“NEW LIFE” – AN EASTER SUNDAY SERMON

 

 

This sermon was preached
at the Mint Methodist Church, Exeter,
by the Minister, Rev Andrew Sails
at 10.30 a.m. on Easter Sunday
16th April 2006,
on the occasion of the baptism
of Hwang Jee In

 

Reading:   John 20:1-18

 

 

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1.    Resurrection Life - Future Hope?

 

Let me ask you one of those huge life, the universe and everything questions –

What do you think about the future of this world?    
Do you think it has one??    
When you look at how the human race is going, are you hopeful,
or do you despair of what will become of us all?

 

·        When you look at the apparently endless cycles of evil and retribution, of selfishness and suffering in the world, do you despair about the human race ever rising out of the mire of self seeking?

 

·        When you look at this week’s predictions of global warming spiralling out of control and threats of nuclear proliferation, do you despair about the very continued existence of our human race and planet earth?

 

·        When you face (as we all must ultimately face) your own physical death, do you see that as a final defeat in the struggle against extinction?

 

Mary despaired.    Her world had come to an end.   

It seemed that the cycle of evil and retribution had indeed triumphed and the grave had triumphed.

 

But then Mary hears the Gospel - Christ is Risen

Life is stronger than death   -   Light overcomes darkness

Love will conquer evil and hatred.

 

The resurrection isn’t just about one man 2000 years ago in Palestine –
it is about the whole way the Universe works –

 

The resurrection says:

·        There is more to life than this world -
Which means that even if we manage by global warming or nuclear lunacy to destroy our very planet and everything on it, still we have hope!

·        There is more to life than this world –
Which means that when we approach our own death (as one day every one of us will) we will find that the way of death is not a road to oblivion but a road to new life.

 

 

Vera Brittain in her autobiography “Testament of Youth” tells the horrors of WW1.   She describes her own blackness and devastation as one after another those dear to her were killed in the war.   In 1916 her fiance Roland Leighton was killed in France.  
Vera Brittain describes the Easter Sunday morning following his death.   She says she went to Church and sat beneath a painting on the wall.

It showed the tragic figure of Hagar from the book of Genesis, exiled in anguish in the wilderness.
And the title of the painting was “Watchman will the night pass?”

And Vera Brittain, describing the darkness of that Easter Morning, clearly identified with Hagar in her anguish, and says that for her too the day was still dark and she just hung on hoping that indeed the night would pass.

 

Our lives & indeed our whole world can sometimes seem very dark- and God does not promise us that we will not sometimes struggle in the long night watches –
But he does promise us the dawn.

Watchman will the night pass?  
Yes the night passes, for the light of Christ conquers death and evil.

 

 

So if you are struggling with bereavement
or if you are facing the death of a loved one
or your own imminent death –
well hear the Easter message –

What may seem hopelessly dark from a human perspective
is but a new beginning –
the darkness before the dawn.

 

 

2.    Resurrection Life - Here and Now?

 

But let me say one other thing.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that is the resurrection is only about the future -

But Jesus did not say “I will be the Resurrection and the Life”

He said “I am the Resurrection and the Life”

As Christians we need to grasp the wonderful fact that we can know glimpses of heaven, glimmerings of the glory of life in all its fullness here in this world.

 

When you are in tune with God, that is heaven –
when you are out of tune with God, that is hell –
(Heaven and hell are not spatial destinations, they are ways of being)

I guess most of us know at least something of
“hell on earth” and “heaven on earth”.

 

 

 

John Robinson once said that life has a grain running through it, and the grain goes in the direction of God’s love.

To try to live your life with or against the grain of God’s love
is like trying to plane a piece of wood with or against the grain.

According to how you live,
you will know something of heaven and hell on earth.

 

 

 

I remember having a great debate with an earnest Christian lady about universal salvation.    I said that I so believed in the overwhelming and unlimited and eternal love of God in Christ that I hoped that every member of the human race (including those who had rejected Christ in this life) would ultimately – in the next world if not in this world - be drawn by the leading bands of love into God’s loving embrace.

 

The lady I was talking to was horrified.  
But, she said, if we are all going to be saved after we die anyway, what is the point of being a Christian now?!

 

 

 

What is the point??!?    Being a Christian isn’t just a slightly unpleasant duty we have to get through in order to earn our air miles to heaven!!

 

 

No – we follow Jesus because in so doing

we begin to feel the chains of our captivity loosening,

we see the light beginning to seep over the horizon

we are vouchsafed a foretaste of the heavenly banquet

Resurrection life, life in all its fullness, is starting right now.

The party is already beginning -
why on earth would we want to wait until we die before joining in??

 

 

Today we have baptized Jee In – I understand the Korean name can be taken as “One who knows God”

To be at one with God is to live life in its fullness.

 

In baptism we place water on the child’s head
as a symbol of plunging the child into the waters of death,
to die to her old life and rise out of the water
to begin her new life in Christ.

New life which for Jee In begins
not at the end of her earthly journey but right here and now.

 

Our prayer for Jee In is indeed that in God’s power
she may come to live life in all its fullness
in this world and in God’s good time in the world to come.

 

And as each of us remembers our own baptism,
we rejoice that we are too are given
a part of God’s new life in Christ.

 

 

So let us hurry with Mary to the empty tomb.

There the Risen Christ is awaiting us

 

Let us bring with us our sins and sorrows,
our fears and our heartaches

 

Then shall the miracle begin –
as the darkness and despair of our life
is brought into the glorious light of his presence

 

Then as the sun rises in our life,
let us cry aloud – Christ is risen Alleluia!

Now is the time to live!

 

 

 

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