I haven’t posted sermon notes here for a while. Not for a particular reason really, apart from not having got round to it. As I had the privilege of speaking to a full and vibrant Church yesterday morning at Emmanuel, I thought I’d put the text of my notes up here for anyone who was there who wanted to check it again, or for anyone who wasn’t who wanted to know what I said. I hope you find it helpful. Happy Easter to all of you who read this site. Thank you for doing so!
Happy Easter! The message of Easter is this: Jesus is alive, Jesus is risen. Death is conquered. The glory is His. He offers life to us, a hope for today, tomorrow and for eternity. It is finished. Forever. Amen.
There, in case you want to switch off, those are the key points for today.
I heard someone say recently that one of the strongest reasons why it’s highly likely that Jesus did rise from the dead is that if he hadn’t, it’s pretty unlikely that we’d still be talking about it. Stuff without the ring of truth to it quickly fades away and is forgotten. Stories with truth at their core often endure.
I’m not trying to convince you of the truth of the resurrection this morning. Personally I’m not clever enough to do that, and it’s a matter for your own faith to decide whether you believe or not, but as we look at the readings we’ve had this morning, some key questions have come up for me:
- The importance of hearing the story
Some of us might know the story of that first Easter day well. Some of us might be hearing it for the first time this morning. Some women who had followed Jesus went to his tomb to take care of his body. They’d been worried about how they would roll away the stone that covered the door, but when they arrived they found it had already been moved. They find an angel, who, in effect, says “don’t worry, Jesus isn’t here anymore, he’s been raised”, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Not surprisingly, terror and amazement overtook them, and they fled to tell the disciples that the Lord was risen. The women are told that they will see Jesus “just as he told you” in Galilee. This was always going to happen, is the suggestion.
I can tell you, I would have fled too. Jesus was no longer dead. He was alive. The whole of the world, the whole of history, had changed forever. It’s ok to think this is unusual.
It does us good to remember this story. Not just because it’s a cracking good story, but because it shows us that Jesus, who died because he loves us, also rose because he loves us
- What (and Whose) Story Are We Entering Into?
In our other reading this morning, Paul lays out the story. Jesus died for our sins, to follow what had been promised. He rose from the dead to follow what had been promised. Then he appeared to an ever-increasing number of those who followed him, and the Church was born. We celebrate Pentecost later on in the year, when we remember the gift that God gave us of the Holy Spirit to be with us, our friend, advisor and protector, for all of our lives as Christians. God with us, living within us. Christ in us the hope of glory.
The story we are entering into is one of the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s his story, it has become ours. What did we say that good news was? Jesus is alive? Hope is here. Death is defeated. We are free. Life for all. As we say in communion sometimes, “this is our story, this our song, Hosanna in the highest”. Hosanna celebrates the coming of a King, a liberator. Jesus is our liberator. As we are part of His Church, the story we enter into is the story of His freeing and liberating of those who are in chains, those who are struggling, those who have no hope. The story has its end in the picture of the future that Revelation 21 gives us, of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain and no more death. The hope for this new life was made real when Jesus rose from the dead. His Church exists to thank Him and to point the way to Him for others to follow.
3. How Can We Live the Story In Our Own Lives?
This, basically, is what does it mean to be a Christian? Jesus is alive. Hope is here. Death is defeated. So what? What difference does it make to our lives, our families, what we spend our time doing, what we spend our money on? Why does it matter at all?
God has given us the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Bible which tells his story. The story of a God who chased his people throughout history, longing to give them abundant life. Now God asks us to, as it were, improvise. There isn’t a right way to be a Christian. There isn’t a wrong way to be a Christian. There isn’t a script. There is, instead, something much more exciting. We’re called to a lifelong ministry of improvisation. God gifts us peace and joy. How do we live peacefully and joyfully? It’s our privilege and our joy to work this out together. Jesus calls us to care for the poor, and to preach the good news to them. How do we do that? It’s our privilege to work that out together too. It’s not as if any of us really know how to do this thing called “church” well, is it? We are fortunate here to be in a loving community and family, I love it, and I’m so blessed to be part of it with you all. I’ll tell you this for free though, I make mistakes all the time. I doubt myself all the time. Woe betide me if I ever think I know what I’m doing in my own faith or as a leader. But we’re asked to work together with God in holy improvisation to, basically, show in as many ways as we can that Jesus is alive. Doesn’t sound too bad when you put it like that does it?
Jesus calls us to go in to all the world with him and encourage people to follow him, by telling them his story, our story, inviting them to make it their story, and their song, that together we can sing now, and one day for eternity, “Hosanna in the highest”. Let’s rejoice together today, and commit together to showing people Jesus in how we live tomorrow.