Unknown year, August talk, Serial 00642

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And in this reading from the letter to the Corinthians, Paul sees Christ as the second Adam. And Adam is really humanity, with a very profound understanding that humanity is one, that all members of one body, like cells in a body, millions of cells making up one body, and all humanity is a member of this body. And this body falls into sin and is divided, disintegrated, and by redemption, Christ restores this body of humanity and becomes the head of humanity in that way, of all humanity. For as by one man came death, by man has come the resurrection from the dead, as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive. Absolutely universal, you see, all men fall away from God through sin in Adam, in this man, this humanity, and all are redeemed by Christ.


We can't say that all respond necessarily to that grace of redemption, but redemption is offered to every human being from the beginning to the end of the world. And then he speaks of Christ as the first fruits, then it is coming those who belong to Christ. See, the resurrection is the first fruits of humanity, humanity going through death. See, we were created to go through death into eternal life, and in the resurrection Jesus as a human being goes on through death into eternal life, and so makes the passage for all of us, whether humanity now as a whole is able to pass through death into life. And then comes the end when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and authority and power. And these are the cosmic powers which rule the universe, you see, the universe has come under these powers, the angels if you like, of various kinds, and they are conceived as


cosmic powers, working through the universe as a whole, but also as powers in humanity, the powers which rule the nations, and these good and evil powers, you see, are at work among the nations, and all are destined to be subject to Christ. I think it's important, you know, we see the great powers today, we see Reagan in the United States, and Gorbachev in the Soviet Russia, and all these powers, and they seem to have tremendous power, and they have in a sense, and they can work tremendous destruction, and also do a great deal of good, but ultimately they're all subject to this supreme power, this supreme authority, it's beyond all. And that is weak in Christ the King, you see, that there is a power beyond all political power or economic, whatever power you like, there's something beyond. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death, you see, death still reigns, and death's one of these powers which


reigns in the world, but through the resurrection, death has been overcome in principle, and in the end, death will be destroyed, at the end of death, and there is eternal life. And then when all things are subjected to him, the Son himself will be subjected to him, who put all things under him, that God may be everything to everyone. You see, Jesus, as the new man, the new Adam, gathers humanity into unity, restores it to life through death and to resurrection, and then surrenders the kingdom to the Father, that God is all in all. And that is the Christian vision, really, which we get from St. Paul, and it's still deeply meaningful, you see, this is at work in the world around us, this power in the cosmos as a whole, in humanity, in all the nations, this power of salvation, redemption, grace is at work, bringing about the kingdom of God, and we're all sharing in that, each in our own way, we're members of this body of humanity, redeemed and open to eternal


life in Christ. So that's the Christian vision of the universe. In Solemnity of Christ the King raises the question about kingship, what do we mean by a king, and the ancient tradition of a king was one who conquered all enemies and ruled over the people, and David and Solomon were a typical example, David conquered all his enemies, established the kingdom in Israel, and Solomon his son reigned in splendor, built the great temple, established a glorious kingdom ruling over many people, and that was the idea of Israel, and when the Messiah came, he was to be the king, and they expected him to rule in the same way, to be like David, and that was the expectation when Jesus came, he came to be the Messiah, they expected him to conquer all the enemies of Israel, overcome


the Roman Empire, establish a kingdom and rule over it, and Jesus reversed all that, and the only sign of his kingship was when he was hanging on the cross they put on, this is Jesus, the King of the Jews, and it was ironical, and it shows the reversal which he brought, that he saw kingship in a quite different way, and actually as you know he said the rulers of the Gentiles exercise authority over them and rule over them, with you it shall not be so, and then in this parable which we have just read, the whole thing is really reversed, he doesn't ask the king comes in his glory to judge the world, and he doesn't ask whether they have worshipped him, whether they have obeyed him, whether they have exalted him, but whether they have served his brethren, his members, his people, and the question


is whether you have cared for the hungry, cared for the sick, cared for the prisoners, cared for all those in need, and this is really the kingship which Jesus looks for, it's a kingship of service, and it's really an extraordinary reversal, because in our Christian tradition we've had the same as in Israel, Constantine became a Christian and the Christian Emperor was established in the Empire, and then Charlemagne had conquered France and he had himself declared the Emperor, and since then there have been Emperors and Kings, and the Church has been, not the Church, but the Christian people have been ruled by all these Emperors, Spanish and Austrian Emperors and so on, all these Kings, and they've all gone, all these Kings and Emperors have gone, and a new understanding of authority has emerged, the King is not one who conquers the enemies and who rules his people, but one who is at the service of his people, and of course


it's very imperfect in the world, but it is growing this understanding that authority is service, how to, and in the Church we have a beautiful concept of ministria, a deacon or diaconia is ministry, and all the offices in the Church, for the Pope, for Bishops, for Priests and all downwards, are all ministries, they're all services, and Christ comes to serve, the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, that was his understanding of kingship, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life, like a shepherd for the sheep, gives the example. So we all need to reflect over this, it reverses the whole concept of authority and gender in the world, as soon as you get into a position of power, you want to become very important and you have many followers and you have a great, make a great impression of your riches and power, and this is reversing, this seeing authority as serving, caring for the sick and


the poor and the people in need, and today we are trying to realize this in the Church, but we all need to reflect over it and to realize the real meaning of kingship or authority as service, and even the point of giving their life. So we ask for the grace for the Church, also for the world, because this idea is growing, these kings and emperors have gone, and politicians are very much better in many ways, but there is the idea that it's the people who matter, not the king, and that the purpose of the state is to care for the people, to give them the needs of their lives and help them to grow. So as I say, we ask that the Church and the world come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of authority, of kingship, and how we could fulfill that in our lives. As you know, this letter of Peter is a kind of instruction in Christian faith and morality, and


here is particularly the moral aspect. Often you begin in these letters with the more theological and then you come to the more moral. So here he says, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passion but by the will of God. As you know, this language, living in the flesh, means being subject to one's passions and desires of the lower self, as we say. An interesting phrase, whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, is not obviously true altogether, but there is a sense, you know, in which suffering does free people from sin. People are living a very sinful life, they get ill and they begin to change their lives very often. I think that was what he has in mind. And then he goes on, so as to live no longer by human passion but by the will of God. That is all a choice, you see, people will be driven by their passions all the time,


we all are to some extent, and at the same time we have this awareness of the will of God. It's very obscure in some people, it gets stronger in others, but there is something in everybody, really, which does sort of draw them out of their passion, desires to this will of God, and that's what we have to attend to. Yet the time that is far sufficed for doing what the drunkenist rebels are arousing and lawless, I have not a trick, they always take an extremely negative view of what they call the Gentiles. Anybody who wasn't a Jew was supposed to be entirely lawless. It's quite untrue, of course, there were a great many very good people in the Roman Empire, the Stoics and even some of the Epicureans, the Paternists, were living a very good life. It's unfortunate they had this idea only the Jews were righteous and everybody else was sinful, and which unfortunately went on in the church, only Christians are righteous and all Hindus and others are heathens and they're all wicked. So we have to, you know, to read these


