Don’t Look Up!
God might be Working
(Sermon at St John the Baptist, Felixstowe – 9 January 2022 -Epiphany 1)
Text: 16I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3.15-17, 21-22)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers
Long before I read the Book of Revelation, or even knew there was a book of the Bible called ‘Revelation, and definitely before I knew that its other title was The Apocalypse, I have been fascinated by the idea of Apocalyptic world ending events. This is not because I have a perverse desire to hasten the battle to end all battles at Megiddo in Northern Palestine, but a result of my childhood reading habits. Yes the Dandy was fine and, well ‘dandy’, and The Beano taught me how not to behave at school, but my comic of choice was The Eagle! A tanner’s worth of weekly extra-terrestrial escapism featuring the never-ending battle between Dan Dare and the Mekon.
This fascination spilled over into the Cinema. I remember watching ‘When Worlds Collide’ on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed both ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact’, though I suspect they were both more vehicles for their soundtracks than spacecraft for their astronauts. I have read the entire Asimov opus several times over and can quote his Laws of Robotics by heart – and love the way his Foundation ‘Trilogy’ comes full circle to his Robot novels. But there is a new movie in town with a twist to it.
‘When Worlds Collide’ was about escaping earth to avoid calamity.
The most recent Asteroid vs Earth movie is ‘Don’t Look Up!’ Putting its tongue firmly in its cheek, the plot revolves around two urgent astronomers being unable to persuade the powers that be that disaster looms. If only people ‘Don’t Look Up’ the world will go on as normal until, as they say at Looney Tunes ‘That’s All Folks’. The powerful and well-heeled still plan to escape earth (there is a marvellous plot twist at the end) and a businessman hatches a plan to let the asteroid crash into earth to make a killing from mining the rare metals on it. (Not sure to whom they would be sold though…).
Throughout the movie the mantra is ‘Don’t Look Up’. If we don’t know disaster is coming then we can carry on as normal until disaster overwhelms us. Seems more than a little biblical. Christian Bobin (some call him the French Helen Steiner Rice) says this:
‘When they see a miracle, most people shut their eyes.’
Much the same happens when disaster looms. Whether their words be of comfort or challenge the human race seems to always be desperate to avoid the words of the Prophets.
A ‘Don’t Look Up’ moment happened around the Baptism of Jesus by John, the last of the Prophets.
Predicting doom and gloom, our patron saint, makes himself into Billy-No-Mates (perhaps that is why he lived in the wilderness) as those around him refuse to heed his words. ‘Don’t Look Up!’ is the cry of those in authority around him. They spread lies against him, they malign him, they arrest him, and in the end behead him. And the people cannot see the Elijah has walked amongst them.
‘Don’t Look Up!’ say those around Jesus, who want to muddy the baptismal waters and pit him against his cousin. Is John the Messiah or is it Jesus? After all everyone knows nothing good has ever come out of Nazareth. And the people cannot see that Jesus baptises not with water but with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
‘Don’t Look Up!’ say some after Jesus’ death and resurrection. This may be a ‘new’ thing God is doing but its only for those of us on the inside. And the people cannot see that the Son of God came to give his life away for all people not only those who keep the Ten Commandments.
Sadly the Church, or the various parts of it that want to control some and condemn others, has continued this mantra of ‘Don’t Look Up!’ down the age
Instead of reminding people to ‘Just Look Up’ and welcome the coming gift of the Holy Spirit the Children of God have too often (and to this day) been caught up in empty baptismal arguments about using too much water or not enough water or not using water at all.
Instead of being reminded to ‘Just Look Up’ to welcome the refining fire of God’s love which purifies, too often Church and State have pulled the gaze of the faithful downwards and used fire to banish and condemn and burn at the stake those who committed the ‘heinous’ crime of baptising with too much water, or without benefit of clergy, or as an act of re-commitment. (The next time you are in Ipswich please visit the Martyrs Memorial in Christchurch Park).
Instead of calling us to ‘Just Look Up’, open our ears and hear the voice of the One Who Loves us Best reminding us that, no matter how long we have been away or what we have done wrong, we are welcome in the Everlasting Arms. Preacher after preacher has used the Word of God as a sword with which to divide the family of God instead of it being a compass to lead us all homeward.
‘Don’t Look Up?’ Our task is to imitate our patron John the Baptist, our Master Jesus the Christ, and all those who were amazed long ago on a Jordan riverbank, and ‘Just Look Up!’
In the year ahead may we ‘Just Look Up!’ and see that despite the world ending gloom around us that – now as in previous generations – God, who is Emmanuel, is with us.
In the year ahead may we ‘Just Look Up!’ and know in our deepest being that we are held by God the Father and, as Jesus himself told us, nothing and ‘No-one can snatch us from his hand’ (John 10v29)
In the year ahead may we ‘Just Look Up!’ and welcome the comforting breath of God the Holy Spirit, inspiring, purifying, and calling us to a deeper devotion, a closer fellowship, and a greater service of the least, the last, and the lost.
In a world where everyone is keeping their heads down, minding their own business, following their own path, and not looking up it is only we who have been baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection that are able to call others into the glorious liberty of the Children of God.
For it is as we ‘Just Look Up!’ and live lives for others that the message of faith, hope and love born in a Crib and consummated on Calvary is spread abroad. How can we turn away from such a task?
 The Eighth Day: Selected writings of Christian Bobin, chosen and translated by Pauline Matarasso (DLT; 978-0-232-53171-8).