Sunday 4th April 2021- Easter Sunday
Link to Easter Sunday video sermon address:
Sunday Reflection - He is risen: Easter Sunday 2021
HE IS RISEN!
HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE -
May the Joy of the risen Lord Jesus fill your hearts with hope and joy this day -
Whether at home,
...or in Chapel later today
**SETTING THE SCENE **
I heard somebody say the other day that it didn’t feel like Easter -
….With all the restrictions in place it feels too gloomy.,
…...Too oppressive -
No opportunities for children to Have egg hunts,
...Or large family meals
Many of us love waking up on Easter morning, ….and enjoy the sense of new life and vitality that Easter is all about -
Especially in one of those glorious Easter Sundays,
when you arrive at Chapel with the sun shining,
and the new growth is spurting up all around the yard.
Easter 2020 -
... and now 2021,
...... feels a little different however
Not all the church family can gather in Pisgah on Easter am,
….and none of the children
Not all of our natural families,
... can gather in our homes for Easter feasts
But here’s a thought -
Perhaps that sense of locked down restriction ….is more like the feeling Jesus friends actually experienced in that first Easter?
Fear of going out because of the danger outside (not from a virus but hostile Lynchers)
A sense that things will never be the same again
Heavy hearts full of grief -
Not only because they had lost their best friend but also because they had let him down
(Fled in fear at his moment of need)
And now they were behind closed doors -
….Unable to get about freely as they were used too..,
I bet you can relate to that -
….We have had over a year to practice!
Let’s join them in our mind’s eye on this first Easter Sunday…
FIRST AS WE READ THE TEXT TOGETHER,
AND THEN AS WE EXPLORE THE ROOM AND THE EVENTS THAT TRANSPIRED THAT FIRST EASTER.
Maybe our somber COVID backdrop,
... can give us greater empathy than ever before
**THE PEACE OF GOD **
LET’S ENGAGE OUR IMAGINATIONS:
-imagine the darkness and the claustrophobic fear where they are all crammed in behind that locked door -
….Try to ignore the body odour!
Lets hide with them -
...hiding for fear of the Jews.
Are they also hiding IN SHAME from God like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden?
Perhaps they are,
.. in a way.
What was the last thing they did before the arrest of Jesus?
= They fled and denied knowing Christ
(as we were reminded last Sunday),
….even though each of them had said,
……... they would be willing to die for Jesus.
They are still not willing to die for Jesus:
All empty promises.
They are hiding and they are terrified.
Q- Maybe you can relate to that feeling of shame at having let God down?
They know Jesus is dead.
They soon hear that his body has gone from the tomb,
…. but they have no understanding as to what this might mean.
Mary visits and tells them that the body has been taken away,
….. and they don’t know where they have put him.
And then she returns -
now she tells them she has seen the Lord,
... but this just makes no sense to them.
Would you believe her?
It is into this context of scepticism,
…. that the Risen Christ appears to the disciples.
feeling full of guilt, shame, despair and grief - …...your hearts and mind in turmoil -
If you’ve ever let somebody down you know the awful turmoil that gives you -
...a wish that you could do anything,
….ANYTHING to make it alright,
…….turn back the clocks -
...to ease the inner restlessness,
……. and reconcile with the one you let down
Q- What is the first thing Jesus says to the disciples?
Does he say ‘Where were you?’
or ‘You abandoned me?’
He says, astonishingly, ‘peace be with you’.
Then John gives us what I think must be one of the greatest understatements in scripture,
‘then they were glad when they saw the Lord’.
Of course there is the absolute delight in seeing Jesus risen from the dead,
...but I think the rejoicing happens partly because in saying ‘peace be with you’,
= Jesus is effectively saying
‘I forgive you, you thought you were no longer my friends but you are still my friends and I say peace be with you’.
**THE BREATH OF GOD **
He says ‘peace be with you’ again.
….Then he does something else astonishing,
……..,,He breathes on them.
How does God bring Adam to life when he is created from clay?
= He breathes on him.
Only the Creator God,
….. can give life to something that is dead.
In a sense,
….the disciples in that locked room are dead and lifeless,
= they are dead in their denial of Jesus,
……..their guilty failure -
…………….their lost hope
Jesus breathes on them and says
... ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.
Unfortunately in English it is hard to make the connection,
…. but in both Greek and Hebrew the word for God’s spirit can also mean breath or wind.
The Hebrew word for spirit is ‘ruach’ –
….. it even sounds like a breath as you say it.
….the one who until very recently was dead, ……..breathes life, the Holy Spirit,
………….. back into the weak disciples.
As Paul writes in the letter to the Ephesians ‘even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead’ (Eph 2:5).
Jesus knows exactly what we need - HIS LIFE
He also knew that the disciples,
….. needed to hear and see and touch.
**THE REASSURANCE OF GOD**
In this first appearance in the locked room,
….. he shows the disciples his hands and his side,
= to show them he is not a ghost,
….., but real and can be touched.
Thomas isn’t there this first time,
... and so he is afraid that the disciples have just been seeing things,
=that they’ve had some kind of hallucination -
….ITS WISHFUL THINKING
He makes the perfectly reasonable statement,
…. that he wants to touch Jesus,
……... in the very spot where the nails went in.
He has to be sure it’s the same Jesus:
that he’s not a ghost,
and neither is he just a man that looks like Jesus.
Q - Don’t we all wrestle with similar doubts?
maybe a man did come into the room,
….. but it was just some bloke that looked rather a lot like Jesus?