things with understanding. It's only some Gentiles, it's quite true today that lots of people live in licentiousness, passion, drunkenness, rebels and so on, but also today there are millions of people, atheists, agnostics and others, who live very good lives, much better than Christians very often. So we have to get a balanced view of it. They are surprised you do not join them in the same wild propagacy and they abuse you, but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. But this is why the gospel is preached even to the dead, that they're judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God. I do remember yesterday, wasn't it, we had this, Jesus preached to the dead. It had a very deep meaning, and as I said, that, you see, humanity is one, and we believe today that each one of us in our unconscious is linked up with all the past of humanity. And so the gospel really is preached to all men in the sense, you see, as I was saying, that everybody has some sort of sense of the will of God. They may not call it


that, but some sense of truth, goodness, of love, of grace or justice. These things work in people, and when they try to follow that, then they're following the grace of God, and they're on the way of salvation. And on the other hand, people are being driven by their passions, desires, away from truth and right and love, and being subjected like that. So that's the division in humanity, and it affects us all. Christians are the same as others. We're all in the same situation, in a sense. And then he goes on, the end of all things is at hand, therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. As you know, the church lived in this expectation of the end, and I always emphasize that we all live in that expectation, personally in the moment of death, and for the whole humanity, we don't know when it's going to come. So in a sense, it's perfectly, it's a good way of looking at things, the end of all is at hand, therefore keep sane and sober


for your prayers. It's very good advice. Above all, I'm feeling love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. And this is something very striking and important, you know, that with all this devotion to God and so on, there's always this immense emphasis on the love of one another, and unless they go together, there's always something missing. And I think it's rather distinctive, I'm going to say, in Christian faith generally, that this love of God is always associated with the love of one another, love of community, love of others. And as we had in the gospel this morning, I was hungry, you gave me to eat, I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, I was sick and in prison, and so on. But that is a test of one's faith, of one's love. Then practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift employed for the others, good stewards of God's varied grace. Hospitality is a Christian virtue, it's also an Indian virtue. It's probably one of the great graces of India, I think.


There are other countries, I believe, also, where hospitality, this concern for the stranger, is something very, very important. And many people feel a weak God in the stranger, when you take him in. And many people who come to India, it's one of the great revelations they get in India, you know, it's this great hospitality, the poorest people, as well as the rich, they always offer this hospitality. And as each has received a gift employed for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. We all have these different gifts, some one way, some another. Each has his own gift, or her own gift, and we all use them for the good of one another as stewards. Now Gandhiji always said we're stewards of whatever we possess, our possession, our material possession, and also our gifts. We are stewards, they're given to us, for us to use them in the service of God and others. Whoever speaks is one who utters oracles of God, whoever renders service is one who renders it for the strength which God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. One of the great sayings


is that through all things God may be glorified. And of course in India we have very much that idea. If I see God in every person, in every situation, God is present in your neighbour, it's the same idea. And whoever speaks is one who utters oracles of God, you see. Your speech should come not from you merely, but from the presence of God in you. When you do something for others, do it by the strength of God in you. You don't attribute it to yourself. And it really makes a tremendous difference, you see, sort of spontaneously. You think I've done this, I've done that, I've said this and so on. And then you learn to recollect and realise God has done this through me, God has spoken this through me. Then a tremendous difference comes. We call everything back to God. It will be glory, dominion forever. Then, thanks. The story of the widow's might. Jesus clearly praising this woman for her disposition of love,


of self-sacrifice, giving all that she had, in contrast with the rich people who give their abundance. But there's another aspect to it which I'd like to reflect on, and that is, why give money to the treasury, the temple treasury? Why spend money on temples, churches, when people are in need? And that is a question many people raise today. People are starving, they're in need of medicine, in need of education, build schools, build hospitals, and care for the needs of people, provide them with their living, but don't waste money on churches and temples. Or even if you do, at least let them be very plain and simple, don't spend a lot of money on them. And yet, people's instinct, you know, is quite different. There are fishing villages in Kerala, for instance, where they're just struggling to live day by day, and they'll save up and build a beautiful church, and put most elaborate


decorations into it, spontaneously. They want to have a beautiful church. And same way, people will give money to the treasury of the temple at Tirupati, people spend hundreds of thousands of rupees poured into that temple, day after day, year after year. And so there's a deep instinct in people to give money to the church, to the temple, to building these places. And today people find it difficult to understand, but surely the point is that the church, the temple, remind you of eternal life, that there's something beyond this world. And poor people feel that need much more than rich people very often. The poor people are suffering and in need, but the church, the temple, signifies a something beyond, there's a world of joy, of peace, fulfilment, and they pour their money into that. It gives


them a sense that there's something beyond the miseries of this world. And the question is, which is more important? Is it our temporal life, all the values which it has, or is it this eternal life? And obviously the answer for a Christian and for a religious person is, eternal life is the fundamental value. But of course we shouldn't devalue the temporal goods, and that is the danger in the past. You look around in India, you see all these magnificent temples, and you see all the money went into the temples. The kings and the rajas and so on, they put all their money into these huge, beautiful temples. Sri Rangam, you see, or Meenakshi, or any of the temples, what money went into it? They're priceless, you see, and they're not merely the building, but all the sculpture and all the decorations, and people's lives are centred on the temple, you see. Today you're doing big engineering works and so on, but then


it was the building these temples and decorating them, and providing for the priests, you see, all these priests, you see, useless people, all the money goes to them, you see, all these brahmin priests. But they were keeping the temple going, they were providing the worship, you see, and the people went to the temples to share in that worship. And they were public, you see, temple, and the same with the cathedrals, you see, all over Europe you have these beautiful cathedrals and people lavished all their wealth and money on them, and they were for the people, you see, everybody felt to them. It was the centre of your life, like the cinema or any sports exhibition, you see, or a cricket match. The temple was the centre of their lives, all their recreation, their joy was in that. There was the music and the poetry and the dancing, and all the joy of life was in the temple, you see, in the worship. So it formed the focus of people's lives, and their


lives were focused on the eternal, you see. All this show of decoration, of dance and so on, was to remind you of the eternal, remind the hearts to return to the eternal. That is why, you see, the temples of India, the cathedrals of Europe, show that the heart of the people was turned towards God, to eternal life, and they want to give everything they had for that. Mind you, they neglected the poor, it's quite true, the poor suffered and were neglected, but still the poor people also rejoiced in having these temples. For instance, in Mysore, you see, the Raja of Mysore, he had this beautiful temple there, and he had his palace. And again, you see, the Raja stood for the people, they were proud of having that Raja, his beautiful palace, it all expressed something of them, they wanted to separate it from it. And so all things have a value, which we've lost, you see. And today we think, oh, this is waste,


