4th April 2010, St Barnabas & St Michael’s
This morning I want to share with you about the three “R’s”. No not reading, writing and arithmetic!
I am talking about Reality, Revelation and Responsibility.
I want this morning to ask you the question – how real is Jesus in your life and what does that mean to you?
Let’s first talk about Reality …
Can you imagine how the disciples were feeling after the death of their beloved Master and friend, Jesus? I am sure we can all relate to the experience of losing a loved one, the intense pain, the numbness, the devastation and how you realise it has happened but feeling that it is just so unreal and sometimes feeling perhaps it has not happened at all. Sounds silly, perhaps, to people who haven’t experienced it, but it certainly is the case for most people who have. The disciples were no exception, they had lived with Jesus for three years and had experienced his teachings, his healing and miracles, his love for them and yet now he had died with great suffering. But he told them that this was to happen according the prophecies in the scriptures and they knew the scriptures well. But they still didn’t believe that this could actually happen, well you wouldn’t would you. There are many people in the world today who don’t believe in God, don’t believe in Jesus His Son.
There was an atheist who was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that the “accident of evolution” had created. “What majestic trees! What a powerful river! What beautiful animals!” he said to himself.
As he walked alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look and saw a 7ft grizzly bear charging towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He ran even faster, so scared that tears were coming to his eyes. He looked over his shoulder again and the bear was even closer. His heart was pumping frantically and he tried to run faster still. He tripped and fell to the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but saw the bear…. right on top of him…. Reaching for him with the left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.
At that instant the atheist cried out “Oh my God!…”
Suddenly, time stopped. The bear froze in motion. The forest was ever so silent. Even the river ceased to move. As a brilliant ray of light emerged from the sky and shone upon the man, a powerful voice spoke to him, “You have denied my existence for all of these years; you teach others that I do not exist and you credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you now as a believer?”
The atheist blinked directly into the light. “It would be hypocritical of me to convert to a Christian after all these years, but could you instead make the bear a Christian?”
“Very well,” said the voice from above. The bright light disappeared. All of a sudden, life resumed around the man. The river ran again. The forest became alive once more with the gentle sounds of nature.
The bear stirred. Slowly, he lowered his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head and graciously spoke: “Lord, for what I am about to receive, I am truly thankful!”
Well the shock, the devastation, the pain of losing Jesus was real to His disciples. He had given them so much to hope for, so much to look forward to and yet now not only did they feel his pain and humiliation they had seen him crucified, a long and tortuous death which was agonising for them as they saw him die. They had lost him, what would they do without him. Why were they so upset? They had all believed Jesus to be the Messiah. They had placed their faith in Him and they had expected that He would set up His Kingdom, throwing off the Roman yoke of bondage. Even though He had told them of the cross and of the resurrection, they had never grasped the message, or the meaning of Christ’s words. Now, He is dead! The One that they had placed all their hopes in was gone. This man who had so radically changed their lives by His power and had demonstrated the love and power of God to them had died a violent and humiliating death. Surely, it was a sad day for His followers!
As we reflect on the sadness of the disciples, we can understand their grief! Even Paul spoke about it in our reading this morning, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. He tells us that if Jesus were dead this morning, then we all have reason to grieve! If Jesus is dead, then we all have no hope beyond this life.
It was the women who, very early in the morning took the spices they had prepared as was the custom and went to the tomb. Put yourselves in their place for a moment. They had gone there in great sorrow and then they had found the stone rolled away. What must they have thought? What was going through their minds? What would go through your mind if you had been one of those women. They must have been very apprehensive to go inside. When they did get inside, they didn’t find the body of their Lord Jesus. They must have been bewildered and shocked. Their reality was the fact that they had seen their master die on the cross but where was he now? What had happened? ‘While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them’. As well as their other feelings, they were now very frightened. ‘In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them’. “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here, He is risen!” The reality was that after he died on the cross and his body was taken to the tomb, He was alive, He had risen. How could they comprehend that? Jesus had risen from the dead. How was this going to affect their lives from now on.
We come to the Revelation …
The revelation was that Jesus had told them three times that this was going to happen according to the Old Testament scriptures. God’s promise to save his people was revealed in the person of His one and only Son who died and rose again. ‘The men went on to say’ “Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee. The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again”. ‘Then they remembered His words’. How often do people tell us things and we are not listening properly and it is only when something happens that we think, Oh Yes I do remember that. How often, and I am being sexist now, do wives say to their husbands that if that certain thing isn’t fixed soon, something will happen which will mean more work and more cost. When it goes wrong, don’t the wives say, well I did tell you and you didn’t do anything about it at the time so what do you expect? As I said before that really applies to all of us if we are honest doesn’t it.
