Sermon Easter Day April 16, 2017
Acts 10:34-43 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 Colossians 3:1-4 Matthew 28:1-10
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Alleluia ! It has been some time since we’ve been allowed to say that, so let’s do it together – Alleluia !! Thanks I needed that.
We have just come through a grueling time – Lent. It’s over but let’s look at Lent for a moment. The season we call Lent is truly a season. Its original meaning from many languages was Springtime, a noun. The word ‘lent’ as a verb is mentioned only three times in the Bible, with the general meaning of ‘giving up’. First we are told not to charge interest on anything that is lent to others (Deuteronomy 23:19). So wealth or surplus is not to be used as a means of making more; advantage is not to be used to take advantage of others. Then we hear that it is a way of giving to God (1 Samuel 1:28) meaning giving our lives to God. Lastly it is a sign of independence and prudence by not having lent to others (Jeremiah 15:10) that is, we are not bound or beholden to others or by others, even though we may receive criticism for being prudent, which others may see as being tight-fisted or over cautious. You can see how over time the two ideas got merged and gave us a season of both promise and deprivation.
Now we have to question has Lent prepared us for Easter as it is intended to do ? Have we learnt not to take advantage of others in the last forty days ? Have we given ourselves more fully to God in the last forty days ? Have we got rid of the things that bound us and are we now ready to put God in the forefront of our lives ? Are we ready for the promise of Easter ? I hope so because that is what Lent is all about.
And now we are here at Easter, thanks be to God. Easter is resurrection, redemption, freedom, new life. I sense new life ahead for us. How ? Well following Paul’s advice in his letter to the Christians in Colossus, we are to set our minds on higher things. I remember when I learnt to skate as an adult. I used to watch all these little kids flying around the rink and I would be lumbering along, one foot in front of the other, falling down frequently. It was pathetic, still is, but I got the rudiments of how to do it. It wasn’t until I stopped looking at my feet, looking down, that I could skate. If I kept my eyes looking straight ahead then I was good.
We are in danger of looking down too much, uncertain of the ground beneath us. We say we are not what we used to be, not enough of us, fewer children. We are uncertain and will wobble on our blades. How do you think Jesus got through Holy Week, it wasn’t by looking down it was by looking up to God, to see the horizon of possibilities that followed the hardship. He prayed to God ‘not my will but yours’ that’s how He survived, that’s how we will survive, not just in the immediate time ahead but for all time.
I come from a place where churches are commonly one thousand years old and more, they are a dime a dozen, common as toast. A church one hundred and fifty or one hundred and eighty years old has a long way to go. Don’t give up stay in the game, stay actively engaged with our future. How ?
In this next little while raise your eyes to the horizon and beyond. God’s Will, will be done if we have the fortitude to say “not my will Lord but yours”. I know you will say “but times are different” of course, they have always been different and always will be, do you really want the same old-same old ? I bet not. In the last thousand years Christians have seen umpteen changes to the Church and many have been persecuted for their faith in it, tragically that continues to be the case as we know from newspaper headlines almost daily. Starting with Jesus and continuing to today people have been willing to sacrifice and face hardship for their Faith. It would be a betrayal of them to say we will not even try, because times are different.
When the two Marys encountered Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane He didn’t say “I’ve done the redeeming bit, now take your ease”. Instead He gave them the responsibility to go and tell others, especially their friends, then to get moving and go to other places and find Him there. Jesus is not just here with us or others like us, or just in those thousand year old churches, He is on the street, in the workplace, at the rink, in the campground, on the beach and everywhere else you could possibly look. And we know too that He is in our hearts encouraging us with every beat.
Lent is over, ‘sombre’ has left our vocabulary because this is a time to look forward a time of expectation and promise. When we go and do God’s bidding we will find Him there. But where do we go ? This week we are going to meet with the Congregational Coaches again. It’s not just to come up with some fancy vision statement that will read like every other Church vision statement ever written. That would be a waste of time because we would only put it aside and in time forget about it. We have already done some work with them describing who we are, what we do and so on. What we now want to do is identify our weaknesses and how to fix them. We have weaknesses but should we just accept them, fold our hands across our chests and say that’s it, we can do nothing about it ? No way !
We are a community, it would not be right for just a few to offer ideas and set priorities and goals. That’s not how communities work, so I ask all of you to attend this Tuesday, not only the Wardens, Deputies and Lay Delegates but all of you. We all have a stake in our future and we should all offer our gifts to steer us properly into the future. /The story of Easter and Paul’s message to us is that if we have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ then we will direct our lives toward God, who calls us to life and life everlasting. Pray that we will continue to be God’s people and a light to our world and the joy of Easter will be with you this day and forever more. Amen. Alleluia !