you see, you want hospitals, you want schools, you want orphanages, you want to care for the poor, and of course you do, you can't deny it. But we shouldn't exchange one for the other, you see, as though it's good enough, as long as you have schools and hospitals and things, you've done what is necessary, but it's not true, you see. And all over the world now, in Europe, in modern Europe, you see, they don't build cathedrals, or very rarely, and they build all these other things, and you've got all these schools and hospitals and universities and engineering and everything that you can want, and people don't find satisfaction in that, you see, they've tried it all, they've found it's not answering their deepest need. And it's an illusion to think, you see, when you've given people all the material advantages they need, and education and culture and the rest, that you've answered their real need. There's a need for God for eternal life in everybody, and in the poor more than in the rich, very often. The poor people are much more


aware of their need for God, and that's why they want a temple, they want a church, they want to worship. And rich people often forget about it, you see, and begin to think, oh, if I can get all these things here I shall be happy. But they're not happy in the end, and they realise it. And that's where we are today, you see, we have to realise that all these things are necessary, we need schools and hospitals and engineering and medicine and all the rest of it, and we have to care for the poor and the sick and the orphans and the widows and everybody in need, but we have to do it always in awareness that there's something beyond, that people need more than medicine and education and anything else you can give, they need God, they need eternal life, there's something in there which will never be satisfied with anything else. And therefore, to give to the treasury, to give your money for an apparently useless thing, you see, is still something very precious and very meaningful, and we have to keep all this in mind. So we can ask for discernment,


not to do one and neglect the other. We shouldn't have temples and churches and neglect the poor, but we shouldn't have schools and hospitals and neglect the temples and churches. Both are necessary for our lives. The second letter of Peter is generally considered to be somewhat late. It's very interesting, it has a phrase which you don't find elsewhere in the New Testament, made partakers of the divine nature. It says, Simon Peter, a servant apostle of Jesus Christ,


to those who obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Saviour. A faith of equal standing with ours. I'm not quite sure what it means there. It may mean he's writing as a Jew to Gentiles, and of course the great event of the early church was his coming of the Gentiles into a church which conceived itself originally as Jewish, and the early disciples were all Jews. So perhaps that's his meaning here. May grace and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. This grace and peace, I always find these rather conventional terms, they're very important because they're the two dominant themes, you see. Grace is this gift of God, God sharing his love with us, and peace is the result of it. Peace is that gift of the Holy Spirit which comes from the grace of God. And then he says, His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness.


Through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises. His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. This sense, you see, that there's a fullness of life and grace being given. It's very important because humanity goes through various stages and we get various gifts of God. But the belief was that with the coming of Christ, the fullness of life and godliness, of knowledge and truth had come. In him dwell all the treasures of knowledge. So that's the gift we feel, that life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. And glory and excellence, glory you know is this shining like the radiance of the sun. And it's the glory of God is the kind of radiance of the divine being. And we're called to share in their glory and excellence, by which he's granted us precious, very great promises


to these who escape from the corruption within the world and become partakers of the divine nature. So, first of all he speaks of these precious and very great promises. And that of course is his hope of eternal life. And it was remembered that then as now people were very much engrossed in the world around them. There were various mystery religions in the Roman Empire which did promise a way out of the world for a new life. But the gospel came with this promise of eternal life to set people free from the present world and from this corruption. You see, you may escape the corruption that is in the world because of passion. And that's what we see today, you see, the whole world is corrupted by passion. Passion for money is one of the greatest and the passion for power. Those two things, power and money, are what people are really seeking and which really corrupt people in the most profound way. Even the best people can be totally corrupted by money and


power. And that is a great danger in life. And this is to set us free from there, to make us partakers of the divine nature. It's a most remarkable phrase. In India, of course, it's very common, this idea we share the life of God, we become God, we become divine, divine nature is in us. But in the Bible they're much more hesitant. God is seen as infinitely great and holy, very much above us. But through the gospel we've been made partakers, you see. We share in the divine nature, people in India, we say the divine being, the divine knowledge, the divine bliss is Satchitananda. We sing every evening that hymn, one day Satchitananda. That is the divine being, you see, which is being the fullness of reality, fullness of truth, wisdom and knowledge, fullness of bliss and love. And that is what we share, we partake of that divine nature. That's the gift of grace which is given us. For this very reason, make every effort. Now, a rather interesting sort of list of virtues. First


of all, to supplement your faith with virtue. We begin with faith in this gift of God, and that has to be supplemented with virtue, that is action. See, faith is in the mind, in the will, and virtue is in action. And virtue is knowledge, and it's the knowledge which comes from action, see, from love, actually. There's a knowledge which is merely mental, academic, and then there's a knowledge which comes from experience, we say. And that is the knowledge which comes from virtue, and knowledge with self-control. And again, you see, you can have knowledge which is in the mind and in the heart, but it has to lead to self-control, it has to control the whole nature. Because you can be very wise in many ways, and then there can be many elements uncontrolled in your nature, and those we have to integrate and bring into that fullness. And then self-control with steadfastness has to be something constant. We can overcome certain


faults with time, but gradually we have to totally integrate the whole personality, as you know, that's really what we seek. Every aspect of our personality has to be integrated, and then we become steadfast, we become fully, what they say in the Bhagavad Gita, Brahmanistita, established in Brahman, established in God, you see, it's permanent. And then steadfastness with godliness, which is piety really, it's not particularly significant, and godliness with brotherly affection. Always the turning to God is also a turning to others, you see. In the Christian tradition that's very, very central, that as we realise God more and more, we realise our relation with others, we discover this brotherly affection. Notice it's an affection, it's a human relationship, it's not simply divine, it is human, and brotherly affection with love, and that is agape, and that is divine love. So it's always the human and the divine have to


come together, just as in Jesus the human and the divine meet, so in our own life this brotherly affection, the human aspect has to unite with the agape, the love which is from God. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This question of the end of the world exercised the early church a great deal, and in the earlier stages the expectation it would come at any moment that the Lord expected himself to be caught up into the air, to meet the Lord, with the living and the dead. And in the early Gospels that seems to be the view. And then as time went on, at the end of the first century, nothing happened. We're reading the second letter of Peter and it says everything goes on as before,


when is he coming? And so they began to get disillusioned, began to put it off, and it seems St Luke was rather one who made this discernment, and he made a distinction. There was a prophecy of the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem which took place in the year 70 AD, and here Jesus says very clearly, as for these things which you see, the day will come that not be left here, one stone upon another will not be thrown down. And that actually took place in the time of Emperor Titus, and Jerusalem was destroyed. And this destruction of Jerusalem was connected with the end of the world. It was thought when that came, then the end would come. And we should remember the Jewish apocalyptic vision was that Israel would be under the dominion of the Gentiles, and then there would be earthquakes and terrible things would happen,


and then the end would come, God would intervene and save Israel. And that is the outlook which they had, and so the destruction of Jerusalem was thought of as being the end. But St Luke has reached the point where he makes a distinction. There's going to be a destruction of Jerusalem and it will all take place in their lifetime, but the end is not yet, and he makes it very clear. Take heed, you do not be led astray, for many will come saying, I'm a he, the time is at hand, do not go after them. So they've reached now the time when they recognized that they could separate this earthly event from the final, and surely that's what we all have to do. There are many people today, have been for the last hundred years, who prophesied the second coming. It's becoming more and more common today when people see many signs of disaster, and it all may happen of course, but I think it's really quite irrelevant, all these external events. And the reality is the


