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An Easter homily.

Never too late to post an Easter homily!

I hope all paxtonvic readers are having a blessed and joyful Easter season.

I started off with some essential facts about Easter eggs and even had a dance with Nick our ALM around some hard boiled eggs on the floor ( an old Easter Day custom they say!) I believe in the Eastern Orthodox tradition it is customary to start with a joke of some sort…

Why on Easter morning of all times am I starting my sermon with a joke? Well, in the Eastern Orthodox Church  Easter  is traditionally a time to tell jokes. Easter, you see, is the time when God got the last laugh on darkness, fear, ignorance and death.

However, we could be forgiven for thinking that if our shops are anything to go on, Easter is really all about chocolate eggs and bunnies,  pretty spring flowers, fluffy soft toy chicks and getting on down there for Easter Monday sales when there is 50% off the kitchen you have always wanted. One supermarket has been reported as having had  a notice up saying – Buy an egg  and celebrate the birth of Jesus!

For some of course belonging to  faiths other than Christian, Easter would not have any relevance, though many  do have a celebration of some sort  with the coming of the spring. We must not forget our Jewish brothers and sisters who will be celebrating their Passover Festival in mid-April.

However, even if it mostly happens behind closed  doors ( but not for those who have an early morning sunrise Easter celebration) there are   millions of  people across the world in an upbeat frame of mind  this  Easter Day singing something  about Jesus being alive.  What on earth can this mean?  A dead man in a tomb coming back to life?  Surely its just a little bit of human fantasy in a world of such contrasting fortunes?

Why does this man Jesus – who  died a criminals death 2,000 years ago in Palestine and it is claimed rose from the dead – attract such attention still today?  What is this “ Jesus is alive today?” story  all about? It’s hard not to see it as a joke, a fantasy joke designed to take our minds off reality.

But then maybe in some ways it is a joke that we celebrate today. In the sense that we are telling a story where the tables were turned on our usual take on reality.

That first Easter morning, nothing is as it seems to be.

St John tells us that Mary Magdalene, whilst it was still dark, whilst she was still consumed we can imagine with grief and confusion, arrives at  Jesus’ tomb.  She may have got there ahead of other women whose intention was to anoint his body with spices. Mystery number one: the stone had been rolled away.

In shock and fear, she went runs to two of Jesus’ disciples and tells them what she has seen.

Could they believe what this woman had said? Surely she was delirious, grief still had the better of her. They run to the tomb, each in turn look inside – there were the linen cloths that had been Jesus grave clothes rolled up neatly. They saw, we read and believed, yet did not understand – and went back home.

Poor Mary is left alone, bewildered and crying. She looks inside for herself and sees two angels there who ask her why she is crying. “ Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” she replies.

Then – so mysterious yet so tender – she turns and sees a man and maybe it is still her grief which prevents her from seeing the truth. She thinks it is the gardener and pleads with him to tell her where Jesus is.

The risen Lord simply speaks her name “ Mary”.

The Greek that follows is interesting – for he says to her do not continue to hold on to me because I have not yet gone back up to my father. In her exuberance she had clung onto him for a while before realising that although this was her beloved Rabboni – Teacher, in his new life he was different from before, although  in essence just the same embodiment of God’s love.

There followed, for all the gospel writers, many other appearances of the risen Lord to his followers before  the day called Ascension Day when  he disappeared from their sight. It was shortly after that, 50 days after Easter at Pentecost that his spiritual presence with them became an abiding and powerful reality.

Do we really believe that Christ rose from the dead?  What  happens in our lives if we really believe?

I believe resurrection is a reality. It is not simply an event that took place two thousand years ago that we look back at today with wonder and awe.

I believe resurrection is a  principle. It is the way God works.  Resurrection means that there is a spiritual power all around us that Christians call the Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus .  The Lord is here  “ His Spirit is with us” we shall say again in a few minutes.  Do you believe that?  Do you feel it?

For me, it  means that:

1) Whatever we might be going through, or might have gone through so that we still bear the scars, or whatever fear the future holds for us – Christ’s risen life will sustain us.

2)Whatever earthly hell millions of people might be travelling through, often through no fault of their own.: the principle of Christ’s  resurrection life will ultimately bring healing, and our prayers are a vital part of that ever present possibility

3)Whatever sin,  burden,  guilt or resentments we may be harbouring, Christ will take those away if we earnestly seek his healing.

4)Whatever up hill battle we  might be facing or black hole of uncertainty – the principle of resurrection life – new life in Christ- is always there to  nourish us – not least through death. It  gives  the firmest  assurance of hope possible. It  steadies  us when fear takes a hold and  rejoices with us when the sun is shining.

5)Resurrection for me means meeting with Christ’s spirit in other people, seeing him at work in the unlikeliest of places – and when everything may on occasion seem bleak – hoping that all shall become well in Gods own time and in Gods own way.

We are all invited to drink  from the waters of Christ’s resurrection life. Today and every day of our lives.

The way that the spirit of the risen Lord works in our lives and in our churches and in our communities will take as many forms as there are people and places and worshipping groups. There will often be surprises on the way – there certainly were for Jesus’ followers and at first they weren’t always seen as pleasant or welcomed. Yet whether in life or in death, his followers were so sure of Christ’s presence with them, they were enabled to live out the most incredible acts of Christian witness.

I wonder what each of you would ask of the risen Christ this morning? What might new life mean to you?  A  renewed sense of  comfort and solace from his presence? A new awakening to a sense  of God calling you? A time for seeking more patience, more reflection, more guidance as to a future path to take?  New energy to do good things?

I wonder what your understanding may be of new life in our church here and in our Benefice. We had 60 or so  plus children and adults  at our Benefice Workshop on Friday – loads of energy and enthusiasm from the children and their carers, How good it will be to encourage that interest in the Christian story and follow up with regular activities that people of all ages can join in with. Our church in Little Paxton village is currently undergoing a transformation and we look  forward to the new every day ministry we hope to offer based in an ancinet building with a modern mission.

What paths may Christ be encouraging us to walk down next?

I wonder how we may gain a renewed sense of commitment to the communities we live in? Faith isn’t just about what we do in our homes and in our churches, it has a lot to do with how we live our lives in community and enrich our neighbourhoods. So many of you have or still do play a vital part in the life of your local community.  And sometimes it is so good  to look beyond the confines of our village and towns to connect in real ways with those who may be rich in spirit but desperately poor in material ways which compromises their dignity.

Jesus is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia! It was no empty cry – no joke – for those first Christians – it was a vigorous  cry of conviction and jubilation as more and more of them saw  Jesus alive. When the time came for his resurrection body to  disappear from their sight,  His Spirit abided with them fully at Pentecost – His Spirit lives with us now.

He is loose in the world. He’s there for you – for all of us- today and every day.. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!   New Life.  Peace. His Risen  Spirit making all things new.  That’s the Easter message. Alleluia!

 

April 9, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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