February 14, 2021
My Dear Parishioners,
My dear parishioners
During the Easter season this year we’re thinking about people whose lives are changed by that first Easter day; people who encounter Jesus, risen from the dead
and bringing new hope and meaning to their lives.
Last week we thought about Thomas. One man whose own personal experience of Easter enabled him to move from doubt to faith in his risen Lord.
This week we hear about a number of people who witness Jesus coming among them, showing them his wounds and eating food to convince them that he really is alive. They are convinced and the experience changes their own lives and their life together as a community of believers.
We know very little about who these people are. Luke tells us that the eleven disciples were there together with their companions. We don’t know how many or who they are. That makes the story all the more interesting and exciting because we have the freedom to use our imagination and explore all sorts of possibilities.
One thing I think we can be sure of is that all these people have already had their lives radically changed by Jesus. It may be that some of them are people we have actually met in the Gospel stories and we may find at least one person there with whom we can particularly identify because of our own experiences in life.
There might be the rich young man who Jesus told to sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow him. Perhaps for a long time afterwards he thought about what Jesus had said and realised the truth of his words and acted on them. He followed Jesus because he learnt that it’s possible for material wealth to stop you allowing God to fill that empty place in your heart and soul.
There might be the woman who had suffered from bleeding for years until touching Jesus’ robe healed her. She followed Jesus because he welcomed and accepted her when she was looked down on by a society who considered her unclean.
There might be the woman who had been caught in adultery. She followed Jesus because he had given her back her self respect and a chance to make a new start in her life when self-righteous men wanted to stone her to death.
There might be a man restored to his right mind after Jesus freed him from mental illness or demon possession. He followed Jesus because he wanted to help rescue others from the living hell he had experienced.
And so we could go on imagining the stories of the people who were in the room that first Easter evening. What they all have in common is that each of them has already had his or her life changed by Jesus. Whether it was through healing, teaching or just his being, Jesus has touched each of them in such a way that they have risked leaving their homes, their work and their families to follow him.
They also have in common the experience of either seeing or hearing about Jesus’ betrayal, trial, torture and death. They have all been plunged into the darkness of heart-breaking grief, despair, guilt and fear. At the beginning of that first Easter day they are a grieving, broken community of grieving, broken people. They are frightened and perhaps mis-trustful of each other. After all, one of their number betrayed Jesus – if he could do that, couldn’t others?
Now, in the evening things have changed. There are rumours buzzing around; excitement is in the air; hope is struggling to find its way up through crushing despair. Can it be true that Jesus has come alive again? Dare they believe this news? What does it mean if he is alive?
By the end of this evening – transformation. They have seen Jesus himself as a real living presence. He has opened their minds so that at last they understand all the things he told them while he was alive. He has given them a commission to go out and spread the good news of forgiveness of sins for all who turn their lives around.
The grieving, broken community becomes a joyful, united community – a community with a strong sense of purpose and meaning which sends them out into the world as witnesses to the resurrection from the dead of Jesus, the Christ.
Like each of the people in the Gospel story, each of us has our own particular story and we experience the presence of God in our lives in different ways at different times. Like them, we have all learnt about Jesus in different ways. Like them Jesus has touched our lives in a way that has set us off on the journey to follow him, not sure where that journey might lead.
Like them, we may have known the darkness and despair of our own Gethsemane and Good Friday when God seemed a long way away and our faith has seemed pointless, without meaning. Like them, there are times when unexpectedly we encounter the living Christ and our faith is renewed and strengthened.
For various reasons I reached a point with these thoughts where I was very stuck, unsure where I was going and where the thoughts were leading. Cudgelling my brains in front of the screen did no good – my brain just got tied in tighter knots. Eventually I let go of it and went off to do something useful. W hen I re-visited my notes I realised what the problem was.
I’d been thinking that I should be led in one direction, to offer just one or two thoughts and ideas about what God might be saying to us today about the Easter experience. Those thoughts would be for sharing with everyone here.
Of course the reality is very different. Just as each of us has arrived here this morning via different routes, so too we will journey on in different ways.
When I think again about these followers of Jesus I see that there is no set or right way to be a Christian. Each of us follows Jesus in our own way, as who we are, shaped by our life experiences. So it’s impossible for me to tell you what the risen Christ says to you today. What I can do is to invite you to join me in taking a bit of a risk, trying something a bit different without knowing where it will lead us.