coming of the Kingdom of God, which is the great reality in our lives, and it comes at every moment, and it comes at every crisis in our lives also. And it's to be watching, watch therefore, and pray. That is what Jesus asks, is not to speculate about what's going to happen in the world, but to be ready for the coming of God, of Christ into our hearts, into our lives. And so perhaps we ought all to realize this imminence of the Kingdom, that it's present among us, it's in our midst, and we're all trying to live the life of that Kingdom of God, that eternal life here and now. You see, we make this separation between the temporal and eternal as though eternal was an extension in time. And unfortunately to the Bible, the Jews generally don't seem to have had any clear understanding of eternity. They always thought of it going on forever and ever, an extension in time. But in India we've always had very clearly the knowledge


that time is passing away and eternity is always there. It is the reality of which time is a reflection, a shadow, and we're living in a world of shadows, reflections, and we're trying to be aware of the eternal which is present behind all the changes and chances of this world. So we ask for that grace to discern the eternal reality behind the temporal events and to live in that eternal truth, to live in the presence of God, which is eternal, it's not temporal, to live in that presence. I'll repeat, he writes to the elders among you as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ. And as you know, in the early church you have these elders, presbyters, presbyteroi,


and the church seemed to have been governed largely, almost entirely, by these elders. Peter here calls himself a fellow elder, and in St John's letters he also speaks of himself the elder to the elect lady, the elder to the beloved gaius. So that seemed to have been the universal language of the New Testament. Then in the second century the word bishop, evangelate, took over and priest was introduced and this dropped out. But it's good to remind ourselves that in all the New Testament the ministry in the church was that of the elders. And there he says, tend the flock of God that is your charge. So there clearly was a certain ministry in the church. We've just been having this synod on the laity and the great question is what is the relation between the clergy and the laity? And it really, there is a distinction


there, there's no doubt, and it's already present in the New Testament, you see, that quite clearly there are people who are called to take charge and to use various phrases, but over those in your charge, you see. And the illustration is made of shepherd and his sheep, it comes back of course, it goes back of course to Jesus, I am the good shepherd, and also to the Old Testament. Today we don't find it very meaningful, sheep are not very intelligent animals and to have one person leading them all is not very meaningful. But we have to find other ways of expressing it. And it's still a very big problem, you see, the church tends to be divided between the clergy and the laity, and the present dispensation insists that it's a difference of essence, not merely of degree, which made things even more difficult. And we're trying to get over this kind of division, some being, I was reading a statement of Pope Leo XIII,


not so very long ago, where he said the function of the clergy is to rule, to govern, and to teach, and the rule of the laity is to be ruled, to be governed, and to be taught. So you have a complete separation between the two. And we're trying to bridge that gulf now, and quite clearly there was a problem even now, you see, he says, tend the flock, that is, not by constraint, but willingly, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. So there was people who were in charge, but they were expected to exercise it. And of course, go back to Jesus himself, very emphatic, you see, in St. Matthew's Gospel he says, let no one of you be called rabbi, for one is your master. Let no one be called master, for one is your master, that is Christ. So Jesus doesn't seem to have, he certainly didn't approve


of any great distinction between them. Though again, he did certainly appoint apostles, gave them a certain authority, certainly gave some authority to Peter. So it's not a simple matter, there is authority in the church, there is a certain call to minister to others. But today we try to see it more, as we've often mentioned, in terms of service. You see, a ministry, strictly a diakonia, is a service. And those who are called to minister are called to serve. But of course they have an authority, I don't think one can deny it, or that the necessity, you see, any human society, you do need some who have authority to guide the community, and who have that responsibility. Otherwise it goes to pieces. So I think this is how the early church tried to answer that need. And then it says, when the chief shepherd is manifested, you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. You see, the elder is a shepherd, and the chief


shepherd is Christ, and he simply exercises ministry in the name of Christ. And that, of course, has always been the teaching of the church. Likewise, you that are younger is subject to the elders. They are the elders simply in age, presumably. And again, it's an attempt to create harmony in the community. You cannot avoid distinctions in any community. There are some young, some older, some educated, some uneducated, and some capable, and some less capable. And always you have to find a way of harmonizing. And the best illustrations which St. Paul gives of the body and its members, we haven't even mentioned this morning, that you have the hands, and the feet, and the head, and the heart, and each have their functions. And they're not the same. The feet can't move the body, and the head has a certain function of leading the body, of ordering it. But again,


the head needs the hands and the feet. So that idea of an organic whole, where each one has its proper place, that really is the best understanding of the church and of human society as a whole. And then he says, clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud, gives place to the humble. And humility really is facing yourself below others. And even that person in authority has to place himself below others, not to dictate to them, not to dominate, but to try to bring out what is best in them. And that is the way we see leadership in the church today. They sometimes speak of an animator, somebody who has to bring out what is of value in each one, enable each one to contribute their gift, their capacity to the group. So this is how we try to see it today, and it's very much the same lines as this. And then a wonderful phrase, humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. It's when we learn to recognize the hand of


God in our lives, and to humble ourselves, and to place ourselves beneath the hand, you see, not to try to get free of it or to put ourselves above it, but under the hand of God, you see, to allow that hand to guide, correct us. And that is humility. And then one of my favorite phrases in the New Testament, cast all your anxiety or your care on him, for he has care for you. And that's a wonderful lesson, you see, where most people are troubled by cares, anxieties of various sorts, and they keep worrying and troubling us, and if one can surrender them, cast all your care on him, for he has care for you. The discovery that God cares and that the answer to the problems is in the hands of God. It's very difficult because you've got to do something, you've got to face the problem yourself, and yet you don't do it by yourself alone, you do it with this surrender, you try to allow God to take charge, let him work through you. For the


real tremendous lesson there, if one can learn to make that surrender in all situations, so that God works through you and you don't take all the responsibility on yourself. So often we think we've got to do everything, we're responsible, and of course there is a personal responsibility, and yet it's always dependent on the providence of God. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, and to remind ourselves there are hostile forces in the world, you can't deny it, all over the world there are these hostile forces, they take human form very often and so on, but they're more than human, there are forces in the unconscious which are driving people and causing misery and violence all over the world, and those are what he means by this adversary the devil. And resist him firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brother throughout the world. We are all exposed in some way or other


to the same forces, sometimes it may be very obscure, it comes up in dreams sometimes, or in your own particular situation, sometimes it comes like in Sri Lanka or Palestine or South Africa, it comes to open violence, but always these conflicting forces are there, and we're all exposed in the same way to these powers. Here the second letter, it speaks of this transfiguration, we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who I know this is of his majesty, and one of the great differences between Christianity as a whole and say Hinduism is a place of myth, myth of course is symbolic language and most ancient religion is founded on myth, on these symbolic stories, symbolic figures coming from the depths