It can’t actually be that man,
.. we lived with for 3 years and saw brutally killed.
Jesus, when he appears to them all again,
….opens with the same greeting:
‘peace be with you’.
It’s like In doing this he is saying
….. ‘I meant it you know, I really do forgive you, you really are still my friends, peace be with you’.
Then he immediately knows what Thomas needs …..and offers him the chance to touch the place where the nails were in his hands,
…….. and feel where the lance pierced his side.
= Jesus is happy to show him how real he is.
This is enough for Thomas,
…. we don’t even know if he takes Jesus up on the offer to put his finger in his wounds,
= he simply makes the first full profession of faith in the divinity of Christ in the Gospel,
…….and says ‘my Lord and my God’.
Jesus knows what we need.
He knows we need something tangible,
... to let us know that God is real.
Q - How easy or hard was it to immerse yourself in that text?
To Enter the locked room?
Did you look at it like some dispassionate or perhaps nosy onlooker?
Or did you allow yourself to relate to the participants?
I THINK THE BIBLE IS MOST EFFECTIVELY READ WHEN WE DO
This Easter is different to some -
….we are all jaded and fed up with lockdown
and perhaps still a little fearful at the danger outside
... Perhaps this helps us to relate better than ever …..to the disciples on that first Easter morning
= as they hid
And I’m sure it isn’t Just lockdown and the pandemic,
….. that makes our hearts feel heavy -
We all have lots of circumstances,
…..griefs, imperfections and regrets,
………. that do that all by themselves -
Now put yourself back into that closed room,
…. with the disciples (again try to ignore the body odour)
This time let yourself recognise,
…. that he is also speaking directly to you.
Imagine Jesus’ head turning from Thomas,
…. and looking directly at you and saying ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’.
= That is you. That is me.
Jesus steps out of this story we are reading,
…. directly into our lives.
His story is our story.
Our story is his story.
He comes to us in our fearful, dead, inadequate, failing state and says ‘peace be with you’.
‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you, Receive the Holy Spirit, you are blessed because you believe in me.’
I will ask a couple of questions to you
...it might help if you close your eyes now:
- reflect on them as I ask them quietly -
Then I will respond through the words of the text
Do you feel afraid?
Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Do you feel you’ve let God down?
Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Have you been shutting God out of your life?
Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Do you feel empty or inadequate?
Jesus says ‘receive the Holy Spirit’
Do you want to know that Jesus is real?
Jesus says ‘reach out and touch me’
Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God?
Jesus says ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’.
Short talk video link:
It feels very different to be out here this morning rather than in there (point)
But I think it’s a particularly appropriate setting for a good Friday reflective time.
I’m talking of course about the grave memorials that fill our yard
This place has witnessed grief and sadness in no small measure over the past two centuries -
If you wander round the old section in particular we are reminded of the tragedy that has beset humanity from the start -
Deaths linked to poverty and hard living
Frequent Infant deaths in the pre-penicillin world.
But it isn’t only death that is memorialised here -
It is also hope.
Have you ever wandered around the old section and read song of the inscriptions?
I was doing just that recently when I prepared to film the video version of this talk...
Tramping through the brambles and wild garlic
And the old saying -
They don’t make em like that anymore,
Came to mind
I found some of the inscriptions inspiring -
I was rather humbled by the faith expressed in the face of personal devastation
hope in the face of great personal darkness
One was particularly fitting for Pisgsh -
It spoke of a young lad that once sung ABOUT Jesus,
... and now proclaimed that he was singing WITH Jesus
Another spoke of their belief that their loved one was in the arms of Jesus
Yet another spoke of their faith of the resurrection of their child when Jesus returned.
This place -
And words like these,
..... remind us of another, more ancient tragedy -
...... and the inspiration for such faithful statements
This is The death of Jesus on the day we now describe as good Friday.
The day that Jesus literally stepped into all this (pan camera around) -
Related fully in our death and suffering
= so that we might have life.
This is a very brief talk so I’m not going to get theological -
I’ll just simply say that Jesus came in love and allowed the forces of death and hate to consume him -
In order to BREAK THEM
...turned into victory.
= the paradox of the cross
And rose again,
... so that bereaved folk throughout the last 200 years of this yards yards existence,
Could write the hopeful things they did on the memorial’s of their loved ones.
But it’s not just bodily life that Jesus came to restore -
... he didn’t just die so we can have biological continuity
= Jesus came to defeat death IN ALL ITS FORMS
Just around the corner their we have erected a large bicentenary banner that body declares
‘god is Love’
If GOD IS LOVE,
... then DEATH is the opposite of that
Death describes every situation Of despair
Death is exploitation
Death is every dehumanising action or situation
Death is cruelty
Death is greed
Death is injustice
Death is HOPELESSNESS
What’s the point in living for eternity,
if it’s ruined by death in all its spiritually crushing forms?
Jesus stepped into and overcame death in allit’s forms on Good Friday ..,,
....WITH HIS LOVE
This is what is meant by eternal life
...in all its fullness.
When Jesus rose again he signalled the end for death -
... this was a sign and promise that it will end.
For now we continue to struggle on -
But we do not face it without hope or help
(Close up on cross)
What situations of death do you want God to deal with?
-situations in the news
-Situations close to home
-Situations that wake you in the early hours and steal your peace.
-PERHAPS EVEN SITUATIONS CAUSED BY YOUR OWN BEHAVIOUR AND ATTITUDES
Jesus died for situations such as these.
Jesus died for our sin
=We are going to him for his help and forgiveness now in a time of ‘repentance prayer...’