Sermon given by the Rector on Easter Day, Sunday 20th April 2014
In the Name of the Risen Christ. Amen
Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia
So once again….. Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia….. do you believe it?….. and just what relevance does this sweeping statement have to us in St John’s 2000 years later.
Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia So once again….. Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia….. do you believe it?….. and just what relevance does this sweeping statement have to us in St John’s 2000 years later.
Last night at the Easter Vigil, just before we renewed before Canon Tony The Promises made at our Baptism, I said the Prayer:
God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have
broken the chains of death and hell: fill your
Church with faith and hope; for a new day has
dawned and the way to life stands open in our
Saviour Jesus Christ.
One of the things that so many of us forget is that Christmas is a prelude to
Easter, without Easter there is no point in Christmas
Well we all can picture our Lord as a baby in that manger , but how do each of you individually view our Lord…. Like Charlotte used to as a man in a dress with flip flops…. Or as something else… and if something else… what? We have over the last 2000 years formed a picture of Jesus as indeed a man in a dress and thong sandals, not unlike flip flops…. I bought a very nice pair in Jerusalem in 2000…. I’ve still got them…but as Loraine will tell you I NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY… but I should, I suppose, as Pip got them and they are now a bit chewed up!!
So here is Jesus in his dress with long hair and a beard….. do you really think he’s like that. If you do… do you think he has any relevance to us today. The answer is we just do not know what Jesus looked like, neither the New Testament, nor the writings of the earliest post-Biblical authors say anything at all about his appearance.
In the earliest wall painting of Jesus from Syria now in the Yale University Gallery of Fine Arts, the physical features are hard to make out… in various frescos in the Catacombs he’s shown as a good looking un-bearded young roman man. Then of course there is the Turin Shroud.
Our picture of Jesus has been conditioned by paintings and stained glass windows and of course there is another picture and that is to look at what first century Palestinian Jews look like and draw out our own picture… would we be right? Perhaps
But, we would have forgotten one important fact… and that is the Incarnation….although Jesus was in human form… in that he could bleed and die like any human being….and he did; that component that makes up every human being on this planet…. The DNA… could be and probably was, very different…. Jesus did not have a human father….In the words of the Angelic salutation….The Angel of the Lord spoke unto Mary and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus could look like anybody or nobody. In Egypt for example we see our Lord change colour, In Cairo he is that olive skinned dark haired bearded ‘Palestinian’ but the further south in Egypt one goes his colour changes so that by the time you get to the Sudanese border he is often portrayed as black, and that is how it should be.… Jesus is the man for all seasons….Yesterday… today and tomorrow and that’s how I want us here in this Church to think of him.
The Risen Christ is for everybody, even the clubbers in their high heels and skimpy pelmets who I saw on my way home last night at the conclusion of the Easter Vigil…. And what do they know of the risen Christ…. I don’t suppose they even give him or it a thought. In this hedonistic society of ours, the aim is for pleasure no matter what the cost… do the poor, the ravaged, the destitute or those caught up in war and conflict ever cross the minds of modern youth, clubbing the nights away….. I doubt it….. and yet are they any different from the crowds that hurled insults at Jesus on Good Friday.
And what of us… Think of the Hymn – “In Christ Alone”
In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
And then it reaches its loud and powerful crescendo in the last verse:
‘No guilt in life, no fear of death – this is the power of Christ in me: From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Till he returns or calls me home- Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.’
And that today is the meaning of the resurrection…. Yes it’s an event in the history of the world…. The week leading up to Easter Day and Easter day itself… is the week that changed the world… the Crucifixion and the Resurrection have impacted on the world as no other event in history….
But we mustn’t get caught up in thinking… well it all happened a long time ago…. We are crucifying Christ on a daily basis throughout the world as we turn away from what is right and what is good, and not just by acts of war and terrorism, but by our own neglect and indifference to his call.
In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God saves from ourselves and we don’t often say thank you…. We do here every day and particularly on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s and on Friday’s at St Peter’s…. but is it enough?
Jesus rose from the dead that we might have life….. not as we know it now on this earth, but a life for the soul beyond death, the soul the very essence of God that he freely gave us…. He will call home.
The message of this Easter Day in 2014 is that Jesus is indeed the man for all seasons and the man for all people…what does Peter say in our reading from Acts this morning: ‘‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ Jesus is the man and the God who doesn’t care who we are or how we dress.. what kind of music we like or if we are fat, thin, black, white yellow green or blue.. whether we are straight or gay..whoever and whatever we are… this Saviour of our Souls reaches out his hands to us and bids us all come to him.
In the Easter Vigil, we are powerfully reminded of what it means to be a Christian as we move from the Creation of the world through the Old Testament readings to perhaps what many would class as the climax of the Service…. It’s not the lighting of the new fire… or that of lighting the Paschal Candle…. And I lighted ours at 8.30….. no… it’s the renewal of our Baptismal promises… when we speak for ourselves the promises made for us by our God-Parents…. Where we as individuals promise ourselves to this man who is God… this man who died on the Cross and whose Resurrection we commemorate today.
In our commemoration and when we go to the Altar rail…. Please don’t think of the man in a dress…2000 years ago, but think of the God who is our Father, brother and friend….the God who as I said is for all – Look into the eyes of Jesus in your minds….see a myriad of emotions… of pain and suffering…being gradually replaced by a gentle longing… .as he reaches out to you and says through his eyes… come to me…. You are mine… I was with you when you where born and I will be with you holding your hand when you die… and then comes the twinkle… the whimsical smile… as Jesus says to you, life is for living… enjoy your life… and give back to me all that I have given to you, by helping your fellow men and women.. and then the grin…. And Oh… by the way… don’t forget to pray.