Joined: 16 Nov 2006
|Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:19 pm Post subject: Easter Sermon from Rev Ant Howe
|Sermon: Easter - Rev Ant Howe
I am old enough to remember when there wasn’t mobile phones…..
I also remember a time when, if you took pictures, you had to take the film to the chemist or send the film away in a plastic envelope and wait a week or two for the pictures to be sent to you. You could also only take about 30 pictures per film so you had to be careful not to over-do it!
I can also recall going to people’s houses and out would come the projector and the dreaded holiday slide-show!
I remember the first mobile phones coming out which looked a bit like bricks…..
I then remember when we all got mobile phones but only ever used them for emergencies….
Then we started texting…..
And then phones began to get cameras with them - - and then came the ability to upload things instantly to the internet.
It seems to be the norm now - - we are obsessed with capturing the moment in a picture or a video clip.
Now, I’m as guilty as that of anyone. I’m never without my phone. I’m always checking facebook and I like to take lots of pictures whenever I see something interesting.
I do sometimes wonder, though, when I am busy trying to take a picture of something whether I am actually missing out a bit on the experience of the moment. Am I living in the moment, or am I busy trying to record what is happening?
Taking a picture does divert some of our attention from what is happening then and there. Yet, we still seem to want to take the picture.
There is something within us that wants to capture the moment, to document it. Maybe because we want to share things with our friends, but also so that we can look back.
Perhaps we are worried we will forget what that moment was like….. and we want to have something which will help us remember.
One thing we learn by being human is that nothing stays the same….we might wish it did, but things change over time.
Our memories of events change over time as well. Have you noticed if you are recalling events with someone, they can often remember different points to you? Or, in some cases, their memory might seem to contradict yours?
Even a photo can cause confusion: ‘where was this taken?’ ‘When was it taken?’
With all our technology today, we cannot stop the march of time. We may try to capture the moment – but won’t stop the moments passing.
Perhaps that’s why we should try to make the best of every moment, and to live fully and completely whilst we can.
When I read the gospel stories of Jesus’s life I see people trying to capture the moment and the record their memories before they faded.
The early followers of Jesus were convinced that they were in the last days and that Jesus would return to reign on earth at any moment….. but when that didn’t happen in the way they expected it became important to record the things that Jesus said and the things that he did.
And so we have the 4 gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John….
But don’t forget, the earliest gospel – Mark’s gospel – wasn’t written until 40 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s interesting to me that the earliest gospel to be written was actually the shortest! The gospel’s which came later were longer. You would’ve thought that the earliest gospel would be the most detailed as the memories were fresher, but that’s not the case.
As we get further and further away from the life of Jesus the stories about him get longer.
Perhaps the writers of those later gospels were determined for his memory to live on, for his fame to spread, and his message to travel around the world.
And they did a good job didn’t they? Before the printing press, word processors, computers, mobile phones, cameras or the internet they still manage to give us a snapshot of the life of this mysterious man Jesus.
The message of Jesus is still shared today - - and the character of Jesus comforts and troubles people in equal measure…..
Some worship him as God, others as the chosen Messiah, saviour, or a prophet, or human teacher.
We read the gospels today and we find some of Jesus’ words consoling, and others perplexing - - - yet much of our culture and pattern of the year still centres around him.
Jesus is the most important figure of my life. I try to follow him - - and as I read the gospels I feel that he speaks as clearly now as he did to those following him 2000 years ago.
If we are honest, though, we will admit that some of the stories in the gospels would seem to contradict each other: especially stories about the resurrection.
If you take time to read the gospel stories you will see that who met the risen Jesus, in which order, and where, are all quite different.
In fact, Mark’s gospel – the shortest and the oldest – just ends with an empty tomb and leaves the reader to decide what this might mean.
This week we re-told the story of the death of Jesus. The crucifixion showed just how cruel humanity can be - - we flinch as we think of nails being driven through hands and people left to hang until they die….
