God's glorious future, we can scarcely imagine .
So my last blog as vicar of Christ Church, Aughton - I formally retire this coming Tuesday. However, to quote Fran Lebowitz, "You're only as good as your last haircut." So this better be a good one!
I never planned to do a blog. Like many innovative ministries, it just happened. Often this is how the Holy Spirit works, in our peripheral vision. Sometimes, where we least expect.
It started slowly as I began to see the potential of the internet. I recall John Shaw some 20 years ago advising me to sign up for email. At the time I just couldn't see the point: it seemed just a variant of using fax. But I always trust John's judgment - and so I signed up to LineOne, having no idea that this would transform my ministry.
I remember that magic moment when I realised I could attach documents to my emails. No more on wet Friday mornings would I have to convey the hard copy of the church's Sunday notices to the duty typist. And more, these faithful volunteers would no longer need to retype the entire text for the Gestetner duplicator.
It wasn't long before I further realised that I could copy church members into my Friday email, at least those who in that innocent age were already online. And more, it was free. So gradually my distribution list grew as the internet took hold.
To begin with I would recirculate Bill Evans' jokes while occasionally I would add a holy thought. In the headers, inspired by Ted Morrell, I would herald the Everton result - but only when we won. Which meant most weeks I had to think of an alternative heading.
The initial challenge was to keep touch with everyone at Christ Church, particularly those on the outer fringe. So I began to compose a simple commentary on living the Christian life. I aimed to send it out by 9.00 am as soon as the weekly notices were finalised, writing it that morning. Sometimes there can be a tight deadline, like this morning - I have a train to catch.
Normally I gave myself between 45 minutes to one hour to write two sides of A4 from scratch. Often, even usually, as I began to type I would have no idea where I was heading. I just wrote the next sentence. Sometimes I surprised even myself with the conclusion.
It was in November, 2010 that I had the bright idea of uploading my weekly mailing as a blog onto my personal website while in May, 2014 our hard-working church webmaster, Liz Wainwright, had the equally bright idea of uploading this same blog onto our church website.
Nowadays it is promoted throughout the world, to each of the five continents, by postings on our church Facebook page and Twitter feed.
One significant development took place on Friday, 24 August, 2012. I was sitting on the beach at Swanage enjoying the sunshine with my grandchildren when my phone pinged. Andrew from Argentina had just messaged "Where's the blog?"
As far as our mission partner was concerned, the fact that I was on holiday was no excuse not to send my blog.
So since then, wherever I have been and however challenging the location, I write my blog. As it happens this one comes to you from the vicarage kitchen of St Peter, Walworth in central London, as my granddaughters contend over the hairbrush. It's over there, under the table.
Who could have imagined this just 25 years ago when I arrived at Christ Church? Just one stroke of the keyboard and these words now before me are sent into all the world. For as I mentioned in my final sermon at Christ Church, the biggest development over the 40 years of my ordained ministry has been the development of digital technology.
If this applies to humble man-made technology, even more so to understanding the mind of God. That's why Jesus teaches in parables. Looking at everyday life - a woman looking for her lost coin, a sower sowing his seed, a son longing for his independence, we can glimpse God at work.
Jesus teaches us to notice these signs of God in our lives, above all in our relationships. That's why ongoing forgiveness is so very important - it is in the very heart of God himself.
But the truth is that our minds simply cannot even begin to grasp how and why God promises to bless those who entrust their lives to him.
So the apostle Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" he continues - "these are the things God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Very simply our minds lack the capacity to envision God's new creation, when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14).
So in Revelation, the final book of the Bible, John shares his vision of "what soon must take place." Here we are treated to some very strange imagery, as bizarre as any of the exhibits in Tate Modern which we visited yesterday – especially the three- person swing exhibit in the photograph.
But what we do know is that this new heaven and new earth is what our hearts long for; it is for this that God made us in the first place. We are to be totally fulfilled when God fulfils his promises.
However, while our minds may lack the capacity to appreciate God's glorious future, they certainly do have the capacity on how to respond to the call of Christ on our lives.
But here is the biggest surprise of all. We go to the very last place on earth you would expect to see the love and justice of God, the cross of Jesus. For here our future begins.
And our response? Let Jesus have the last word.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23-2)