St Stephen 

May 17th, 1992

5th of Easter: Recreation

Acts 14: 21-27
Revelation 21: 1-5
John 13: 31-35

Think for a moment of the word "recreation".

In everyday English it means to most people such things as football, tennis, golf, painting classes, watching television or making model aeroplanes.

It means "the sort of things people do for pleasure in their spare time"

But now look at the word more closely and as quite often happens with English words you will find a new meaning jumps out and hits you in the eye. RE- (meaning "again") and CREATION meaning something which is created all made out of something else.

Out of a block of wood a Carpenter creates a share; out of flower and raisins and cherries and water a Baker creates a cake; out of paint and canvas an artist creates a picture.

Now look again at the last sentence of the second reading. God said to Saint John "I am making the whole of creation new".

God in other words is re-creating what in the first place he created out of nothing - the heavens, the earth, animal kingdom and the human race including you and me.

Yes, whilst I had been talking the cells in your body have been in the process of being made new, replaced, Re-created. If they were not so we should all quickly be dead. Some sorts of our cells are replaced every day or so for example, the it epithelial cells from the lining of our intestines live about a day and a half; white blood cells live about 13 days, red blood cells about four minutes. But all of them, with very few exceptions are constantly in the process of being "renewed" or "re-created".

So a healthy body is the scene of continuous re-creation which goes on day in, day out, inside us whether we realise it or not.

Our contribution to the process is to make it easier to happen. By eating sensibly; by getting enough sleep; by taking exercise we are helping in the business of God's re-creation of our body.

But there is another area of our lives where God is ceaselessly at his work of re-creation, and this is what is called the Spiritual Life.

Like bodily re-creation spiritual renewal is a gift to us from God; but unlike bodily re-creation it is very very much up to each one of us as to how much re-creating actually gets done. Few people starve themselves to death; many people suffer from severe spiritual under-nourishment through self-neglect.

There are many people who never let God into their lives at all. And of those to do, such as you and me, the extent to which we let God re-create our spiritual lives varies enormously.

By his gift of free will God enables us effectively to shut him out of our lives completely. Of course if we do that, like Judas Iscariot whom we heard about in the Gospel, the result will be pretty disastrous. But the fact is that spiritual re-creation is something which can only happen if we allow it to do so.

"as many as received him to them he gave the power to become the Sons of God, even to those who believe on his name", writes St John near the beginning of his Gospel.

God has given us the choice then. Either we develop and grow and are re-created into the kind of beings he always intended us to be Sons of God and fellow heirs with his Son Jesus Christ; or else we can remain part of the Old Creation which left to its own devices ends up in decay.

But God has made the process of spiritual recreation rather easier for us than he might have done.

In his wisdom he decided that a good deal of this re-creative process should take place in the company of our fellow beings who are also being re-created spiritually. I mean of course the Church, the Body of Christ, where we come together on Sundays precisely for this purpose - to be Re-created together.

Just as the re-creation of our bodily cells takes place inside the body, so much of our spiritual re-creation happens when we come together to "do this in remembrance of me", in the Body of Christ the Church.

The very fact that the process includes eating and drinking proves that it is closely related to the process of bodily re-creation.

But why, some people ask, should it have to involve coming together like this? Surely God could make it happen to us in our own homes, or by going for a walk in the countryside and enjoying the wonders of nature.

Well the answer is that he probably does re-create us spiritually in this way, and in every other sort of recreational activity we choose to do, be it football, cooking, reading, or "messing about in boats".

All these things I strongly believe are health-giving, and some people are less well than they should be frankly because they don't enjoy themselves enough. But that is a separate issue.

The reason I think that God calls us together on Sunday to achieve the most extensive bit of his spiritual recreation has something to do with that sentence in the first lesson. Paul and Barnabas put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the Faith.

The very fact that God calls us together for a recreation session with him every Sunday has a great deal to do with the fact that we need constant encouragement to persevere and the job of encouraging each other he has laid firmly and squarely on your shoulders and on mine.

God himself does what you might call the tricky, internal bit of the recreation. Through Bread and Wine and Water and Word given, blessed, given back to us and received, he brings about the process of renewal.

What he asks us to do is to love one another in such a way that people will be encouraged to go on with the process of re-creation.

It's not always easy to do this, to love one's fellow disciples as God loves us. It takes time and trouble and as Paul and Barnabas said "we all have to experience many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God."

But in the end this will be the test of our discipleship and the proof we have been and are being Re-created by God. As Jesus said in the last verse of the Gospel

"by the love that you have for ne another everyone will know that you're are my disciples."

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