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Sunday 19 June 2022: Trinity 1, Twelfth in Ordinary time, Proper 7

God is always finding us
Isaiah 65:1-9; Galatians 3:23-39; Luke 8:26-39

By Andrew Shamel
Chaplain of Lincoln College, Oxford

Context: a Eucharist in a market town, with a diverse congregation of all ages
Aim: to remind us that God is never far and that we are called to embody that truth for others

As the Easter bells fade into memory, here on the other side of Trinity Sunday, it is easy to forget that we are now and always called to be an Easter people: living our lives in the light of the Resurrection, our hope resting in the one who is life and love stronger than death.

NEAR TO US IN DEATH

This God of our Easter Faith is always coming to us, always coming to meet us where we are. Our reading from Luke’s Gospel today finds Jesus meeting a man who is as good as dead: his body the site of a demonic occupation, cast out of his home by his friends and family, literally living in the tombs. He has become bounded by the death of his sense of self and the death of his sustaining relationships: he is living in the house of death itself. And it is into this darkness that Jesus comes, unafraid and with love.

For those of us who live comfortable, secure lives, it can be easy to forget how closely we all live to death of one kind or another. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship or a dream for the future, or the self-destructive death of sin, we all live on the edge, between death and life, and it is here that Jesus comes to find us.

This story is part of a sequence of encounters Jesus has, treading the line between life and death and showing how God’s life and love remain stronger and more real. Just before meeting the man in the tombs, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Finding themselves caught in a storm, the disciples feared for their lives. After calming the storm Jesus playfully chides them for their lack of faith. The disciples are learning that with Jesus, there is no need to fear death because, in comparison with God’s love, shown to us in the faith, ministry, and Passion of Jesus, death is a small and feeble thing indeed.

From this close encounter, Jesus leads his friends to this man possessed by a mob of demons, again showing how knowledge of God in Christ can free us from the death of sin and isolation, of broken relationships and self-destruction.

And finally, after leaving the man freed from the chains of death and demonic occupation, Jesus rounds out his demonstration of the power of life over death by healing a bleeding woman and raising a little girl from the dead.

Throughout, by trusting that God’s love can reach us, even on the point of death itself, the people Jesus heals and the people who love and care for them find that that love is carrying them, lifting them up, breathing life into their lives.

ALWAYS COMING TO US

Isaiah reminds us that, as Jesus shows us in his life, God is always coming to us, always showering us with love:

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,

to be found by those who did not seek me…

I held out my hands all day long

to a rebellious people,

who walk in a way that is not good,

following their own devices

And Paul reminds us that even before Christ came, God was preparing the way, entering into covenant with God’s people, demonstrating a way of faithfulness that leads to life.

It is not the case, of course, that times will always be good. If the past two years of pandemic have taught us nothing else, we have learned that troubled times come to all of us. Easter faith promises that however bad things may be, God is there, working to bind together what has been broken and to redeem that which has been lost. Indeed, as my old bishop liked to remind us, ‘resurrection only works on dead things.’ By recognising when we are living in the tombs, whether the tombs of circumstance or tombs of our own making, we can look up and find Jesus already there, waiting, ready to free us for life and love.

GOING WITH JESUS EVERYWHERE

And part of that freedom, which was imparted at Baptism and which we re-enter each week at the Eucharistic table, is the call to go with Jesus to those places of death and desolation.

Whoever has put on Christ in Baptism is called to follow him into the tombs and dark places, to enact and embody his love for the world. And so may this be our hope and our prayer, that we, like Jesus, may always be found seeking those who need that love most and that in the seeking, we may find and share the life and love which make all things new.

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