Sunday, 8 April 2012
Talk at St Matthew's 6.30pm on Easter
Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. We saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem and taking over. He's the King. Jerusalem is the city of King David and the crowds acclaim Jesus as David's heir. Then we saw Jesus striding into the Temple, chucking out all the stuff He didn't like, and taking over the teaching ministry. He is the High Priest of that Temple.
In the same way this Easter Sunday we see Jesus going to the tomb, the darkness of death – and taking over! He's not having it any more! He is saying to death, "Your reign is over! I may let you exist a bit longer, but you are not in charge any more. I'm the boss here now." King of Jerusalem – High Priest of the Temple – Lord even of death.That Palm Sunday was a day of great rejoicing – because Jesus had come to Jerusalem to be their King. So here are four reasons to be joyful this Easter Sunday:
· Death is not the end. We are no longer lost in an aimless wandering! Our life is no longer random! We are on a journey to the heart of God, that's our destiny, and because of Easter Sunday, nothing whatsoever, not even death, is going to stand in our way. So we can live lives of passion, commitment, purpose. Eternal life starts now and changes us now in the presence of the Risen One! So be joyful!
· You can get through any darkness – consider Mary. The risen Jesus knows you personally and says your name as He said hers. I don't know what you are going through… I know all this talk about joy will seem really glib to some people here – "how dare you tell me that my sorrows are so easily left behind…" All I can say is – the Cross. Jesus gave it everything. This is not a cheap victory. But it is still a great victory. So be joyful!
· You can face any challenge – consider the disciples. They were terrified. The same unholy alliance of Romans and religious leaders that murdered Jesus are after them now. They are cowering behind locked doors. But God gives them a job! Go and tell everyone the news that Jesus has just been killed for. They can meet this challenge because Jesus is with them. Life is an adventure with the risen Lord! So be joyful!
· You will have peace. The first words of the risen Jesus in next bit of John – "peace be with you." All those things that destroy our peace – anxiety, fear, insecurity, worry – we can picture in the tomb of Jesus. After all, one day we'll be dead and we'll have done all that worrying for nothing. So leave it there in the tomb and concentrate on living! So be joyful!4 Challenges:
1. You need this resurrection power in your life now! Don't miss it! You have to respond personally to Jesus like Mary did.
2. You can't get it without first coming to the Cross. It's all part of the deal. "If you will not bear the cross you can't wear a crown." Through repentance at the foot of the Cross we come to the place of resurrection.
3. There will be challenges – but you can face them because He is beside you. There will be stuff you have to let go of, because they are not what He wants for you.
4. You will have to share it. Jesus is not just risen in your heart, He has risen in the hearts of your brothers and sisters too – "Go tell my brothers!" said Jesus to Mary. And if he hasn't risen in their hearts yet, He wants to be!And you can meet those challenges, you can do that sharing, you can come to the Cross – because Jesus is alive! Happy Easter!
I wonder what comes into your mind when you hear the word "spirituality."
For some people it's got to be exotic, like Native American rituals or the Maharishi. Others turn to New Age mysticism - ley lines, crystals and all that. Still others find spirituality in communing with nature. And a great number experience it through the arts – beautiful images, ancient architecture, powerful music… What is this longing that seems to call out to us with so many varied voices, this beauty that flashes unexpectedly across our lives, this hunger that cannot be sated with food and shelter and material comforts?
In Christian thought it arises from our relationship with God. A very wise Christian sage said, "Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee." Although our relationship with God has become marred, He still speaks to us in the beauty of His world and in the restless longings of our hearts.
It's odd then that many people don't really associate spirituality with Christianity. Before I became a Christian, church was the last place I expected to meet with God. I assumed it was all about sad people doing boring, wordy rituals. How amazed I was to discover the things the Bible actually teaches about spirituality. The Holy Spirit is portrayed in a multiplicity of ways: a river of living water, a rushing wind, a raging fire, an outpouring of love, the quiet breathing of God Himself… All we have to do to be refreshed by that river, to sail on that wind, to be warmed by that fire, is to make a connection with God in the way He has provided, through Jesus His Son.
Anyway, St Matthew's is privileged this year to be hosting Radiance, a festival of Christian spirituality. There's time to explore the extraordinary depth of Christian spiritual experience, workshops looking at a wide range of spiritual disciplines, and contemporary encounters with the living God through art, music, prayer soaking and poetry. It's all happening on Saturday 26 May 10am-4pm at St Matthew's Church, in St Matthew's Centre and all over Church Hill.
So you don't have to go to Katmandu or Uluru! You can discover the spiritual treasures of our shared Christian heritage right here in Walsall!