Simply The Best
What are the best moments in your life? No doubt you think immediately of your family. Maybe meeting your life partner, your wedding day, the birth of your first child, your first grandchild. For some Celtic supporters winning the European Cup in 1967 is the best moment in their lives. For the Olympic athlete Jess Ennis it is her gold medal in London 2012 and the birth of her son Reggie. For the New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter it was winning the Rugby World Cup as man of the match in 2015. For Neil Armstrong it must have been being the first man to walk on the moon. I suppose some Lottery winners will regard their windfall day as one of the best in their lives. In the normal course of life and living there are key moments like passing your driving test and driving on your own for the first time or achieving something special. If you are in the Police or Ambulance or Paramedic Services, saving a life must rate very highly. Making a significant difference in someone’s life and setting them on a good pathway is surely a great moment for teachers. Helping to bring health to people and personally caring for a terminally ill person are most rewarding human experiences. Maybe a very special holiday always to be remembered. When we think about it, most of us can think of many best moments in our lives and they may be of equal value though different in character.
But where is what we are doing this morning? Is this among your very best moments? Is this simply the best? For you? Is it one of the high points of your life to be this close to the Living Lord Jesus? Are you able to understand and absorb the moment? Do you connect with God through Jesus? Is this a blessed, transcending, uplifting time that puts all else into better perspective and assures you of eternal salvation? Is this touch of heaven what being a Christian is all about?
Christianity is about the underlying issues of our lives. To modern sceptics, agnostics and atheists, Christianity’s claims are nonsense. And the liberal churches of which the Church of Scotland is certainly one tend to emphasise the more visible and social issues in order to gain a foothold in today’s media driven agenda. So it is left to the individual person of faith to realise and live out the truths of Christianity. That means you and me. But we should be encouraged. We are only here because many others before have travelled this self same path through life. Isaiah the prophet left a rich testimony. He calls the poor and hungry to the spiritual feast of the love of God. This is not pie in the sky – it is a real and practical means of coping with daily life. He says your soul will delight in the richest of fare. The presence of God can transform our everyday experiences into lovely things. It lifts us above the humdrum and gives dignity and purpose to all that we are. God does not have big shops on the edges of cities for people to go to to find Him. It is an in inner spiritual dimension that God meets his people – His loved and his own – as a hymn from our childhood says.
Peter Thiel is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. He also co-founded PayPal and is now a multi billionaire. Last week he was quoted as saying that single digit millionaires in America struggle to access justice in the legal system. This provoked some rye comments such as “Peter Thiel is fighting for the little guy, the everyday people who maybe only have a few million in the bank”. And “Give me your tired, your poor, your single digit millionaires yearning to breathe free”. Imagine Jesus saying’ "Come to me all you poor single digit millionaires and I will give you rest”. America’s scale of riches and its accompanying griefs is greater than those of any other nation. It does not represent the best of life however. Wealth brings a terrible arrogance to the human spirit.
For Isaiah spiritual riches are better than material riches. To know God well in life is a great joy, he says. The life of faith is a huge blessing. He concludes 'he has endowed you with spendour'. St Paul knew something of this spiritual splendour also. In Romans 5 he writes 'Therefore, since we have been made righteous through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God'. He adds 'God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us'. The Lord’s transformation of Saul from pious but extremely zealous Jew with a destructive, vengeful and violent nature into this paradigm of spiritual redemption overflowing with love and humanity, compassion and care shows the consistency and faithfulness of God to his people. 'While we were still sinners Christ died for us...we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation'. Simply the best.
All this is guaranteed to us in this sacrament of Holy Communion. It is not a magic rite. It is a physical historical personal connection with Jesus from his days on earth and it is our collective recognition of Him as our Risen Saviour and Living Lord. It is a taste of heaven to come. These small portions are our baby food. As much as we can cope with while remaining human on earth. But we shall be transformed. One of the Holy Communion prayers says 'This is the table of the bread that shall last and the wine that shall never hurt'. The elements of Christianity, spiritual love, peace, forgiveness, healing and personal happiness are uns'. urpassed in human experience. Their meaning is deeper and their reference far higher and further than anything else. Remember this in your last days and hours and minutes. For it is given to you to leave this life in the love of God for you.
But we can also look at the visible examples of Christianity to see that it is Simply the Best. Think of the most famous people of the 20th century, the most influential, the most highly regarded, the best. They are not Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot. They are not Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. They are not Stanley Matthews or Pele or Muhammad Ali. Not even Churchill. They are Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul I, Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa. They each had a profound and lasting influence on humanity. But they did so with words and actions and not weapons, with Christian faith and not political power. They became examples of Christ in the modern world. They proved that His claims are still true and that His way is Simply The Best.
This is also the time in the Christian year called All Saints and All Souls. Christians throughout the world remember those from past years whose faithful witness carried on the torch of faith from one generation to the next. We do that in a humble way here. Are we not glad and thankful for those who built this Church with their own money and skills and who populated the pews for decades making it a living church and not just a building made up of bricks and wood? Do you think that in many years to come people will worship here and express thanks to our generation for not giving up on Jesus Christ in a difficult time for Christianity in our land? It is not just the stars in the firmament of Jesus Christ who matter. It is all the faithful Quiet in the Land throughout the world whose lives are hidden in Jesus Christ who are Simply The Best.
'Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Thro' this world of toil and snares, If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o'er, Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o'er To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.
I am weak but Thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I'll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee'.
But the Christian Season of All Saints and All Souls is not just about the social history of Christianity in the world. It is about communion with the living saints in heaven. Hebrews 12 begins 'Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart'.
And Jesus said 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him'.
'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Whoever said such words? Simply The Best.