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 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our God amen.

Of all the wonderful things that came out in the year 1981, including my good self;)  one of the most iconic was a movie I still enjoy today. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Despite the fact it doesn’t include Sean Connery, that fabulous movie created the iconic figure Indiana Jones…and renewed interest in the ever popular search for religious power.  From the Ark of the Covenant, to the Holy Grail…including the Dan Brown craze in the 2000’s.  The search for religious artifacts were often based in a desire, not for spiritual growth…but for power. 

Case in point the Ark of the Covenant.  The ark if you recall was built to house the tablets of the covenant, the ones Moses received from God on Saini.  More importantly though, we read in Exodus “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, (God) will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”  God was understood to literally reside between the wings of the cherubim atop the Ark. 

Therefore the ark was understood to be the place where God resided and many a war featured the Ark being carted here and there, stolen and retaken, understood to be a guarantee of victory and power to whoever carried the Ark into battle.  Those who possessed the ark were said to possess the power of God.  The key deception here being ‘possess’…ownership…control.

In our reading from 2 Samuel today we read of the moving of the Ark from Baale-Judah in the house of Obededom, to the City of David where the brand new King David set up his capital, Jerusalem.

Unlike the pop culture classic though, the setting wasn’t one of power hungry, solemn ritual…but rather it is clearly an act of liturgical rejoicing.   David, himself dancing and jumping before the Lord…parades with music and festival…sacrifice and ritual…and an elaborate distribution of rich foods to all and sundry. 

David’s procession with the ark to the heart of his new kingdom was clearly a source of rejoicing, not because the God would bring power to the ‘owner’ of the ark, but because in David’s kingship God would, symbolically and actually, be at the very heart of the kingdom of Israel.  God at the heart, a source of great joy and celebration.

As we move into the time of Christ however, God’s presence was understood somewhat differently.  The Ark, theoretically, was still housed in the temple in Jerusalem…the main site of Religious ritual and sacrifice.  But the people had lost that sense of joy and celebration after the long passage of time and had settled into a routine of ritual and obligation.   Something that many long time Anglicans can relate to… showing up because you always have, rather than because Sunday worship fill you with joy and thanksgiving.

In Ephesians however Paul seeks to rekindle that sense of joy and celebration of God’s presence in our lives with the witness of Christ.  The presence of God in the ark is accentuated by Christ’s living alive and among us.  Not simply in the midst of us as a physical symbol in a holy temple, but in a truly life changing way.

One of the perennial fantasies games in our family is the classic ‘what would you do if you won the lottery?’  Many people equate power with money and because relatively few have the vast wealth that equals that imagined power …a lottery is a favorite fantasy.

In ancient times however they didn’t have Lotto 6/49.  But they did have an equivalent that was equally fantasied about.  The dream was that one day, out of the blue, an incredibly rich and powerful man, would formally adopt you.  Thus, giving you an inheritance of power, wealth, status and an exit from what Hobbes is famously quoted as calling a life that was ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’

So, Paul uses this fantasy to explain the reality of God’s blessing of us through Christ. “God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ…that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Heirs with Christ… if being an adopted child of a great Roman senator was something to be fantasized about…being adopted as a child of God must really be something else.

It would and should literally change your life… putting that adopted family…God, Jesus, the Spirit as the center of everything in your life. “So that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory…this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”

God is the true center of our temples and our lives.  That is what we, individually and as a church, should base everything around…not a source of power, but as a source of joy.  A joy that is not to be kept housed in temple or church, but to be distributed as freely as the blessings of Christ or as the loaves of bread, joints of meat and cakes of raisin that went to all and sundry in the time of King David. 

We, as a church, are meant to not only rejoice in the blessing of being children of God, but to disseminate that blessing in real and tangible ways.  To be that blessing to others in joy and hospitality or in the physical supports of bread and meat.  God is meant to be at the center of our lives…enabling and inspiring our ministry.

This is something that the church has learnt the hard way during COVID, the church we have famously and often said is NOT the building, it is the people.  Well during COVID most of us have not had access to our church buildings, we haven’t even had access to communal worship!  It pains us to think of the last time we celebrated Eucharist together. 

And yet!  And yet!  With Christ as the center of the church, not the building, but the people, I know that ministry has continued.  You called each other to check in.  Ensured that those who were ill were prayed for.  You worked to elect new leadership to help St. Andrew’s move forward and you stayed home to keep each other and even those you’ve never met safe from sickness and contagion.  Perhaps you may say that had no choice, but staying home and reducing contacts is truly an act of …shall we say reverse hospitality.  Keeping God at the center but keeping contact at bay. 

Now, as we prepare to come together once more though, we have to reimagine what it looks like to keep God as the center, as the heart of our lives in faith.  How to keep God at the center of our St. Andrew’s ministry and mission.

This is a time of new imagining…whether we like it or not…this is a time of change.  Even the fact that your new priest is female may be more than you ever imagined! LOL But after turmoil of these last years at St. Andrews and the dire impacts of COVID … life has changed.  Church has changed.  But one thing hasn’t.  God is at the heart of all and that will never change.  And that is a source of great joy and blessing.

Now I won’t be asking that Russ play jubilantly that we might all dance and jump in linen ephods…but it is a time to give offerings of thanksgiving and live into that glorious inheritance that we have received in Christ. What our task will be is to discern how God is calling us to do that.

And to start I believe we need to be thankful…thankful for those blessings we have received and cognisant of those around us who are in need of blessing.

I haven’t had a chance to get to know everyone yet… but you know each other.   It has been a long time since we have gathered and it is a select few who are able to gather online.  I heard talk during our last coffee hour of people seeking to know how each other are doing.  This is a blessed ministry that we can continue.  I encourage you to continue to seek each other out, children of God, brothers and sisters.  Especially those we don’t see or hear from online. 

Call each other and check in.  COVID has been a time of great isolation for many, and that for many has been devastating.  We have missed the blessings of family, of community, of the joy of gathering for prayer and worship together.

With Christ at our heart, we are all brothers and sisters.  It is time to call up our siblings and remind each other of the joy and blessings that we share.  And for some to comfort and support each other in sorrow, grief and depression. We have received grace in our adoption in Christ, and with Christ at our heart, it is incumbent upon us to share it with others.  This is something you do well, so keep at it and expand this ministry.  So that when we come together in person we will come together stronger and closer to one another, brothers and sister in Christ. So as one sending prayer tells us… so I commend you.  To go forth to love and serve the lord. amen