Easter 4- sermon thoughts
“I lay down my life in order to take it up again” Words from this morning’s gospel . In the name of Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
It already seems a long time since Easter Day- there is a sense of immense joy on that day- sometimes tempered by wondering- what does this amazing fact of resurrection actually mean for us now.
One of the best attended benefice discussion courses was entitled “I believe in the resurrection and the life everlasting- or do I”
It’s a question that nags and puzzles us- and we can never really find a resting place because we constantly dip in and out of belief.
During Lent I have read a book by Rowan Williams- God with us looking at the meaning of the cross and the resurrection then and now. It really challenged me to reflect on how the doctrine of the resurrection makes a difference to how we live now. His 5 points adapted are as follows
- Firstly- fundamentally it means that human beings matter If we really believe that Christ lives beyond death- then that means that there is a hope and a destiny for us. The Orthodox church suggests that human beings were made with dignity and liberty so that one day they would be companions for Jesus Christ. That means that we are special and have a part to play in transforming our world to bring it close to God.
- Secondly, it means that the world has changed- and can change- something new has happened and we do not have to carry on the old fatalistic ways. Instead of just hoping for the best- or having a Pollyanna type optimism- what has happened is that something decisive has happened. God has broken into our fragile lives to show that evil, despair and death do not have the last word. The way things are now does not have to be how they can be. We can change, and our world can change.
- Thirdly, death cannot defeat us. Life beyond death doesn’t mean that we don’t die- we definitely do- but what is means is that when we face death- God can say “I’m on the far side of it”. I had a very close friend from university who died in her forties with cancer. As she was dying I sat with her and felt that her journey was one she could only travel on her own- but I had a real sense that when she died she would not be faced by eternal nothingness but would find a love that would hold her close. Jesus’ constant message in his resurrection appearances is “Do not be afraid”. A place has been cleared for us- a place to stand close to God.
- Fourthly, resurrection means that Christ prays within us. We sometimes pray as if we are longing to change God’s mind- that if we can pray long and hard enough things will change- often in the way we want it. But if we see prayer as resting with God then perhaps it can be less a desperate attempt to get God’s attention and more a way of letting us be changed by God and become closer to who God really is. And in then things will inevitably change.
- And finally, it means that God cares for creation. Not just us- but our world, the beauty of creation- the plants the animals- everything that lives can become transformed, redeemed and find a place with God. And it means we take seriously our world- we care for it out of love because God created it out of love- “And it was very good”.
So when we live a life of hope in the resurrection, we trust that we matter to God, that the world has changed, that death cannot defeat us, that Christ will pray with us always- and that God cares for creation.
And that eventually we will be able to see God in his truth and beauty.
A poem by Evangeline Paterson
“and that will be heaven
at last the first unclouded
to stand like the sunflower
turned full face to the sun drenched
with light in the centre
held while the circling planets
hum with utter joy
seeing and knowing
at last in every particle
seen and known and not turning
never turning away