Our life’s mission is to give Jesus Christ all of our love and we give him all of our love by serving him.
It’s a great pleasure and a great honour to be here. A particular honour to be here with you today, because this is my second favourite time of the church year. It’s not like it’s no Christmas, but Passion Tide is a truly terrific season in the church because today we are veiled. All our images our statues, even our crucifix. Everything that could possibly be covered is covered, all the things that might prove a distraction. Not that these things normally are a distraction because images and statues, crucifixes and stained glass, beautiful art, all of this can and should help us to think about our faith and can help us to pray and worship with real heart and souls.
But for these two weeks, in all the year, we try to look, especially beyond all of these things, we try to see past them. We try to strip away all those wonderful extra bits that the Christian faith has to offer and to focus on the one single and unchangeable call – Jesus Christ. The season of Lent is a gift given to the church. It’s a gift because it’s a time where we can pause and think about what really matters. It’s a gift because it’s a time where we can block out all the distractions that are in our life.
It’s a time where we can forget for a moment those things that might worry or excite us. The news, especially at the moment, perhaps food or sports or work or money, too much or too little. It’s a time to forget about all those distractions, to veil them, if you will, and to ask, what do we have left? What do we have left when everything in our lives is veiled? Well, if you’re a Christian, the answer is always your relationship with Jesus Christ at the end of the day, that’s all we have, when we’re all alone. That’s all that we have in our darkest moments, That’s all that we have. And so this passion Sunday is a gift because this passion Sunday, we remember that when all else fails, we have our relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the only guarantee, the only real, true and solid thing in our lives, our friendship with and our love for God. Everything else that can be good in our lives, be it money, be it food, be it the relationships, we have everything else that is good in the church, statues, crucifixes, stained glass, beautiful art.
All of these things are lovely and good, but they’re only lovely and good as much as they feed into as much as they nourish that love that we have with God. And this is why the prophet Jeremiah had to write his prophecies. This is what let the ancient Israelites down, because they let their adornments, they let their rituals and their laws and their customs become the thing that they loved rather than God. They began to love their ceremonies so much that they forgot what those ceremonies were for.
And so they applied those ceremonies to strange gods and idols in high places. And this is why God promises, Jeremiah, that soon he will give Israel a new heart, one which has the law written on it, a heart, which truly knows God simply and purely. And so today we veil, today everything is veiled so that we can remember what it means to worship, what it means to be a church rooted in the life of the sacraments, as this church most wonderfully is, because the sacraments have ritual and they do have ceremony and they have great beauty.
But when we veil most of that, we can see that at the centre of every sacrament is simply Jesus Christ, at the centre of every sacrament, and especially in the sacrament of the mass, there is simply Jesus Christ offering us himself, offering us his love. And so what a joy it is to be in a church that celebrates the mass daily, because here in this church, you are a people who have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ daily, to experience his offer of love daily and daily, have the opportunity to love him in return.
Because when everything is veiled, you find that the one thing that you can truly rely on is Christ’s love for you, and you realise that the only thing that you can do in return is to desperately love him, because how could we not love Jesus Christ? St. Paul makes it clear in the letter to the Hebrews that Christ came to serve. He served his fellow man. He offered up prayers for the whole world. Jesus Christ came and he suffered.
And he died for us. He suffered and he died. That he might be the source of eternal life, the saviour of all creation. How could we not worship Jesus Christ? How could we not love him in return? Much of the world out there looks on Christianity at best as an oddity, slightly eccentric, something that’s perhaps a little foolish or not that bright. But what could be wiser than giving Jesus Christ all of our love? What could be sainer all things than obey him the very saviour of the world?
When everything is veiled, we can see clearly what the meaning, what the purpose of our lives as Christians is, the purpose of our lives as Christians is to love Jesus Christ who loves us so deeply. It’s to love Jesus Christ because he loves us so deeply, and so the question is, what does it look like? Loving Jesus? Well, to love Jesus is to do two things, especially it is to worship him in prayer and sacraments, as this church does so wonderfully, and it means to obey him, it means to serve him just as he was willing to serve all of us.
Jesus himself says, if a man serves me, he must follow me wherever I am, my servant will be there to. Our life’s mission is to give Jesus Christ all of our love and we give him all of our love by serving him.
This is how Jesus Christ loves us and saves us by giving us the chance to serve him. Because if anyone serves me, he says, my father will honour him. When everything is veiled, we can remember just what it means to serve Jesus Christ, because when everything is veiled and there’s nothing to distract us, there’s only one thing left to do to serve Jesus means declaring his love to the world around us. There’s nothing left to look at in here.
Everything is now focussed out there. To serve Jesus Christ means failing. It means sometimes failing. Even those pains or those joys in our lives that can prove a distraction to serve Jesus Christ means rededicating ourselves to being the sorts of people who are, as the parable says, a grain of wheat falling into the ground, dying to ourselves, to our own wants and wishes, and serving Jesus, obeying Jesus, declaring the love of Jesus, and so producing an amazing harvest.
It means being a parish, most of all that loves its community, loves its local area, and wants to share Jesus with all the people that are in its. When everything is veiled and the only thing that we have to focus on is Jesus Christ, we have a chance to remember that voice from heaven saying I will glorify my name again. God will glorify his name. He is glorifying his name, and he glorifies his name by sending it out to everyone, everywhere.
He glorifies his name by having churches just like this one, rooted in the community, adoring in the sacraments and evangelising out in the world. God glorifies his name by asking us to love him. And to love him means to obey him. And to obey him means to spread the gospel. To love Jesus means wanting to introduce him to everyone that we meet. I started this sermon by saying that the season of Lent is a gift, it’s a gift given to the church, an opportunity for us to pause and think about what really matters.
And it’s a particular gift to have these two weeks when everything is veiled, because then we have the opportunity to see the one thing that really matters in our lives. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ to the centre of our lives, loving us and asking us to love him, asking us to love him by proclaiming him by word and sacrament to the community around us. Lent is a time to rededicate ourselves to that love at times, rededicate ourselves to that evangelistic task so that when Easter comes around, we are ready to share Jesus with everyone that we meet so that when Easter comes around, everyone that we meet can be loved, can be comforted and can be held in the arms of Jesus Christ.