Even then, the gospel writers do not totally agree on what happened: One gospel has Jesus saying ‘it is finished’, another ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’ and another a much more painful question ‘My God why have you forsaken me?’
It seems so unjust, so we don’t want that to be the end of the story - - because if it were then we are left with a picture of humanity executing someone who told us to love. It leave us feeling uncomfortable and ashamed. Could that really be how the story ends….?
So Christians have celebrated Easter each year – and the Easter story is one of hope: the hope that cruelty, despair, and death does not have the final word; and that somehow the most dire of situations can be turned around by the love of God.
Some people seem absolutely sure that Jesus rose again from the dead, body and soul. Others believe that his spirit rose again and that his disciples began to feel his presence with them again.
Some say that virgin births and resurrections are impossibilities – they just don’t happen, but others say that ‘nothing is impossible with God’.
None of us were there of course – all we can do is read the stories…..
And all us know that a story well told can teach us something powerful, whether they are literally true or not.
In fact, some stories get better and better the more you tell them and the more they get embellished.
All of this slightly dodges the question of course - - - should we celebrate resurrection at Easter?
Well, for me, the answer comes in that hymn we sang earlier:
“Jesus died, but Christ has risen!”
The human Jesus died…. But the Christ of faith continues to inspire!
The Christ – the anointing – so evident in Jesus, cannot stay buried - - but resurrects and is the image of God which you and I are made in. And if we will say ‘yes’ to the call of the Christ then new life is possible for we can live with purpose and vitality. One of the Bible verses I quote again and again is “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me” - - and we can! When you believe that there is divine power dwelling within you, then anything seems possible.
Now part of my job is officiating at funerals. Many folk find comfort in the hope that the spirit survives death and goes on….I hope so too.
Sadly, our experience tells us that dead people don’t come back to life here on earth.
If they did then we wouldn’t have to live with the pain of grief and loss…. But knowing that we DO die makes every moment more precious.
Perhaps that’s why we rush to take the picture…..to keep the moment. It’s only later, when we look back, realise how much we have changed!
The gospel writers did their best to record the moment - - - they told us of a birth, life, ministry death, and resurrection.
How we engage with that is now up to us. Maybe if get too bogged down in the detail we miss the majesty of the moment - -perhaps reaching to record the details is not always the best thing to do. Sometimes it’s best just to enjoy the moment.
It seems to me that over-arching message of Jesus was to live life in abundance and to love - - he said he would leave peace with us. Perhaps that’s what we should be looking for - - because the world seems to be lacking in peace at the moment.
Some people of faith are still looking for Jesus to return to the world and establish a new order of things. But perhaps we are better not waiting until then. Perhaps we should be building heaven on earth now, rather than waiting for it to be done for us. Jesus said we would never be left without comfort – and that we could do the same things he did. So what’s stopping us? What’s stopping us trying to make today just a little better than yesterday, and tomorrow even better than today?
I’m glad you are here with us today….
We can sing ‘Alleluia’ at Easter - - as we think of Jesus…..and as we look around us and see that spring is here: that which seemed to be dead was in fact just waiting for the right time to grow.
If we live long enough, we make more memories, we take more photographs.
We will recall some things with accuracy, and other memories fade a little….
But we lived….. and let it be said that we lived well. Just as Jesus lived well.
Easter bring us hope: there are things which are so important that they will rise time and again….
Some messages cannot be killed…..
And some people will always inspire whether they are physically here with us or not.
The Christian in me says that ‘all things are possible’…. The Unitarian in me tells me that a human Jesus who died makes him no less of a saviour - - - for he teaches me that love saves and that there are some things worth dying for.
Such things will rise again and again.
What’s really important? Well, faith is important, hope is important….. but the greatest, as St Paul tells us, is love.
ears from now I guess people won’t remember the exact details of what we did and what we said….. but they may remember how deeply we loved.
So, let love complete our Easter joy…..and let us give thanks for the blessings of this day.