Very tied at the conclusion of an awe inspiring week concluding with an amazing service in 3 acts this morning.
8am - Proclamation of the Resurrection amongst the dead in the yard - 43 people attending
8.30am - Breakfast as on the lake shore with the Risen Jesus - some 50 people
9.30 am - Celebration Eucharist with a congregation of somewhere around 180 people!!!
The presence if the Risen Christ was definitely amongst us - and people had the chance to respond through renewal of baptismal vows and holy water at 8am, through anointing with holy oil as a symbol of wanting the presence of the Risen Christ in us and then giving a candle lit from the Paschal candle to call us to take the light of the Risen Christ out from the Church building into the ordinariness of everyday life at 9.30am.
Fantastic - praise God!
Here's the sermon at 9.30 am or a version of it...
When Pepsi-Cola was launched in China, its marketing managers wondered why its famous slogan, 'Come alive with Pepsi ' was not achieving the impact that it had achieved elsewhere in the world. It was discovered that the translator had rendered it: 'Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead.'
This is the shocking claim of the Easter Gospel - that one man, Jesus of Nazareth has come back from the dead. All of us like a happy ending. The girl gets the guy. The guy gets the girl. The bad guys get got and everyone walks off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Yet the events that Mark records for us that we hear again this morning, are so shocking, that it stuns the central characters into a terrified silence.
There was once a man who was convinced he was dead. His wife and friends became so concerned for him that they referred him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist set out to prove to the man from medical evidence that dead men don't bleed.
Eventually the man said, "OK, you've convinced me, dead men don't bleed."
At which point the psychiatrist produced a needle and jabbed the man. Looking down with horror at the blood spurting from him, the man said, "Good Lord, dead men do bleed after all!"
Dead men don’t bleed. Dead men don’t come back to life. Fact. Jesus of Nazareth, this outlandish prophet had had his rightful end in the eyes of the authorities. Fact He was silenced permenantly by crucifixion. Fact.
And then, as was the custom, some women - Mary Magdelene, Mary and Salome - were making their way to Jesus’ tomb to anoint the stinking body with spice and oils. They has known Jesus in life as their teacher, Lord, Saviour, Messiah and friend. Now, with crushed hopes, they go to deal with Jesus as a corpse.
As they go along, they chat together, ‘Who will roll away the stone?’ How were they to get to anoint the body? They were still living in a world that says you roll a stone on place over a tomb on Friday it will innevitably be there on Sunday. Whilst the women demonstrate some faith a courage by going to the tomb at all, they carry on living in a world where death has the final word.
Then, bit by bit, this world of theirs and ours is dismantled and everything is thrown off kilter. The women look up and notice that the stone covering the tomb where Jesus’ dead body lay, has been rolled away. They enter the tomb, and in place of a dead body they encounter a living young man - a white robed angelic
visitor. The women are alarmed - a biblical understatement - as their world has been turned upside down.
The young man speaks - do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here...’ And suddenly the certainty that is the life experience of these women and all of our lives, is is violently unsettled by the resurrection, plunging the stone from the tomb into the millpond of history. As the experience of the resurrection hits home, the effects of it ripple out across from then to now and beyond.
The fear that the women felt was natural when all of a sudden, something as certain and inevitable as death, is no longer certain or inevitable, the world has changed dramatically. The women may also have been frightened because they were to be the bearers of a message that unsettled them and the other disciples further. Jesus was going ahead of them to meet them in Galillee - the place where this whole roller-coaster began - back in the context of their everyday lives.
Jesus is suddenly at loose in the world, but he is not here now as a corpse or as a two thousand year old story - but he meets us here as a living reality - not on out terms but on his. There is no escaping him, no containing him, no forgetting him. He comes to meet us and claim us in love. Life as we have known it cannot continue because Jesus goes ahead of us to love us into loving and to call us to discover the empty tomb and the rest of the story for ourselves.
Jesus met the women at the tomb and turned their world, their expectations of life and of death upside down and confirmed for them ultimately that Jesus is who he said and demonstrated he is - God’s Son. Jesus meets us this morning and every day in our everyday lives - an uncontainable living reality, turning expectations of life and of death upside down and confirmed for them ultimately that Jesus is who he said and demonstrated he is - God’s Son.
And because of this - all of a sudden things that seemed impossible are now possible - like the declining of a fight by young men like the teenager Jimmy Mizzen, or the forgiveness Margaret Mizzen his mother showed her son’s killer, instead feeling sorrow for the killer’s parents for what they would now have to live with for the rest of their lives; like the transforming of the life of Shane Taylor - one of the UK’s most dangerous prison inmates, originally imprisoned for attempted murder but then after instigating a riot had his sentence extended by 4 years. Whilst in prison he discovered that he could be locked up and yet free - free from anger and fear that was driving him to be the sort of man he had been.
Friends this is the power of the resurrection, but not just as an event that happened some 2000 years ago, but a person - Jesus - who will transform your life into resurrection life in just the same sort of way - maybe not as dramatically, maybe not over night, but he will if you you will let him.
The women ran off terrified at the empty tomb - terrified at what they had experienced, but maybe terrified at what God was offering - unsettling, but life changing, life affirming transformation not of Jesus, but of their lives.
This Easter day, where are we each? Are we running off, frightened that God can see past our British reserve, frightened that we don’t believe or love enough. Friends do not be afraid - Jesus meets us here this morning - he believe in us enough, he loves us enough. The women on that first Easter morning could not accept the reality of a resurrection life - yet this morning through Jesus’ resurrection we are offered the chance to ‘come alive’ and know freedom from fear and the unconditional love and forgiveness of God. At the empty tomb the women could not accept that new vision of life - the question the Risen Jesus asks us this Easter Day is - can we? Amen.