Words from Revelation Chapter 21: “Jesus said to me, ‘It is done!’”
The Book of Revelation is written to a community facing persecution – persecution by an Empire whose power seems overwhelming. The message of Revelation is that, despite all external appearances, despite all the logic of the world, the victory is already being won – in fact has already been won, decisively, at Calvary, and on Easter Day.Someone once said, the Acts of the Apostles aren’t really the acts of the Apostles at all: they are the acts of God – a God of justice and of power who worked through apostles who had completely opened their lives to Him. When their Lord ascended into heaven, they knew the victory had been won. And when they wait together in prayer they receive this incredible gift – the coming of the Holy Spirit to inspire and equip them, and to fill them with power.
In seeking justice, it’s not really that ‘we’ do God’s work. It’s that we open our lives so He can do the work: so that his victory can become flesh in our midst, in our world; so that his kingdom can come.
When the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit, it bears the marks of its Lord. Like Jesus, the Church is a body that knows poverty and oppression and suffering. And for that very reason, we are a body filled with healing, life and power. As a Church, we aren’t just called to have a heart for the poorest. We are called to have the poorest at our heart.
That is why so many of London’s churches have become involved in community organising. They are not just a voice for the voiceless. They are becoming places where the voiceless get to speak – and act – for themselves.
I think of Lucy, whose church helped her and her family fight eviction from their flat. At a prayer meeting soon after, she was in a group reflecting on the Gospel verse ‘Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful’. She gave thanks for the mercy she had received, and felt moved to welcome another woman facing homelessness into her flat.
I think of Abdul, who through the Living Wage campaign, was brought face to face with the head of HSBC, whose office he cleaned on a poverty wage. “Sir John,” Abdul said, “we work in the same office and yet live in different worlds.” Soon afterwards, the bank began to pay Abdul and his colleagues a genuinely Living Wage.
I think of the Church of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe – just a few minutes’ walk from this Cathedral. While it reached those who worked in the City’s offices in the daytime, it did not reach those who cleaned them after hours – cleaners who were crying out for a Living Wage and proper sick pay, but also for proper training and management. They were crying out for an employer who would treat cleaning as a vocation not just a menial task. And so the church helped to launch Clean for Good, an ethical business which is now cleaning offices and churches across the capital. Go find out who cleans your church and workplace. Perhaps Clean for Good is the Kingdom alternative.
The call to seek justice is addressed to us all.
The early Church had the poorest at its heart. It was the place where people of different races and social classes broke bread together and shared a common life.
From Catherine and William Booth to the Clapham Sect; from St Francis of Assisi to the Wesley brothers to the slum priests of the Anglo-Catholic revival, when the Spirit has renewed the Church, we have been united in prayer with the poorest at the heart of our life.
It is for such a Church, for such inspiration, for such revival, that we pray tonight, as we cry out: “Lord, Thy Kingdom Come!”