Remember. Way. Truth. Life.

Philip Morgan, 19 June 2016

Isaiah 65: 1–9; Luke 8: 26–39

Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us, that in your light we may see light: the light of your grace today; the light of your glory hereafter. (Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester under James I and Charles I)

A story used to go about at college: an elderly clergyman was invited to preach by this vicar on one of the Sundays after Trinity. He took a sermon out of his files and, on the Sunday morning, began by saying, ‘The message of Easter is always with us’. Well, you know what goes around, comes around … and now, this elderly clergyman says to you, ‘The message of Easter is always with us’ and begins a story about the crucifixion and resurrection.

In the beginning it was dark. The three of them were in a world without form, an unimaginably vast space. They could see no stars, so there must have been some great covering above them. They had no consciousness of how far it was. They knew they were under the providence of God, waiting to feel the beating of that new heart which would mean the Messiah had come; at the moment, though, they had no idea where they were. There had been light. They had seen the light, but it had existed in some other world. Something too awful to recall had happened, and the source of light had been cut off in a cataclysmic roar of sound. It was as if the world had been torn in two by a fall of rock and stone.

Well, they had each other. To be one of three was better than being alone. They edged their way along, holding hands and moving very slowly until the one in front came to a rock face, another part of God’s creating. She felt the rock. They all felt it. Now they could follow something, even though they didn’t know where it would lead them.

They kept going. Time passed. They were finding it difficult keeping together. They were still feeling their way as a trio, but there was no unanimity. Each had their own idea of what was best to do. They still had each other, but they didn’t know what to do about each other. The other had become a threat, one who might bring it all to an end. His breathing became frightening. She was too close. Yet they needed to be close to one another. Each of them needed assurance.

They were getting trapped in their feelings. And the rock was closing in. They could feel it on both sides a few inches away from their shoulders. They were in a narrow passage. The rock was bearing down on them from above. There was no space. They were suffocating. They were being buried. The passage seemed endless. They crawled. They were at their last gasp. They were going to die. This was the end.

Something they could not get their minds around was happening to them, cracking open old ideas and sweeping away long-held prejudices.

And then … it was different. They were released into another openness. Who, or what, had moved the stone? It was still dark, and away from the now all-too-familiar wall of rock they didn’t know where to go. At least they were no longer enclosed. They could breathe again. They still had no idea where they were. But something was vibrating in the air. Something they could not get their minds around was happening to them, cracking open old ideas and sweeping away long-held prejudices. They went on. They became aware something was changing, had changed, for ever. The darkness was almost imperceptibly being overcome by a new light. This was a world they had never experienced. Where they had expected bare desert, there was a garden carpeted with flowers. They had been born again. They were trembling and afraid.

But they felt the beating of the new heart, that vibration of the Spirit. They looked up and around. At the end of the garden a meadow, and at the end of the meadow a figure in a hat – the gardener? The gardener of the new world? Climbing over a stile and going into the wood beyond. He looked round at them, beckoned to them, then disappeared into the wood. In the vibration of the Spirit, they heard words: ‘Remember. Way. Truth. Life.’ Somewhere beyond, they could hear noises and see bright lights. They couldn’t tell if it was a joyful fireworks display or threatening explosions. They followed. And we are following them.