Sermon Easter 3 April 30, 2017
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17 1 Peter 1:17-23 Luke 24:13-35
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Have you ever had Buyer’s Remorse ? You know that rotten feeling over something you purchased ? Things like a six feet high concrete copy of Michelangelo’s statue of David for the front lawn ! Or a kitchen appliance too big to put away so you have to keep it on the kitchen counter, getting in the way, and you only use it once a year ! Or a subscription to a magazine or a club in which you lost interest long ago but you have to keep paying otherwise you will face a stiff penalty. Or you voted for a seeming political saviour, who turns out to be incompetent and unsuitable to the office elected. All of these things give you Buyer’s Remorse. That becomes a special form of remorse when it affects other people negatively. You know, the thoughtless word or action you regret that damaged or even ruined a relationship. Or perhaps something not done when you could and should have lived-up to a duty or an obligation or a request. These things are more serious because they harm others. And deep down as human beings we usually only feel moved to harm others when we feel threatened. We’ve got all sorts of built-in defence mechanisms ready to go at a moment’s notice, when threats occur. One of those defence mechanisms is to blame the injured person, that’s unjust.
When it comes to more serious things we call it Guilt. That’s when we take an untoward action against others without first feeling threatened and without justification. We can often shuck that guilt off if the action is not that big or perhaps the victim is just a nameless person in a crowd. But ! When that person is close to you it’s not so easy. Or when the action causes real harm it’s not so easy either. And when the victim of your action is a good person, a friend, someone you love even and you really don’t know what you were thinking about when you did it, then you deeply regret, feel really guilty, and wish to high heaven that you could change it, even if it would cost you badly, cause you humiliation and expose you to punishment. / By the time Jesus lived here on Earth, the Jews had been hoping for a Messiah for centuries, so when Peter told them that they had killed that Messiah they were ‘cut to the heart’. That’s one of those visceral feelings that no other words can describe. Everyone of Peter’s listeners must have said, “Oh, my God, what have I done ?” that feeling, not only of guilt, but of real personal loss. That was the one chance for the Jews and now it was gone.
But ! Peter explains that God doesn’t give up so easily. Do what we will we can’t reverse things ! But ! God can ! So God raised Jesus from the grave, reversed His death, what we call, defeated Death. Not just Jesus’ death but God defeated the power of Death, the finality of Death. We live in a fallen world and disease, accident and natural decline will still claim our bodies but it will not defeat us. Our essential spirits will last for ever because of Jesus.
We don’t generally feel guilty about the death of Jesus – it’s too remote from us in time and space, but should we ? There is another reason we feel less than guilty and it’s a complacent one. We know what came out of Jesus’ death and Resurrection – our Salvation. But for our spiritual health shouldn’t we look to see where we might be to blame before picking up the benefits of His death. You know, why should we worry, it all came out right in the end, we can live happily ever after ! Well no, we can’t ! The same things that caused the Jews to hand Jesus over for execution still exist in us.
Perhaps the first thing to tackle is the complacency of which I just spoke. We must be aware of what is happening in our world. Jesus’ death was a flagrant miscarriage of justice. Perhaps to avoid it just one voice might have changed the whole situation, Jesus would have lived and gone on to convert the world without the need for violence, which after all is surely a part of His Creed. His one voice still calls us to follow Him. I can’t help but think of the one voice of the unidentified young man in Tiananmen Square, who stood up against a column of eighteen tanks of the Chinese Army Police and prevented a larger bloodbath, himself armed with only a shopping bag. And of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia who ignited the Arab Spring with his own immolation. And Martin Luther King Jr., whose dream inspired oppressed black Americans and brought them closer to the equality they, we all, deserve. And Mahatma Gandhi whose lone voice liberated his country from imperial rule. And Elijah Harper who raised a single eagle feather to halt the Meech Lake Accord, which left out the Indigenous Peoples from our proposed Constitution, it recognised only the English and the French. One voice can do a lot, and Jesus needed that one voice but no one had the guts or the sense to be that One. Jesus said “In as much as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). You still have the chance to raise your voice for Jesus, every time you save even one person from injustice.
The young man in Tiananmen Square was alone but only when he stood his ground did another young man join him, surely at considerable risk to himself – the tank driver refused to run down a fellow human being. And so it went on until peace reigned in the Square and things started to change for the Chinese people as a whole over time. Mother Teresa said “I cannot feed one hundred but at least I can feed one”, along with others she now feeds thousands. One man, one woman is all it takes. Jesus just needs one person to join Him, it could be you – it should be you.
The Jews who belatedly regretted the death of Messiah Jesus and were ‘cut to the heart’ realised their error and were baptised into the Faith, into Christianity, three thousand of them that one day. So like them don’t just mourn the fact of our complicity in the death of Jesus, but go and commit yourselves to Him anew. That is what Easter requires of us and it’s about the power of one, each and every one, of us. Avoid Remorse, Regret and Guilt instead “do justice and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Amen. Alleluia !