jesus legacy and been graced with the compelling and eternal vision. Whether we are able to put them to good and virtuous effect is contingent on our willingness to be open to the work of the ‘Advocate, the Holy Spirit,’ the One who Jesus promises ‘will teach you everything.’
If we keep John’s vision before us and are truly open to the work of the Holy Spirit we too will leave a real and enduring apostolic legacy, and as Christians that’s our mandate; yours and mine,