of the unconscious and mirroring the universe in a very profound way, and they can take us really, God can reveal himself, in fact did reveal himself originally through the myth, but in the Bible on the whole the myth actually gives place to history, and the main theme of Christianity as some people say the myth became true, we had the myth of the dying rising God, it was common in the Middle East and in Greece and so on, and in Jesus that myth became historic, and the writer here recalls this transfiguration which was a vision you see, when we seek honour and glory from God the Father, the voice was born to him by the majestic glory, this is my beloved son whom I am well pleased, so Jesus was this concrete historic person who died on the cross, and yet in him this myth, this whole presence of God in man was revealed, it's the divine mystery


revealing itself not simply in myth but in a historic person and event, and the transfiguration was one of the great signs of this mystery, normally Jesus lived as an ordinary man, he performed his miracles certainly, but he appeared as a man and people could reject him, they didn't see anything special in him, Nazareth, and he went, but for just this moment there was this vision, and of course such manifestations are not too uncommon, this appearing in a vision of light, one can quote the example of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian saint who used to live in the forest, and a devotee went to see him once, and they were standing in the snow, and he said look at my face, and he looked and his face was shining like the sun, he couldn't bear it to look at it, and in the Eastern Church they spoke of this light of Tabor, this light which shone from Jesus on Mount Tabor, which also shines in the saints, so there is, you see, there is a light, a light is the source of all matter actually,


behind all matter is this light, and sometimes that radiance comes through in a human being and reveals, so they saw this glory of God, and the voice saying this is my beloved son, the recognition that Jesus has this unique relation to the Father, to God, and we were with him on the holy mountain, you see, it's always the record of witnesses, and all through the gospel it's witnesses, what we have seen, what we have heard, and our hands have handled of the word of life, as St. John says, and it was based on eyewitness evidence, it was handed down, it is true, over many decades, but it always came originally from the eyewitnesses, they were witnesses of the resurrection primarily, and the transfiguration was a kind of sort of preparation for the resurrection, and we have the prophetic word made more sure, you do well pay attention to this, the lamp shining in a dark place, but the life of Jesus was seen as fulfillment of prophecy,


you see, the prophets also had had their vision, and Jesus was seen to be fulfillment, that is prophetic word which was established in Jesus, and you do well to listen to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, this is light of truth, you see, which comes to us in the grace of God, and it's essentially an interior light, it may be a manifestation outside, but essentially light of faith is always an interior light which awakens and transforms us, like a morning star rising in the heart, it's a perfect expression, you see, it's illumination which takes place within and gradually transforms the person, and that's what we look for, this inner light of faith and truth, and then you must understand that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came with the impulse of men, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke


from God, and then of course the basis of all genuine religion is all the Vedas or Koran, whatever, they're all held to come from prophecy, from an illumination from above, it means they go beyond ordinary human understanding, the rational mind, and receive this illumination, it can be various levels of it, some very profound, some much less, but the belief is that this prophecy, particularly thinking of course of the Old Testament, but we can apply it to all the prophets of the ancient world, where this illumination was given, see, all different cultures and people, there was this revelation of God to holy men and to people who had this vision, sometimes it's shamans, you know, of America and northern peoples, they had this vision, they had this, what did they call it, visions experience, you see, they would go out and they would receive a vision from above,


and these are the visions which illumine the life of humanity and give us an understanding of something beyond the present, beyond what the ordinary mind can conceive, so there is this prophecy which comes not by the impulse of men, but moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God, and we all have to learn to discern that voice of the Spirit, unfortunately of course there are a lot of illusory voices, and today as much as any time, you get all sorts of revelations and illuminations, and people think they've received a prophetic insight, and they can be quite deceived, a young man came from Pritchett this morning, he wanted to see me, and he sat down on my bed, and for about half an hour he lectured me on the Bible and Jesus and everything, he didn't look at me hardly, he was just simply filled with himself and all that Jesus was doing to him, and I think he was off his head really, you know,


he was convinced, you see, that Jesus was speaking to him and he'd come to proclaim a message to me and so on, but he wasn't thinking of me or looking at me or anything, he was just totally shut up in himself, you see, you get a sort of illusion, you see, like they're just, they think it's all they were. In the Gospel Jesus foretells this destruction of Jerusalem, the place of the 40 years later, and he realized that all his world was collapsing around him, all that world in which he lived, was going to be destroyed, the temple and the synagogues and the whole scribes, the Pharisees, all this world of Jerusalem and Palestine disappeared, the Jews were scattered over the world as they are to this day, and some have returned to Palestine, and he saw that this world


was collapsing, and it was the world which God had created, you see, Jerusalem was the holy city where the Most High dwells, the temple of God was the place where God had come, the glory of the Lord shone in the temple, and we're reading the vision of Ezekiel, and he lived after the Babylonian captivity, and he saw the temple restored, God returning to the temple again, and so Jerusalem was the very city of God, it was where all the hopes of Israel rested, and it was unbelievable that this city should be captured by the Gentiles, and when the time came, the Jews wouldn't give in, it was the most terrible scene in history, they wouldn't give in and they went fighting until they were starved out, you see, the Romans totally surrounded the city, no food could get in, and see they were all dying, and they began to eat each other, those most horrible scenes took place, and then finally the whole thing collapsed,


and so this was the end of all the promises to Israel in a sense, you see, what had built up from the time of Abraham, David, Solomon, the prophets, all this world totally collapsed, and Jesus saw that it was going to collapse, and then he saw beyond that, the time of the Gentiles, and there would be all these signs in the heavens, and so on, to be signed in the sun and the moon, the stars, and the distress of nations, the hexity of the roaring of the sea, men painting with fear and foreboding what is coming on the world, where the paths of heaven will be shaken, and these are the signs of the end of the world there in Jerusalem, and I think we're living, you know, at a similar time, that all this world is going to collapse, all the world we see around us, all these marvels of science and technology, man going to the moon, and all this computer science, and wonders of the world, all this is going to collapse, exactly as the other did, there's no future in it whatsoever,


and we live in a world which is always breaking down, always collapsing, it's happened many times with the Babylonian civilization, and then there's the Persian, and the Greek, and the Roman, one after the other, these civilizations come, and they all collapse in the end, and there's no reason to hold on to them at all, because they're all passing away, and it's precisely when this collapse takes place, when all this is in ruins, that salvation is at hand, look up, your redemption is at hand, and I think this is a lesson we all have to learn, you see, that it's not when all things are going wonderfully, and these great achievements are taking place, that really the future lies, it's when all this begins to break down, and to collapse, and the final collapse, in a sense, was the crucifixion, you see, the Messiah came, all the promises of Israel were beautifully fulfilled, and he does all his miracles, he heals the sick, he casts out evil spirits, and he


