St Bride's: Sermons

Think outside the box

Revelations 21: 1-6

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21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Think outside the box
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I wonder if you know where the expression 'thinking outside the box' comes from? It has become something of a cliché, but it was first used in the field of business consultancy, when applicants for jobs were given a puzzle to solve as part of the interview process. They were given the nine dot puzzle and they had to join all the dots in the nine dot square using only four straight lines. Most people confined their efforts to joining up the dots within the square and got nowhere. Only those who ventured beyond the square, who thought 'outside the box' managed to solve the puzzle.

For many people it's hard to think or act 'outside the box'. We like the world of familiar things and routines: we prefer to play it safe, even if that means we are stuck in our ways. We may admire restless and creative spirits who dare to take risks and explore pastures new, while being unwilling ourselves to venture into unchartered territory.

There's quite a lot of thinking outside the box in the Bible, from the OT prophets who spoke and imagined what many didn't want to hear to Jesus himself, constantly surprising people and pushing boundaries, Paul and his radical take on what it meant to be a Jew and a Christian, the early Christians like Simon Peter who faced up to the challenge of whether this new Christian faith was for Jews only or for the whole Gentile world. And we face similar challenges today of exclusivity/inclusivity in the Church, and we too need reminding that because God's Sprit  continually shatters the old mould, the old ways, and is continually doing something new, we are to dare to think outside the box.

We are called to think outside the box of convenience, of prejudice, of convention, of the 'but we've always done it this way' attitude of mind, and focus instead on the demands of unconditional love - love without strings attached. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: 'If you judge people, you have no time to love them.' If you stay inside the box you'll probably end up judging people. If you follow the demands of love, who knows where it might take you.

It is from loving openly and from being prepared to take risks because of love that new beginnings spring. We heard in our reading from Revelation the mystic John of Patmos thinking outside the box about the possibility of a new heaven and a new earth - a vision of what God wants to do if only we co-operate with Him. He reminds us that sometimes it is good to dream dreams, in our church life and in our personal lives, to break free from the chains of the past and to liberate the Spirit. What could this mean for you? It could mean a change of direction in your life, a change of job, a new interest, thinking about being confirmed, or simply re-orientating your priorities, and re-imagining your approach to some of the challenges you face, or confronting the prejudices that keep you trapped by the past and unable to move forward.

Whatever it might mean for you, it is always worth following the example of Jesus, Peter, John of Patmos, and every so often dreaming dreams, and doing something new or surprising yourself. In this season between Easter and Pentecost, change is in the air, if only we have the courage to step out of our own box.

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