Tag Archives: Easter

That the world may belong …

It’s Resurrection Day, the morning we celebrate the fact that the tomb was empty. Despite all the attempts of the authorities to silence Jesus and his message of overwhelming love and hope, he had broken death’s stronghold.

On Easter morning hope was reborn. As first light dawned it became clear that darkness would not have the final word and the cross – that foul instrument of torture – became a symbol of rebirth.

Here is a hymn that reminds us of all the ways the cross still stands to call the Church to action in the world for the good of others.

It is sung to the tune for Great is thy Faithfulness.

God of our sunrise and light of the morning,
dawn on our worship, renew us today.
Come by your Spirit and fill with your passion,
set us on fire with the Gospel we pray.
 
Chorus
We are your people, the Church you have chosen.
We are a gift to the weak and the strong.
We are the shape of your love for all people.
Help us to live that the world may belong.
 
Jesus your cross is the hope of the hopeless,
guide of the blind and the staff of the lame.
Here, as the nations are grieving and limping,
Give us compassion to live for your name.
 
Jesus your cross is the world’s consolation,
object of pain yet the strength of the weak.
Here, as we struggle for peace and for meaning
Jesus we ask for your courage to speak.
 
Jesus your cross is the birthplace of justice,
cloth for the naked, refreshment for thirst.
Here, as we seek ways to live out the Gospel,
May we repent of our need to be first.
 
Jesus your cross is the mystery that beckons:
drawing us close till we see face to face,
sharing your love with the world in its turmoil,
blessing with your uncontrollable grace.
Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Death … interrupted

My Easter sermon for 2016.

Stop     … they found the stone rolled away, but they did not find the body

 Luke 24: 1-2

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.

The women expected things to be as it always was when someone died.

It wasn’t so much that life was carrying on as normal – death was carrying on as normal.

They had seen Jesus die. They had seen the body taken down and put in the tomb. The Sabbath then intervened but on Sunday morning they came back. What else could they do but anoint it for burial?

From then everything would go on in the same, slow, cold, dead way …

Except … they have to stop because death has been interrupted.

The two men in dazzling clothes had to begin the process of helping them to rewind through all that Jesus had taught them. How important it is to go back into Jesus’ story and recount it for ourselves: not to spend time in the place of death looking for the living words of Jesus.

 

Stand   … he is not here, but has risen. Remember!

Luke 24: 4b-6

two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember…

Life was pretty tough in first century Palestine so to be dazzled at a tomb wasn’t your everyday experience. These two men, certainly we are meant to understand them as angels from God, had terrified the women.

Don’t forget they had come in the dark to embalm a body and now it’s missing … or as they are beginning to remember, alive.

They stand there and the story begins to percolate in their hearts and bodies. Three lovely words from Luke: “then they remembered”. Imagine how that scene unfolded as they reminded each other of their shared experiences with Jesus.

They stood there holding unwanted spices for a dead man; perfumes to anoint a corpse. What do we do with these now? Throw them away?!?

They remembered! Jesus had told them it would be like this and, despite living alongside him for three years, it had not sunk into their hearts.

How often do we need to break out of what can become a sense of functional atheism? I’m in the church, I know about Jesus but will I let his death and resurrection become part of who I am.

 

Step out          … he commanded us to preach and to testify

Acts 10: 39-40, 42

39 ‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen… 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify…

The women left the tomb told the eleven and, initially, no one believed them until Peter went to investigate. Our second reading is part of the story of Peter preaching to the Roman soldier Cornelius and his household – being a witness to the resurrection.

Peter had crossed a great gulf between the Jewish Christian church and the Gentiles. Why? Well he says he can’t do any other.

We are witnesses to all that he did…

[God] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify …

Peter is remembering his story. He stepped in to the tomb and saw that Jesus was no longer in it. Then he stepped out looking with new eyes.

Luke says he went home amazed at what had happened. We know from the Bible that very soon he met Jesus face to face.

IMG_0208.JPG Perhaps you need to meet Jesus this morning in a new way.

To stop at the tomb and know that Good Friday is not the end of the story …

… or to stand and hear the words ‘he is risen’ and know they are true for your life too …

… or to find the right way to step out and be a witness in the place where God has put you.

Farewell … but not to all

One of my regular jobs is to write a column for the community magazine for the area of Cadnam and Copythorne in the New Forest. Here is the latest one:

The rock and pop world seems to have lost more than its fair share of stars in the opening weeks of 2016.

Glen Frey (The Eagles), Lemmy (Motorhead), Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) and David Bowie all gone before the middle of February and, for those who liked their music served up with a dose of Irish charm, Terry Wogan too.

For their fans, each of them had the ability to make life feel like Another Perfect Day, even Hunky Dory. They could encourage you to Take it Easy or lift you up After The Love Has Gone … unless it was the Floral Dance perhaps!

If you ever saw one of the bands in concert, you could testify to the power of their music to get you on your feet and to being part of a greater whole: united in singing out the lyrics and moving to the rhythm.

On the day each of these died the tributes flowed generously. Artists who had been influenced by them told how they had been inspired after a word of encouragement. Some played versions of their heroes’ songs in homage.

On the radio, presenters described Wogan as the king of DJs. He was not just a brilliant radio voice but had started artists’ careers through his influence.

In all cases they mourned the fact that the person had gone and would never be seen again. In one sense of course every great artist lives on in their music and the archive footage we have. That’s a great joy.

The covers band I played in used to do Eagles tunes and I can open up iTunes and Spotify and hear Glenn Frey and the rest of the band in fine voice whenever I want, but there will never be new music from him. That’s a great sadness.

At the very end of March we mark Easter – the moment when a young carpenter from Nazareth died. He never had a hit record, never filled a football stadium, never appeared on TV, wasn’t mourned by thousands when he died – yet a third of the population of the planet now follow Jesus as Christians.

What is the difference? Before Jesus died he told his closest friends: “Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive.”

At Easter, two billion people will mark the fact that Jesus was killed, but on the third day – Easter Sunday – they will celebrate that he was as good as his word and was raised to life.

Since then people have staked their lives in this young man: they have devoted their entire lives to his cause and millions have been martyred. Almost daily, you can see on your TV screens thousands fleeing persecution because they have chosen to believe in the one who was raised from death, the one who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”.

Here, your neighbours and family will include people who are committed followers of the carpenter from Nazareth.

Why not try a visit to Church this Easter and meet this young man who said to his friends I Know How To Die? Believe me, it’s no Fantasy and I’m convinced you’ll live a more fulfilled life In The Long Run.