is transfigured on the mountain, everything is coming to fulfillment, and then it all ends in a total collapse, the crucifixion takes place, all the powers of evil triumph, and it's the end to that, and then of course comes the resurrection, look up, your redemption is at hand, and I think we all have to learn this, you see, that things are always going wrong, and disasters are taking place all over the world, in individual human lives, and in nations, and so on, it's just like Sri Lanka, you see, it's a beautiful, peaceful little island, a little paradise, and these Tamils and Sinhalese were living together for centuries, quite happily, then something goes wrong, and they begin tearing at each other's throats, killing one another, blowing everything up, and destroying, same thing happened in the Lebanon, same thing happened to some extent in Northern Ireland, everywhere in South Africa, all these things, you see, these violence and conflicts are taking place, and there's no future in all this, you see,


when all this disaster takes place, that the redemption is at hand, and that was a great insight of the Buddha, you know, you see, he saw through all this world, all his sorrow, all his passing, all is unreal, the whole thing is passing away, and then he realized nirvana, he realized the peace beyond all this, and Jesus went through death, through cross, through crucifixion, to this other world, to the resurrection, to the new life, so we all, when things go wrong, and when, see, people are getting ill now, this fever is going round, and people get ill, and they often, it's happened, and it's through this illness, through this breakdown, that people discover themselves, and all over the world, all these, when people get cancer, and when they're dying, and so on, this is when redemption is at hand, see, it's the opposite of what we all think, we all think when everything is prosperous and happy, then we're on the right way, but actually, it's when everything is breaking down,


and we're losing everything, that redemption is at hand, that is, the final salvation comes, so it's a great mystery, but it's also a great comfort, you see, that we see so much disaster around us, and if we take an ordinary human view, you get despair, and misery, and so on, take all the suffering in India today, all these people are starving, and so many villages, you know, where they have no drinking water, one thing, and no basic amenities at all, and yet it's there that the hope of salvation is, you see, that in the midst of all this suffering, and need, there is this mystery of grace, of salvation is taking place, and if we realize it, then change takes place, we no longer grasp after the good things of the world, but ready to accept sin, and suffering, and evil when they come, and to realize that God is present in the midst of all sin, all suffering, all evil, and that redemption is there at hand,


so, as I say, it's a great paradox, great mystery, we have to try to realize it in our lives. This second letter of Peter is rather important, it's generally believed to be somewhat late, and marks the time when the second coming had been delayed, and people were asking, when is he coming, and Peter replies, you see, remember the predictions of the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, what are the reasons they don't think that it's written actually by Peter, it's kind of referenced like that to the apostles, although he was not an apostle himself, then he goes, you must understand the scoffers will come in the last day with scoffing, following their own passion, saying, where is the promise of his


coming, but ever since the father fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation, and that, of course, is the natural result, you have this expectation of the end of the world, and the second coming, and everything goes on just as it was before, and so people get disillusioned, and it's happened many times, of course, in the first century, and then in the year 1000, everybody thought the world was coming to the end, they began to leave their houses to go and prepare for the coming, and there are many people today who are still expecting it at any time, and of course, one said it can come at any time, but then it can also be delayed, in fact, he says a little later, we don't read it today, a thousand years in his sight about a day, and that, of course, is the key to the whole thing, that it's not an ordinary time sequence, if we think in terms of days and years, we get misled, and this is a mystery of beyond time,


and then he goes on to say, they ignore the fact that by the word of God, the heavens existed long ago, and earth formed out of water, and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished, he is trying to show, you see, that the earth came out of the water, which is true, and that at a certain time, it was deluged, it was all destroyed, and that this is a cycle, you see, of things, things come into being and then they are destroyed, they pass away, and that is the whole nature of the universe, it's continually coming into being and then passing away, and by the same token, the heaven and the earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept till the day of judgment, destruction of ungodly men, so this whole universe, you see, is stored up for fire, and probably fire is as good an image you can have of the end of the world, but quite clearly, this creation came into being and it is passing


away, it will pass away, it may take billions of years, we don't know, but again, this is not a question of temporal sequence, the world is passing away until the day of judgment, and the idea, you see, that beyond all this temporal existence, there is the eternal reality, and the judgment is, it is facing eternity, you see, we are all judged when we pass out of this present temporal world and we face the eternal truth, which is always there, you see, we can face it now, or we can wait till death till we have to face it, but always the eternal reality is there, and this temporal world is, as Plato says, a moving image of eternity, you see, it's an image of eternity and it's passing away, but the eternity is always there, and that is the judgment, and that is what we all have to face, so there's deep meaning behind this whole idea. You read these prophecies at the end of the world, and as you know, there are two distinct phases,


first of all, there's the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, which took place some little time later, and then after that, all these trials and tribulations will arise, and the end of the world will come, and it seems that these two are more or less confused together, and in the ancient tradition, also the Old Testament, the prophet foresees certain events in his own lifetime and beyond, and then there's a horizon beyond which is not clear at all, that is, he doesn't see beyond his own horizon, so it seems also that Jesus was in that apocalyptic understanding, and he saw the fall of Jerusalem as a sign, as it were, at the end of the world, and there's a very deep meaning in this, because, you see, time, in a sense, is a convention, we all organize our lives around certain conventions of time, we take this movement of the sun,


of the earth around the sun, and take that as a day of 24 hours, and we organize our life around this concept of a day, and then we imagine so many millions of days, millions of years, and the beginning of the world, and it's an artificial construction, really, it's a useful construction to arrange the world around us in a meaningful way, but it's only a particular construction, and it has no absolute validity at all, and actually, beside physical time, which we measure in that artificial way, there is psychological time, we can experience something in five minutes of the day's time, events may take place in our life which are equal to a hundred years, our whole life may be totally changed in five minutes, and psychologically, it's years


have passed in that five minutes, but physically it's only five minutes, but it's making it with the sun, so time is an artificial construction, actually, like all our constructions, you see, we're always constructing a world around us according to the evidence of our senses and of our minds, and we have to do that, it's like making a map, a map is very useful, and you get the general plan of the countryside, but of course it's not a description of the countryside, it's just a useful tool which you use to make your way through the country, and so all these constructions of time and of space and causality, all our philosophic, scientific constructions are artificial constructions, valid as far as they go, they can be quite accurate, like a map can be perfectly accurate as far as it goes, but it has its limits, and so all these constructions are valid and useful, but they all have their limits, and so also in the bible we get a certain time construction, the


prophets see it in the context of this coming of the kingdom of God, and Jesus sees the fall of Jerusalem in that context, and then the end is seen in that context, and it's a useful map as it were, and it helps us to see that in our own lifetime we can only see so far, we can see this world in which we're living, and we can see with probability that it's going to come to an end, maybe even quite soon, in 30 or 40 years, the whole of this present world as we know it may collapse, and that's as far as we need to go, but we all know that we're moving towards a final end, when time is going to pass away, see time is this construction which we build up around the world, and the whole time-space construction is an artificial one in a sense, valid and accurate in its way, but not a description of reality, and the time will come when this construction breaks down, and the reality appears,


and the reality is eternal life, you see, the eternal world, the eternal life is making itself present to us under these conditions of time and space, and we experience it through them, but the time comes when we pass beyond time, when we no longer see the world in time and space in the present order causality, we enter into the reality, we know the truth, we discover God, the kingdom of God comes, you see, and that is the final reality, so that's the world we live in, with these constructions of space and time which are necessary, and we have to live with them, but they're not final, you see, they're not the reality, and always we've got to see beyond them too, the coming of the kingdom, when the reality is revealed, and we know ourselves as we are known, we know God as he knows us, and that is the end of our lives, so we ask to be able to see beyond the present to this eternal truth, eternal life.


