Sunday 4th April 2021
(Revd Jeanette Hamer)
Based on readings found here
It is Easter Sunday, and although we cannot be gathered in the church building,
we still have much to celebrate –
Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Let those words echo in your house this morning
Nothing has changed for us, the joy, hope and power of the Resurrection
is not altered by a Pandemic.
This is what we believe in, this is the resurrection of Christ.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by a Primary School teacher in the UK to do a video for him, to help his Y6 class understand the Easter Story.
The questions he set me to answer were these, all linked to what Christians believe:
Why is the resurrection important to Christians?
Why is the resurrection important to me personally?
Does having a belief in the resurrection of Jesus help people lead better lives?
Interesting questions, and certainly ideal for us to consider this morning.
What do you believe about the Easter story?
Why is it important to you and what difference does it make to your life?
Why is the resurrection important to us as Christians?
We cannot answer this question just as it is.
To answer it, we really have to go right back to the beginning of the world.
We have to acknowledge why Christ had to die and why his Resurrection happened.
We cannot separate the Easter story from the whole story.
We believe Creation shows a loving creative God. The Bible says,
‘In the beginning was God’. And also
‘He saw everything that he had made and it was good’
At the start God had a loving, caring relationship with his creation.
At the start it was perfect, but we know it soon went downhill.
Somehow, we seem almost reluctant to call it sin today,
the evil, we can see it all around us.
We see war, greed, injustice, racism, oppression, disease, cruelty, crime, pollution, sickness ...and death.
We know from scripture that God spoke again and again through the Prophets,
sending messages to the world saying how their behaviour saddened and angered him. Despite these warnings, the sin continued and as a consequence of this,
the separation from God became wider.
Humanity continued down this slippery slope.
The Prophecies in the Old Testament began to show a picture of someone great,
who was going to come into the world to share God’s love and teaching again,
to save it from its ways and bring reconciliation,
uniting it again with its creator, God.
God sent himself into the world, in the person of his son Jesus,
to teach of God’s love and his longing for his creation to be reconciled with him.
God became man, to live among us, to understand how we lived, how we felt
and to experience all aspects of our lives.
He taught people of the need to repent and say sorry
for all the wrong that they were doing.
He called them to turn their lives around to serve God and others.
Part of this reconciliation with God
meant that Jesus had to take upon himself all the evil- the sin
and to become the ultimate sacrifice for us with his death on the cross.
This is what we remember at this time of year, with Holy week and Easter.
We remember the adulation of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper together with his Disciples, his betrayal, trial and on Good Friday,
his death on a cross.
To me, one of the most symbolic gestures in the biblical account
is the ripping of the curtain in the Temple at the moment of Jesus’ death.
The tearing of the curtain from top to bottom, not by human hands,
and the separation between the Holy of Holies, where God was said to dwell, and humanity gone.
The way back to a relationship with God was now no longer blocked,
as Christ had been the ultimate sacrifice.
Three days later, as the women coming to the Garden tomb discover,
the stone has rolled away and they realise he had returned from the dead,
he had risen, just as he said he would.
So, why is the resurrection important to us as Christians?
Why is this so central to our belief?
It is because it is the foundation on which our faith is built.
The belief that God raised Jesus from the dead confirms that he is that special person,
the Messiah sent by God to save us and restore us to God.
It is important too, because it completed Jesus’ mission,
his reason for coming to the earth.
If it had all ended with his death on the cross, it would have remained incomplete.
His victory over death was necessary to open the way for us to return to God.
We believe that Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee for us
that there is a future for us after our own deaths.
The hope we share is that we will be reunited with him
when he returns at the end of time.
After his resurrection, we believe that he returned to his friends and disciples and continued to teach them for a short time, reminding them of God’s love for them and how they should dedicate their lives to spreading his message of love.
Before he returned to his Father a short time later,
he told his followers that they would receive help to carry on his work on earth.
This instruction, which is still the same for all Christians today, is to preach his word to all and to carry on his message of love, peace, joy and justice in a world that still suffers.
We believe that he sent us help to do this, through his Holy Spirit.
It was this power, that enabled the Disciples to spread the message of Christ
across the world.
Why is the resurrection important to me?
I believe that at the moment of his death, Christ carried all the pain and suffering,
all the sorrow, bereavement and hopelessness upon himself. There was no cry in the night that went unheard by human ears, that he did not hear and carry on his shoulders.
This helps me as I look at a world that sometimes seems to be in darkness, pain and suffering. The resurrection gives me hope for a better future, a future with him.
The fact that Jesus has triumphed over death and promises, to those who follow him,
that he will be with us and help us through the ups and downs of life,
gives me comfort and peace.
I do not feel alone, I feel him in my life, guiding me in my daily life.
The third question I was asked to consider was this,
Does having a belief in the resurrection of Jesus helps people lead better lives?
Yes, I do believe that our faith in the resurrection of Jesus helps us lead a better life.
In fact, I think that our faith in Christ helps me lead a better life.
His teachings speak of love, justice, equality, peace, healing, comfort and joy.
He calls us to be in this world and continue this message of hope to others around us.
His resurrection and restoration to a new transformed body gives us the hope for the same, starting now in our lives today. We are called to live in a better way.
Christians are called to a life of service to others, to help them in the twists and turns of life. We are called to preach his Gospel across the world,
to bring others to know of God’s love.
Jesus said this in his final instructions to his disciples,
the great commission, when he left to return to God.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ‘
To preach the Gospel is to share the good news of Jesus and his message of being saved through his death and resurrection and being reunited with God.
This instruction, or command, is central to our Christian life
and we have been entrusted as his followers to do this.
St Francis of Assisi is reported to have said these words,
‘Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.
This means that our lives and the way we live them speak of God’s love and salvation through Christ so much more than all the words we may preach.
As a minister I do a lot of preaching,
but if that is all I did and my life didn’t involve helping others,
praying for others, fighting for justice etc,
would my Christian faith be shown in every area of my life?
Would people know I was a Christian if they didn’t come to church and hear me preach?
Can people see him in your life?
Christians are called to live a life that visibly reflects the love of Jesus,
because we are sharing the gospel in our actions and not only our words.
There is a prayer that is said to have been written by St Francis, and the words bring this same message of living our faith. The prayer has been turned into a hymn.
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there is doubt true faith in You
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness only light
And where there's sadness ever joy
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we are born to eternal life
I believe, as a Christian that this is what Christ’s resurrection should mean to us,
to bring his light and hope to the world around us,
not only with our words but in our actions.
In his death and resurrection, he overcame the world and its problems
and this is the message we should share as we go through our lives.
Can we echo the words of Mary at the open tomb,
‘I have seen the Lord!’
and having seen him... go and tell the others?