Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Easter 2021

 Today is the day that is the reason for our faith. 

 

The miraculous birth of Jesus, his incredible earthly life and of course his death on the cross all help to shape our faith and remind us of his amazing love for us, but today, the day of resurrection is what absolutely gives our faith foundation and meaning. 

 

It is the reason we continue to celebrate an event of 2000 years ago and will do so into eternity… If Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, then our faith is hollow… Jesus, the way, the truth, the life, our risen Saviour, is the reason for our faith… 

 

And our readings this morning obviously reflect this great truth… 

 

From the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah (25:6-9) we are given a wonderful picture of all people feasting together celebrating the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, celebrating the defeat of death forever, celebrating the end of any earthly sadness or torment or pain. 

 

There, on that mountain, people simply rejoice together… 

 

And then the incredible Easter Anthems which remind us of the Easter story of Christ, sacrificed for us, but raised from the dead to die no more and offering to each of us the invitation to new and eternal life. The sin of Adam no more holds us, the life of Jesus can shape and transform us. 

 

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (10:34-43) Peter was delivering a message that the gospel was for all people – God shows no partiality. Peter simply offers an account of Jesus ! His life of love and devotion for people, his death on the cross, his resurrection – Peter says how he witnessed all these things. 

 

And then the gospel account (Mark 16:1-8) of the three women coming to the tomb ready to anoint the body of Jesus with the spices they had bought… They didn’t expect an empty tomb, a risen Saviour and when the angel at the tomb spoke to them saying that Jesus wasn’t there, that he was risen from the dead and they were to go and tell the disciples this news, they were afraid and amazed… 

 

The reality of resurrection was suddenly in front of these women and it’s a frightening yet amazing reality – frightening because it calls us to respond, to recognise something which we can’t understand and yet amazing because we know it, we see it, not as starkly perhaps as the early followers, but we see it in our own lives and in the lives of millions who are transformed by this reality. 

 

But what about some other messages from these readings ?Isaiah paints that wonderful picture ending with the recognition that people have waited for a Messiah and that Messiah has come and delivered salvation for his people. 

 

But what about those who missed it ? What about those who are still thinking about it ? One of the saddest parts of Easter has to be the number of people who don’t yet recognise Jesus… The invitation though remains constant – to recognise him, to accept the seat at his table that is there for you, for me, for everyone. 

 

I’ve told the story before but it’s one worth retelling again and again of D William Sangster, a Methodist who had been working on a renewal movement in this country following the 2nd world war who contracted a disease which progressively paralysed his body, and even his vocal chords

 

On the last Easter Day that he was alive, he painfully wrote a note to his daughter saying, ‘How terrible it is to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout “He is Risen!” But it is far worse to wake up with a voice and not want to shoutit…’ 

 

On this Easter Day and every day let’s pray for those who don’t know Jesus and the reality of his resurrection and if we do, then let’s tell people our story of how he has transformed and continues to transform us… 

 

That was a message understood by the early followers of Jesus who needed to go and tell the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and of how it impacted them. And in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter was delivering this sermon… 

 

Peter, of course, had famously denied even knowing Jesus when Jesus was arrested, but after he had seen him alive, there was nothing that would hold him back from sharing the good news – it wasn’t easy, he didn’t always get it right, but he stuck to the message. In this passage he spoke a message about inclusion, about how the gospel is for all people everywhere and that’s a challenge for us too… 

 

So, from this short sermon by Peter, we’re asked to consider the reality of Jesus again, of how he changes us, and we’re asked to recognise that however hard it might sometimes be for us, we’re to go about telling our story of how Jesus has changed us, to anyone and everyone. 

As God shows no partiality, so we are called to do the same – in other words to take out the gospel message, to live out the gospel message, where sometimes we might find it uncomfortable and difficult.

 

Just as Peter witnessed the life of Jesus and told people about him, so we are to do the same. There is no more powerful witness to Jesus than the evidence of lives changed by him. 

 

So we’ve thought about those who perhaps still don’t recognise Jesus today, we’ve thought about our need to tell our story if we do, and the gospel reading reminds us to be confident in that story… 

 

When the women went to the tomb on that first Easter morning, they went expecting to find the body of Jesus, they went expecting to anoint his body. They worried about practical things such as how to move the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. They didn’t expect to find an empty tomb and a risen Jesus. 

 

It’s easy to live our lives like that too sometimes… to believe that the impossible is indeed impossible… to believe that we have to shape our own future… to believe that we’re in this by ourselves and that God, even if we recognise he’s there, is distant… 

But the good news is that isn’t the message of the gospel, that isn’t the message of Jesus, who came close to us and remains close with us… 

 

We can be confident to face the world and it’s worries and its pains as well as its joys, because Jesus lives and he has faced the darkest nightmare that the world can offer and come through triumphantly, and it is he that promises to carry us through anything as well… 

 

This last year has been so strange and so painful in so many ways for lots of people. Hopefully we are beginning to emerge, slowly but surely, from this time, and however slow that emergence will be, a new life will follow – things will get back to a new pattern of normality where we can embrace people, embrace the world and embrace life once again, and we can do that confidently, and we must do that confidently, because of what we celebrate today. 

 

Some people today will be struggling to see a way forward, to see hope for the future, but Jesus is hope – Jesus points the way through any darkness into eternal light. For those who are still thinking about the reality of Jesus, may you know his presence with you always and for those transformed by Jesus and his resurrection, may we be willing to shout out in words and through our whole lives, the amazing news that Jesus is risen and that he is alive for evermore… 

 

Let us be glad and rejoice in the salvation he invites us all to share. AMEN

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