When the women came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But surprise, surprise the men did not believe the women! Must have thought they had imagined it, or made it up or overheard gossip or whatever, but they were not having any of it. Their words seemed like nonsense. But you have to be sympathetic with the men. Now put yourselves in their place, would you have believed the women? Perhaps not. But Peter did not stop to wonder anymore, he got up and ran to the tomb. He wanted to check for himself. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away wondering to himself what had happened.
The reality was that Jesus had died.
The revelation was that Jesus had risen.
What about responsibility?
What exactly would the disciples do with this startling information? How would it affect their lives? Well we will learn something more of that in the weeks to come.
But what about us and what about our responsibility?
Let’s just take a look at our church and church family. We may and I am sure most of us would own up to feeling negative sometimes. Lately lots of things have been happening personally in our lives which have made us sad or put us under pressure. We often get bowed under with the busyness of our lives and the pressures of every day living, we know that is the case when we have shared together recently. We are still small in number, we are short of resources both people and practicalities, we are short of young people and children and we struggle with finances, we try to reach out in the community but seem sometimes to be getting nowhere. We know we have an APCM coming up in two weeks. We have to find two churchwardens or someone to take responsibility of the building and all the practicalities that this entails. We need more members on the PCC to replace those who are coming off this year. We get bowed under with pressure and must wonder how Rev Tim feels when he has full responsibility for our two Churches as a shepherd for his sheep. What pressure that must be for him.
The positives are we are a loving caring real family here who love and support each other both prayerfully and practically. We have a beautiful warm building with good facilities which took a long time coming but I am sure the Lord was teaching us patience and endurance! Do tell me some more positives….. the sharing of our gifts, music, teaching, Sunday clubs, freedom to worship. So God has been good in giving us all these things. Let’s remember the positive things and focus on Him and those things which He has given us and we must not forget to thank Him for them. As we read in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians in Ch 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. What are we going to give in return for the wonderful things He has done for us and the things he has given us.
What responsibilities can you take on board to share the load. What may God be calling you to do? Are you listening or not? What do you think He wants of you. Perhaps it is something that you think that you would never be capable of. But we are not alone, we have the Holy Spirit available to us to help us to the work that He wants us to do.
I want to read you a passage from Paul’s letter to Ephesians 1:17 – 20a, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead”. Jesus died and rose again to save us and give us hope. Hope for the present, hope for the future, hope for our Church here at St Barnabas and St Michael’s. A living hope in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
When we focus on the reality that Jesus died for each one of us, that terrible, painful, tortuous death …
When we focus on the revelation that Jesus rose again victorious and has given us hope for the future …
When we focus on the responsibility we have in the light of the previous two events … in every part of our lives as we live out our Christian lives, let us pray that we will recognise the calling that is ours and the gifts that He has so freely given us to be used for the building up of His Church, His people here in this place. We must not forget that we are not alone, we have the power of His Holy Spirit if we accept Him as our Saviour. That power that Paul says is the same power that rose Jesus from the dead. Isn’t that exciting?
Let’s pray and continue to pray that as we focus on Him and His glorious resurrection, He will guide us, inspire us, even challenge us to take our responsibilities seriously whatever He has in mind for us. And we may be amazed, although we shouldn’t be, where He will lead us as a Church here as we trust the true and living resurrected Lord.
How will you respond to Him today? Amen.
Meditation – Jesus says “I am there”
Do you need me?
I am there.
You cannot see Me, yet I am the light you see by.
You cannot hear Me, yet I speak through your voice.
You cannot feel Me, yet I am the power at work in your hands.
I am at work, though you do not understand My ways.
I am at work, though you do not recognise My works.
I am not strange visions, I am not mysteries.
Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me as I am, and then but as a feeling and a faith.
Yet I am there.
Yet I hear.
Yet I answer.
When you need Me I am there.
Even if you deny Me, I am there.
Even when you feel most alone, I am there.
Even in your fears, I am there.
Even in your pain, I am there.
I am there when you pray and when you do not pray.
I am in you and you are in Me.
Only in your mind can you feel separate from Me, for only in your mind are the mists of “yours” and “mine”.
Yet only with your mind can you know Me and experience Me.
Empty your heart of empty fears.
When you get yourself out of the way, I am there.
You can, of course, do nothing, but I can do all, and I am in all.
Though you may not see the good, good is there, for I am there.
I am there because I have to be, because I AM.
Only in Me does the world have meaning; only out of Me does the world take form; only because of Me does the world go forward.
I am the love that is the law’s fulfilling.
I am peace.
I am assurance.
I am oneness.
I am the law that you can live by.
I am the love that you can cling to.
I am your peace.
I am your assurance.
I am one with you – I AM.
Though you fail to find me sometimes, I do not fail you.
Though your faith in Me is sometimes unsure, My faith in you never wavers, because I know YOU, because I LOVE YOU.
BELOVED I AM THERE.