And tomorrow we are going to have a new year in the church, we've been reflecting on these weeks of the end of the world, and now we look forward to the to the new world in a sense, reading the epistle, you are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, and our whole life really is just waiting for the coming of the Lord, and there are many comings, he came in the flesh, Christmas, and he came in the spirit of Pentecost, and he comes into our lives day by day, and that is really this waiting on his coming, he comes in so many different ways into our lives, and we have to be waiting for it,


and I think I had been particularly at this time, waiting of expectation, like our lady was waiting in the Holy Spirit, the coming of the word into her life, and so we're waiting for the coming of Christ, and it comes in all different ways, come to us in our prayer, we discover the presence of Christ within, we get a new awakening to his presence, and it can come to us in our community, the relations in our community, there is a coming of Christ into our community life, and then it can come to us in the situation where we are, the people we're living with, the work we're doing, so all these ways Christ is coming into our lives, and often we can simply ignore it, we can be simply not waiting, not attentive, not aware, and really prayer is being attentive, being watchful, being aware, and that's I think what we all have to learn, it's not saying words, it's not even thinking thoughts, it's a total awareness that God is


present, present everywhere, in everybody, in everything, and he's coming into our lives when we awake to it, when we await on him, when we're watchful, otherwise he passes us by, or we pass him by, it's the same thing. So we all have to ask for this watchfulness, attentiveness, this waiting on God, this realizing the presence of God, we try to realize that presence in our lives. So during this Advent, we ask for the church as a whole to be aware, Christ is coming to the church, to the world, in a new way, it's always new, it came in the past, it's come in the past, it's history of the church, and he's coming today in a totally new way, and we're living in a new world, and the spirit is moving in the world, and Christ's coming is something new for this year, for this, for each one of us, so we ask for grace to be awake, to be alive to the coming. It is the first Sunday of Advent, the coming of the Lord, and we've been celebrating the end of


the world during these last weeks, and the two are very closely related, it says the world passes away, that the kingdom of God comes, and we have to keep the two aspects in our mind, in one sense, everything is passing away every day, the world is passing away, we ourselves, we're all moving to death, and death is the end, and that was a great insight of the Buddha, all is passing, all is sorrow, all is unreal, this whole world is passing away, and the other aspect of it is that in this passing world, God the eternal is always coming, coming into this world, and when we realize the world is passing away, we realize God's coming into the world, it's a paradox in a way, and the great danger today is people think this world is permanent, you see, we all imagine the world we're living in is permanent, at least it's going on for a very long time, and we're not much concerned, but really we've got to


discover the world is passing away every day, and we ourselves are passing away, and we're all moving into death, and at the same time, as we realize that this world is passing away, we realize that the other world, God, the truth, eternal life, is coming into the world at every moment, and we read in the prophecy of Isaiah, oh that thou would rend the heavens and come down, you see, we're asking that this heavens, this all should be passed, and that God should come into the world, and it's a paradox, I say the two go together, as you realize the world is passing, you realize the presence of God, when you think this world is permanent, you forget about God, you see, something very remote, so to realize the passing world, and the presence of God, and message of the gospel is watch and pray, you see, Jesus says watch therefore, you do not know when the master of the house will come in the evening, or at


midnight, or at cocktail in the morning, let he come and find you asleep, what I say to all, I say to all is watch, so the world is passing away, and God is coming into the world, the two aspects of the one reality, as we see the passing world, we see the coming of God in Christ into the world, and as we realize that, then this coming takes place at every hour, so God is coming into the world at every hour, at every moment, and watching is being aware of that coming, and that is really the art of meditation, you see, we're all trying to learn how to meditate, and meditation is sitting and becoming aware, first of all of the body and the world as passing away, and then of the mind and the thoughts and things as passing away, and then as you realize that these things are passing, you know you become aware of the presence, of the eternal presence of the kingdom of God within you, and it's


an awakening, and the whole process watching, waiting before this awareness of the presence, and so we can think of it of the Christ, of the advent of Christ as coming in the past, Christ came, and we can think of it as the future, but we can always think of it also in the present, we're all waiting and watching for that coming into our lives day by day, and hour by hour, and that is meditation, we can do it once or twice in the day, but really whole life should be meditation, it should be awareness that there is a passing world around us, and our own thoughts and feelings, and then in the midst of it all, there is God's presence, the eternal reality, Christ coming into the world, coming into our lives at every moment, and to be aware of that, that is to watch, to wait, that is enlightenment, and in the Buddhist tradition as many know, watchfulness and mindfulness are considered to be the essential virtues, watchfulness and mindfulness, mindful that the world is passing, and aware that something


else, the kingdom of God, whatever name we give to it, Nirvana, is coming into our lives, is present among us, so we ask for this grace of realization, it is a grace, it's a gift of God, to realize that coming of the kingdom of God every moment in our lives. In this revelation of Saint John, which describes the coming end of the world, and it belongs to a class of writings, the Apocalypse, they began in Israel, Daniel is one of the first we have, the second century before Christ, and at this time there were many of these apocalypses, revelations of what was going to come, God would intervene and reveal himself, and John has this particular revelation, and in all of these, we have to see the divine revelation always comes


through a human medium, and it also always comes through a certain historic circumstances, it's true of all the prophets, the word of God comes through, but that word is known, experienced in a particular historical situation, and so we always have to see both the historic situation and the word which is revealing itself, and it comes under a particular time-space understanding, we all have our own time-space, and each people, the Jews at this time, had their own time-space, a very limited time, the world was supposed to be created in 5000 BC, and it was expected to end at any moment, and for space it was the Mediterranean world, the Middle East, and nothing beyond, so within that time-space, the word of God comes, and it reveals itself, the eternal is there in this temporal situation, the infinite in that finite world, so we always have to see


the two sides of it, the divine word, the divine truth, revealing itself under human conditions, historic cultural conditions. So John has this revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show to his servants, what will soon take place, and of course he sees it entirely in that time-space world of his, of the Roman Empire at that time, and the expectation at that time, though it has a meaning for all time, you see, it's a sort of symbol, your time-space world is an image of the whole of time and space, and it's the same with us now, we have a time-space world of 70,000 million years of evolution and so on, but that's only a particular time-space world in which we live and understand things, it's not nothing final about it, so he has his own world and it symbolizes the whole human destiny, it's summed up in this, which he made


known to his servant John, and nobody knows quite who wrote it, probably not the Apostle John, there were many Johns, and it's not at all certain who this, he was a prophet, a seer early, and had this special revelation, who bore witness to the word of God, to the destiny of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw, and it's very interesting that you see this must be written at the end of the first century, and already the human Jesus has almost disappeared in this wonderful figure whom he sees as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and it reveals this tremendous new vision which grew as the church began to reflect on the mystery of Christ. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written for the time is near, and then he always has a sense of blessing, you know, when you read a sacred scripture, it's true of all scriptures actually,


they always say to give a certain blessing with them, and if we listen attentively, if we try to discern the message which comes through to us, you see, in all these, as they have the historic conditioning, that the word of God comes through to us, through these particular words in this situation. And then he writes to the seven churches of the renaissance, seven, as you know, is a sacred number, always signifies fullness, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit of the fullness, seven churches really is represent the whole church, that simply symbolized by this, and then grace and peace from him who is and who was, who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne. We don't often hear again of these seven spirits, that a good deal of the symbolism here, which is very Jewish, and which didn't survive, I think it really is simply a way of speaking of the Holy Spirit, and I say the seven is the number of perfection, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit represent really the fullness of the Spirit, so you could say it is from the


