We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Rev. Tom Hughes, April 14, 2024 – “In the final chapter of life.. we shall be like Christ”

1 John 3:1-7 “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”


Sermon

Nice to be together. This beautiful Sunday feels like spring this Sunday. Last Sunday if you recall it, we weren’t sure, but here we are gathered again today in  the Lord’s House to read and reflect on the words that have been given to us

One of the things that we spent a couple of minutes on last week was talking about symbols and I want to go back to that.

I could begin there because symbols are so important not just in the Christian life for which they are central. In life in general if you’re dealing about faith and issues about eternal life, knowing God when we’re talking about things like that, it’s hard to think about and practically impossible to talk about them because they’re just not adequate words. We’re not able to think in ways that will enable us to speak the truest things, the things that are the hardest ones, to give voice to that. Being the case then, we have to represent those things in symbols.

The greatest symbol of all time in all of human history is the cross. Even if you’re an enemy of Christ, if you’re an enemy of the cross, the cross is still the most significant thing as a symbol that there’s ever been and I’m sure ever will be because it captures everything about life now. If you’re familiar with philosophy and writings of the past and poetry certainly scripture, another very powerful image and a symbol is the idea of the road being on the road. We live life out on the road – that’s where things happen.  I’m probably the only one here that can remember the  Bing Crosby and Bob Hope movies on the road shows – you know the  Road to Singapore and the Road toward Mandalay. They were so funny I laughed till my stomach hurt but they’re all about being on the road and things happened on the road. That was the point Willie Nelson sings about being on the road. It’s a theme that runs through all of literature, music, and history being on the road.

We’re on the road all of us in different places but we’re all on the road from wherever we are now to wherever it is we’re going from wherever we started to. It’s a wonderful place to be because that’s where things happen is out there on the road, that’s where we grow and become, have a deeper sense of ourselves, the purposes of God that’s where life happens it’s out here.

Now, one of the things about seeing life as a road is that it gives us a kind of a road map to go by. If you’re out on the road you get a road map from scripture. From any kind of understanding of human nature, you know there are different phases in life. You start out as an infant where you’re just trying to have some sense of what’s going on around you. You become a young person where you’re struggling with identity and individuality and what does it mean to be a person and then on up into your 20s you grow into somebody who’s trying to figure out what does this mean, what am I going to do now, how can I make sense out of this life till you get to be in your 40s and 50s so and you’re starting to wonder is this all there is? Then as you get older you become a more mature adult in old age you’re thinking well, what does this all this mean now that I’m looking towards the end of my life. So all of those different stages in life are ways along the road and we all go through them.

The problem is that we get stuck in a place and  so much of scripture addresses that. What Jesus is talking about a lot of the time we get stuck in a place where we don’t grow because it’s out of fear or worse yet out of guilt we cease to grow we don’t become that person that we were created to be. We become something else because we are stuck in a place. You see the results of that all as far as alcohol and drugs and crime because they don’t have an understanding of who and what they are.

Now we’re given some great insight into that in scripture because it says we don’t know what it’s going to wind up to be but we shall be like Jesus. That’s the first one and the other verse that speaks directly to that is where it says we do not yet know what we shall be.

I don’t know if that stimulates your imagination the way it does mine. “We do not yet know what it is we are to be”  means that we’ve got a lot more growing to do. We’re going to become more and that means more Christlike because in the end we shall be like him. What’s it going to take for somebody like me to be like him? We all ask ourselves that question.

What would it take for me to become like Christ? It would take a remarkable intervention on the part of the Creator but, of course, we know as Easter people that that’s exactly what has happened. An incredible intervention on the part of our creator to make it be so that that scripture is true that in the end I will be like Christ. That’s just amazing. It almost makes you laugh you know if you stand there look back at your own life and all the things you’ve done and where you’ve been and how you’ve acted and how you’ve lived and you’ve come to be this person you are now, and somebody tells you you’re going to be like Christ.

Knowing that’s true then how do I live the rest of my life? What is it that I’m going to do now knowing that that’s true and we are Easter people. To say that again, it’s always Easter for us because Christ is risen. It is always Easter for us because we shall be risen so we’re  Easter people all the time.  So for me, to live a life that really believes that and takes that into account, then what I need to be about is seeking God’s purposes within me, to not pay as much attention to the world around me to begin a process of looking in inward in here because in here is where God dwells.  God is in the world we’re told.

Sometimes the world doesn’t look like that but if you look out here and see this beautiful spring morning you can see God is in the world. But the main place God is in us. The main place that God dwells is in the temple just like back in Jerusalem only now we’re the temple and this is where God dwells and so the more I’m able to live out of that knowledge and belief and more I’m able to  live as that person, the more I’m going to become more on the road to being like Christ. At least I’ll become more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit, more aware of the love of God, more aware of God’s presence and love  that goes before me. All the time to do that and to arrive at that place in my life that I’m really starting to live as that person that’s going to be like Christ.

It’s probably not going to feel like that inside of us but that’s right, we’re on the road that’s what we’re going to become. The road map tells us that from the point we are right now till that time that we are fully in the presence of God amazing things are going to happen but for that to be true we’ve got to make a little effort and what that means is we’ve got to be intentional about seeking not just asking for stuff from God, not just that kind of prayer but simply being still, allowing  that spirit of God to move to a level within us where we’re aware of it where I can say “yes, I can feel and I can know and I can believe and I can be certain”, not believe it because somebody else told me or the preacher said it or my mother told me or you know all those things no because it is real and true inside of you and in me that’s how so there we are that’s what scriptures taught us.

The two major things I want to go back and say them again because it’s so important. We do not yet know what we shall be. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like. The other is in the final chapter of this life and as we enter the next one we shall be like Christ. What a journey and I’m so thankful to be on it and to be on it with you that we can we make this walk together. What a great and happy and lovely gift and all this we say in the name of the one who created us our Lord Jesus Christ love and the presence of the Holy Spirit Amen