This week I was led to a cartoon on the internet of a man who was sitting on a tiny desert island in the middle of the ocean. The caption read “Day 41 and all I still see is ocean”. What the man didn’t see in the cartoon was that in reality he was sitting on the summit of an underwater mountain. All around him in the ocean was all manner of life, schools of fish, whales, porpoises playing and even a submarine was cruising by under the water, totally unseen and unknown by the man. He didn’t see these things because his perspective was challenged by the circumstances in which he found himself.
Over the last week I have been reading about just such a man in the life of Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, who had the same kind of life view (as a man sitting on an island in the middle of the ocean) until a terrible illness came upon him and he was brought very near death for several days. Upon awakening from a coma and regaining his life back, he wrote a book about his near death experience, a book that is currently in our library called ‘Proof of Heaven’
In his book, Dr. Alexander describes another life outside of this one that most believers already take for granted. Most of us know without doubt that heaven is for real, some because we have been there in a near death experience like Eben Alexander, but most because we believe what Jesus told us about the place where he was going to prepare a place for us.
But Eben Alexander had not been one of those Christians who believed, in fact he was a nominal Christian who did not believe it at all – but through the mercy of God, he was given a chance to not only witness the life hereafter for himself, but was to be able to tell his story to others, so that maybe, they too, might believe.
Dr. Alexander has much to report in his book that should be of interest to nearly every one of us, but the main theme of what he has to say is what we believers already know; that God loves us and lives within us and is present in all of creation. That the basis of everything is in a word . . . Love.
In today’s Epistle reading Paul tells us “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The law that Paul tells us about is like the man sitting on a desert island in the middle of the ocean. The law keeps us safe, but it also imprisons us in a one dimensional world view until faith comes and (Christ) is revealed to us. We know that Christ lives within us and that we live within him. Through the prayers and the liturgy and thru our personal meditation we know that we are in fact part of an existence hidden from our eyes . . . but not hidden from our hearts. We know that Love is without a doubt, the basis for everything. Not some theological, abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day to day kind that everyone knows and experiences-the kind of love we feel when we think about our families, our spouses and children, or even pets which we hold dear to our hearts. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but completely unconditional.
Jesus showed us though his life and death and actions that this is the reality of all realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of all truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it and embody it in all their actions – that God is Love.
That God is love was demonstrated in today’s gospel message, as Jesus meets a man possessed by a legion of demons. The demons of course know exactly who Jesus is, and beg him not to be sent into the abyss, as they call it. Jesus seems to agree to their request and instead sends them into a herd of swine nearby. And so the man is saved, as are the demons, but only for a moment. Because even the swine know that they are better off dead than to be the host of evil in the sight of God and they all run off a nearby cliff ridding themselves of evil even as they end their lives.
The gospel shows us that even as love has come into the world to save us, so even has evil been rooted in the world since the beginning in order to destroy us. People of all ages have been subject to the evil of this world since the beginning. In the Old Testament lesson this morning Elijah flees for his life because the believers of Baal and the king want to kill him because he spoke the truth just as the men of Paul’s day wanted to kill him because he spoke the truth. And people of Jesus day killed him because He was the Truth.
And the truth is that God is love and nothing, neither death nor persecution nor tribulation can ever separate us from God’s love.
You and I were meant for a purpose that is so far beyond the existence of this world as a mountain is higher than the tiny ants that live beneath it. How do I know this? I know because the Christ who lives in me loves the Christ who lives within you. I know, because I too have had a near death experience and it was nearly identical to many others that I have read about. I know that that God lives in the love we share with each other and as a single consciencness among many millions throughout His creation.
But there are many today who are deceived into thinking that this life is all there is. They are much like a man sitting on a desert island looking out into an empty expanse of ocean. They have no clue of what is actually around them and because of this, they look to make the most of it by seeking power, glory, wealth and all the things this world offers those who willingly bend to its desires.
One of the worsee in this case was Adolf Hitler who took evil to an extreme not only by the murders and horrendous acts he committed against mankind but also by committing himself to the occult and to the worship of that which is evil in God’s sight. It is said that Hitler invaded Austria at the beginning of WWII for only one reason, that was to recover for himself, the spear of destiny. This was the spear point that was used to finally kill Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross. The spear tip, Hitler believed, enshrined within it a spirit of power (a demon) that he could use to bring about a new world order. Had it not been for God and the saints of light fighting against the Third Reich, seventy-some years ago this month, we may have all been speaking German right now for the power of evil is great . . . but the power of God is far, far greater.
These days today are perilous times for a people of faith. The world is slowly turning to embrace a spirit of evil that Hitler could only have dreamed of. In the future Christ tells of a time when his followers will be persecuted and hunted down and killed . . . and in fact it is already happening. The Vatican tells us that over 100,000 Christians died for their faith last year and the year before last. The numbers are staggering but will indeed grow as the end draws near.
I believe that you and I and this church are needed at this time and in this place to offer hope and God’s love to a broken world. It is through faith in your prayers and in our liturgy that we offer each week, that those who need us will find us, and indeed they already are. This week we will surpass the 2,000 visitors mark on our website and thousands throughout the world will read this sermon this week that you have just heard today. As small as you may think we are as a group, we are making a tremendous difference in the lives of those who have found this church. And as long as we remain faithful to Christ, there is no telling what the future lies for us who believe in His Word.
Finally I would like to relay to you a paragraph from the man who had the near death experience, Dr. Eben Alexander from his book Proof of Heaven . . . “I was blind, but now I see,” now took on a new meaning as I understood just how blind to the full nature of the spiritual universe we are on earth-especially people like I had been, who had believed that matter was the core reality, and that all else- thought, consciousness, ideas, emotions, spirit- were simply productions of it.
This revelation inspired me greatly, because it allowed me to see staggering heights of communion and understanding that lie ahead for all of us, when each of us leaves the limitations of our physical body and brain behind.” Amen