Spirit, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. See this, now the resurrection of Jesus is seen, that now he's transcended time and space, and he's a ruler now of all the kings of the earth, it's a new vision which has dawned. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, he made us the kingdom and priest with God. Notice it centers, you see, on a very human, in a sense, this love, you see, who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, that is a sort of central Christian message, so with all this sort of grandeur attached to it, it's still based on the basic reality of Jesus' suffering, his death on the cross, and made us a kingdom and priest to his God, that you know, you see, it's very Jewish, all this goes back to the Exodus, where it says you should be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, you see, and a king and priest are mediators, a king is one who rules


in God's name, a priest is one who speaks in God's name, and so this is people who are having this relation to God, to him be glory and dominion, he's coming with the clouds and every eye will see him, and always, you know, the coming is with the clouds, it's based on that vision of Daniel, I saw one night a son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and the clouds, you know, represent the beyond, you see, we're here on this earth, and then there is a space between, and the clouds represent the world beyond, so he comes in this transcendent way, and every eye will see him, everyone who cursed him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him, and there are always two aspects of the coming, one is the judgment, and the other, of course, is grace, the salvation, and then I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was, who is to come, the Almighty, very interesting, you see, Alpha and Omega are the first and last


letters of the Greek alphabet, and this was written in Greek, and already we moved out of the Aramaic world, in which Jesus and disciples lived, into the Greek world, and we're thinking now in these terms, and we often compare this Alpha and Omega to the Aum in Sanskrit, the A-U-M in Sanskrit, it's considered to contain all letters, all sound, all meaning in itself, so it becomes a symbol of the word, so you can say Jesus is the Aum, just as he's the Alpha and the Omega, so he's the Aum, the fullness of that word, and yes, that's where we end this bit. So you see, it's a tremendously powerful scripture, this, very difficult to understand in the past, but still full of deep meaning for us still today, so it's good to reflect on it while in this time. I read today the memory of Saint Andrew the Apostle, and we read the story of Jesus choosing


his apostles, and it makes us reflect on this call of the apostle, and normally we think of it in terms of preaching the gospel, and today we emphasize every Christian has a call to be an apostle, part of our Christian calling, and you can think of it in terms of preaching, or of teaching, or of healing, and today, perhaps above all, people think of it in terms of liberation, Jesus preached this gospel of liberation for humanity from all suffering, from all oppression, for all injustice, and obviously all these are apostolic callings, and they occupy most of the church, but there is another calling which people reflect much less upon, it was expressed by our founder, Swami Abhishek Ramananda, and he wrote that Jesus didn't come so much to preach any particular message, there is a message, or to do anything particular, there's certain he did,


but to communicate an experience. Jesus had this unique experience of God, which he expressed in terms of Abba, Father, and everybody, critics today understand that what was unique in Jesus was this Abba experience, and it was unique, Abba was a very sacred word, wonderful familiarity, Jesus knew God as no one else had known him, he knew him as Father, and himself as Son, totally sharing in that knowledge and love of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, and he came to communicate this experience, that his disciples should share in his Sonship, they should know the Father as he did, and share in the Spirit, which he communicated, and his essential gift to the church was the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we all receive at Baptism, which confirms the confirmation, which is renewed in the Eucharist, renewed day by day in prayer, and in service, whatever we may do, so in a sense this is a fundamental insight,


and I think we can call our two founders, Mawshanabi and Shikpananda, as Apostles, they came to India with this message that the Christian Gospel is an experience to be lived, and they created this Ashram as a place where this experience could be shared, could be lived, and if we think of it deeply, obviously all these other functions of an Apostle spring from that, unless you have an experience of God, you cannot preach the Gospel, the Gospel isn't words, it isn't simply ideas, it's a communication of Christ himself, you see, you have to experience Christ within, if you're going to share him with others, communicate him to others, and so with all the rest, whether it's teaching, or healing, or liberating, it comes from a certain experience of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, and if that is lacking, then all the rest has very little meaning, and perhaps there's a danger today, you see, people are so much occupied


now with this call to just social justice and service the poor, that they may be tempted to think that it's just going out and liberating people, serving the poor, and so on, and forget that unless that service and that liberation comes from the experience of God within, unless it comes from the Spirit of God, it's not going to be really effective, and it's not really going to be the Gospel, you see, an atheist can work for social justice, and an atheist can be very concerned with the poor, there are many Marxists who are much more zealous than Christians are in liberating humanity and serving the poor, but they do it from a totally different motive, and what the Christian brings is precisely the experience of God in the Spirit, which is a source of liberation, which is a source of love, which is a source of freedom, which is a source of human fulfillment, so I think we have a very special calling, and very few people recognize it, you see, you can't


see an experience, when somebody is preaching the Gospel, you can see him, when they're working in a hospital, you can see them, when they're in an action group, you can see them, but when they're experiencing God in an ashram, you don't see anything, what are they doing there, sitting about doing nothing, and that's the problem, you see, and when you talk of contemplation, experience of God, they just wonder what you're talking about, and yet it really is the source of all, you see, all preaching and teaching and service and liberation comes from this experience of God in the Spirit, and the Spirit experiences God, you see, we have the body and the soul, and we experience God in some measure in the body and the soul, but the essence of the experience of God is in the Spirit, and Jesus came to communicate the experience of God in the Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit uniting Himself with our Spirit, and Paul says the Spirit knows all things, even the deep things of God, and in the Spirit we


know God, we experience that mysterious reality, and then it comes out in our life, in our work, our service, our preaching, our teaching, whatever we may do, so I think we need to reflect deeply on this, as I say, an ashram is, many people today think it's quite meaningless, you know, I went to a theological conference in Pune once, and there were a lot of these very jealous young theologians, and many of them were saying, you know, ashrams and Upanishads and all this, this all belongs to the past, now we're concerned with the poor, with the sufferings of humanity, we go out and serve, and obviously one part of it is right, but you see, did you think you could ignore this whole experience of God in the which is not only in Christianity, but also in India. You see in India we have a long experience of God in the Spirit, the Upanishads, for an awakening of humanity to the experience of God in the Spirit, but in India, we have a long experience of God in the Spirit, the Upanishads, for an awakening of humanity,