Readings: Hosea 11:1-11, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21
Enhanced Reality is much in the news. Latterly, we have been pleased by the Government’s exemption of incense from its list of performance enhancing drugs, even if it is. Or take Pokémon Go. I’m fortunate to work with younger people so they teach me all the things I need to know. This church, for example, in the course of the last week, became a Pokestation, with lots of people inside the building looking for the Pokémon go creatures. I had that sense of enhanced reality when I was having lunch in the church and a colleague told me that I had one on my plate – called Crabby. “I can’t see it” I said,” and anyway it’s crabby who is eating” The creatures in Pokémon Go all have a religious genesis, as they take their origin from the world of Japanese Shinto-ism. In that sense, I find them a useful reminder of the fact that our faith, too, gives a world of enhanced reality, where we are able to see beyond the veil to a greater reality. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote “The world is shot through with the grandeur of God.” He had the visionary and poet’s eyes to see it. All our readings today point us to a greater reality, of life beyond the veil of tears. And we desperately need this visions of what might be right now.
Take the first reading from Hosea for example. Here is a love story, where the Prophet’s own situation is used by him to reflect on the love of God which will not let us go. His wife had abandoned him and become a prostitute, but he never gave up his love for her, and used it as an analogy for God’s love for us, ever faithful ever constant. Or the reading from Colossians, where “You have died”, writes Paul, “and your life is hidden with God.” But the ultimate blast of enhanced reality comes, of course from the Gospel set for today, in which Jesus says “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.” The enhanced reality of our faith, therefore gives us an alternative world view which takes us above and beyond the tragic and depressing realities we see around us on the surface. So I want to take the perspective of our faith for a short reflection on just two recent manifestations in our contemporary life, as I believe that they help us greatly. The first in Brexit, and the second is the sickening violence we have seen in many parts of the world including France. Both are bewildering and at times can seem overwhelming, but our faith teaches us that they are not.
Let’s look first at the unfamiliar landscape we find ourselves in in this country post Brexit. The uncertainties around us are enormous – is it brave new world in which we are set free from the shackles of a rigid, secularist, Napoleonic project, or is it a sinister rise of introverted faux-nationalism, in which we become the hermit Kingdom before we rip ourselves apart in a Balkanisation of our already dis-United Kingdom? It is of course a coin with two sides, and I do believe that the churches and the faith communities have a particular role, as they always have had, in raising the sights and vision, so that we constantly become aware of the enhanced reality which is us through our faith. Let’s take one example – the dramatic rise in hate crimes since Brexit, in which those who espoused this poisonous world view have been somehow emboldened. Threats against Poles, threats against Jews, threats against Christians, all are presents in a political landscape where generic groups of people are targeted as the source of all our woes. History teaches us that there are parallels with the world of Germany in the 1930’s. In this toxic environment, the Church will continue to stand firm in rejecting all branding of people by generic type. We are the first and only truly genuine multi-national, where are links with our brothers and sisters in the faith re worldwide. So for the sound of slamming doors post Brexit, expect to hear the quitter sound of doors being opened. On a small and local scale, the invitation to this Parish to celebrate our common faith in Santiago de Compostela is already on the table for next year, and it’s up to us whether we respond. There is also a reassurance job to be done, as I was doing this week with a very scared Polish family, already seeing themselves amongst the long line of deportees with their belongings in a handcart. We have seen this before. So in this new world, it is up to us to make something positive out of it, to raise the sights, to be vision led, and to see the enhanced reality which our faith gives us.
Similarly, in the frightening spectre of random violence which we experience all around us -be that in gun crime in the United States, or in the violence of so-called Islamists throughout the world – in France, in Tunisia, in Kabul, in Pakistan, in Egypt, in Syria, in Brussels, in Munich, in Istanbul or anywhere else. Recently, I felt very close to the grief of my Turkish friends, having been in Istanbul airport when the bomb went off, killing so many innocent people. All violence against innocent people is sickening and is a blasphemy against God and humanity, dramatically symbolised by the murder of a priest while saying Mass – reminiscent for us, in this country, of the murder of St Thomas Becket at his altar in Canterbury Cathedral, or for Latin Americans in the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, or for Filipinos in the murder of Archbishop Alberto Ramento, for Ugandans in the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum, or for Egyptian Copts the murder of Father Raphael Moussa at his church in Gaza earlier this month. Here again, the church will bring a different perspective and will never retreat into the world of fear. Listen to these words of Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church on the murder of Father Raphael Moussa “What must be considered very clearly and with great concern however is that an attack on any individual member of a society is an attack on that same society and what it stands for, so our prayers are not only with those who have suffered these unspeakable and horrid violations, but for the society that is undermined and made more vulnerable with each and every one of these incidents” . Or these of Pope Francis on the murder of Father Jacques Hamel“ The world is at war, but it is not a war between the religions.” We can be sure, that as we work to raise our sights, to rise above hate, and to engulf the world in wave of prayer and love, we will be joined by people of good will from all the faiths, including Islam. This is the enhanced reality of which we speak. This is real and only war on terror.
In conclusion, we are those who worship amidst angels and archangels, who assist us in our prayers. And in the place of daily prayer- over there in the Chapel – the dramatic image of Michael the Archangel is a powerful reminder of the assistance and protection the Christian faith offers to all those who have eyes to see the world in enhanced reality. Thanks be to God.