Text below is as delivered
This is the season (we’re thinking about) people whose lives are changed by that first Easter Day. People who encounter Jesus is risen from the dead and bringing new hope and meaning to their lives. Last week we thought about Thomas one man whose own personal experience of Easter enabled him to move from doubt to faith in his risen Lord.
This week we hear about a number of people who witnessed Jesus coming among them showing them his wounds and eating the food to convince them that he really is alive. They're convinced and the experience changes their own lives and their lives together as a community of followers.
We know very little about who those people are Luke tells us that the eleven disciples were there together and with their companions. We don't know how many or who they were and that makes this story all the more interesting and exciting because we have the freedom to use our imagination and explore all sorts of possibilities.
One thing I can think we can be sure of is that all these people have already had their lives radically changed by Jesus. It may be that some of them are the people we've actually met in the gospel stories. We may find at least one person there is one person we can particularly identify because of our own experience of life
- There might be the rich young man who Jesus told to sell everything give the money to the poor and follow him. Perhaps for a long time afterwards. He thought about Jesus said and realised the truth of his words and acted upon them. He followed Jesus because he learned that it's possible for material wealth to stop you allowing God to fill that energy place in your heart and soul.
- There might be the woman who suffered from bleeding for years until touching Jesus' robe she followed Jesus because he welcomed and accepted her when she was looked down by society and considered unclean
- There might be the woman who was caught in the act of adultery she followed Jesus because he gave her back her self-respect and a chance to make a new start in her life when self – righteous men just wanted to stone her.
- There might be a man restored to his right mind after a Jesus freed him from demon possession. He followed Jesus because he wanted to help rescue others from living he had experienced but
And so we could go on imaging the stories of the people who were in that room that first evening. what they all had in common as each of them had already had it all changed. Jesus whether it was through healing, teaching or just being Jesus had touched each one of them in such a way that they risked leaving their homes their families everything to follow him.
They also have in common they also have in common either seeing or hearing Jesus betrayal, trial torture and death they’ve all plunge into darkness of heartbreaking grief and despair guilt grief and fear At the beginning of that first Easter Day when they're grieving a grieving broken community of grieving broken people.
They are frightened and perhaps mistrustful of each other After all one betrayed Jesus, some had run away. If those could do that couldn’t others?
Now in the evening things have changed there are rumours buzzing around excitement n the air hope is struggling to find its way through that crushing despair. Can it be true is Jesus alive? Dare they believe the news. What does it mean if he is alive?
And by the end of the evening transformation They've seen Jesus himself a real and living presence. He opened their minds so at last understand all the things that he had told them while they were alive. He has given them commission to go out and spread the good news of the forgiveness of sins for all to turn their lives around.
The grieving broken community becomes a joyful united community with a strong sense of purpose and meaning which sends them out into the world as witnesses to the resurrection of the dead from the dead of Jesus to the living Christ.
Like each of the people in the Gospel story each of us has a particular story and we experience the presence of God in our lives in different ways at different times. Like them we've all learned about Jesus in different ways like them Jesus has touched our lives in a way that has set us up on the journey to follow him not sure where the journey may lead.
Like them may have known darkness and despair. Maybe God seemed a long way away and our faith pointless without meaning. Like them there are unexpectedly we encounter the living God. (and our faith is renewed and strengthened.)
For various reasons. I reached the point with these thoughts this week where I was stuck unsure where I was going and what were thoughts were leading. There seems to be so much going on this week in my life I wasn't sure where my focus was.
- War again in Syria this time led by the Americans;
- Andrew in Syria.
- A conference on the fact that Christians in the Middle East, the very place we read about this morning, are leaving in their droves or being murdered. Soon Christianity will die out in the Middle East
- The churchyard meeting this is on my mind
- and of course it's APCM season a time to think together as a church where God is leading us as a community.
All these thoughts and concerns. Where is Jesus leading us and standing.
Eventually I let go of all these thoughts and went of and did doing something m,ore useful instead When I revisited my notes I realised what the problem was I 'd been thinking I should lead off in one direction and offer just one or two thoughts and ideas about what god might be saying to us as a church and as individuals about the Easter experience.
Of course the reality is very different. Each of us has arrived here this morning by a different route. So to will we journey on by different routes. each of us with many concerns and worries each of us looking to see where Christ is leading .
When I think the followers of Jesus I see that there is no set right way to be be Christian. Each of us follows Jesus is our own way as who we are shaped by our life experiences so its impossible for me to tell you what the Risen Christ says to you individually today but what I thought I could do is invite you to join me in something a bit different without knowing where it will lead us. I'd like you to join me think of this as a reflection meditation or visualisation. Something we are doing together rather than a sermon and preaching at you.
So I’d like you to make yourselves comfortable perhaps close your eyes, perhaps just look down: however you relax. I might ask you what if anyone would like to say anything about what Jesus is doing in their lives at the moment.
For now lets just relax. Imagine yourself in the company of those eleven and all the companions on that first Easter day. We are in that room. It's a large room. We're all together in prayer and silence we sit quietly there with the others…
We're aware of our own desires and needs sour own strengths and weakness our successes and failures. We sit their with others reflecting waiting hoping….
We become aware of a new presence not of this world. A stranger, yet achingly dar to us. Closer to our hearts than we are ourselves
In him all our hopes and fears are met.
He looks at you into your eyes. Perhaps he touches your shoulder. He speaks to you. A message you long to hear.
The moment passes and gently we return today and continue our services but our lives have been changes. Our life as a community has changed. May take a time for the full effect to show itself in our lives and in the life of this church. But this year Easter has changed our lives.