Sunday, 8 April 2007

SERMON: Easter Sunday 8 April 2007

This is my the second of my "major feasts" with the Team -- it was my first Easter Sunday but I'd already had one Christmas. I learned after the day that what's very interesting here in my "patch" (neighborhood) is that there ISN"T any extra "bump" in attendance for these holidays! Maybe one or two extra at Christmas Eve (which they celebrate more than Christmas Day), but rarely any extras for Easter. That's SO different from TEC, isn't it? It is an odd feeling actually, not to have a "crowd", not to be worried about extra welcoming and an evangelistic, accessible, open sermon. I wrote as if there might be new, extra people - but I also wrote based on my experience, after 7 months of what it felt like to live here. JD thinks this is one of my "very best" sermons.

Easter Sunday
8 April 2007
Sunday of the Resurrection – Year C
Emmanuel Church (Gorton Abbey Hey Team)

Acts 10 : 34 - 43
Psalm 118 : 14-24 – this is the day the Lord has made
Luke 24 : 1- 12 – The resurrection of Jesus, women at the tomb

Alleluia Christ is Risen!

Let me teach you something from the American Episcopal Church. We say the bit “Alleluia Christ is Risen” and “He is Risen indeed” quite a lot on Easter Sunday, and you’ve got to say it loudly and with conviction. So let’s try it again …
Great !!

Some of you were here last Sunday for a Sunday with Palms and the Passion Story; and some of us within the team ministry have gathered during this Holy Week.

We were here at Emmanuel on Thursday to remember Jesus’ commandments at the last supper of his life: a commandment to love one another and to remember him. For the disciples that night to show the love he had for them, he washed their feet (like the lowliest person. We continue to show our love for Jesus in the service of Holy Communion that we share in remembrance of him.

Then on Good Friday at St James’ and St Philip’s we remembered in quiet, with prayer and meditative communion the agony, loneliness, the despair and great loss that were those last hours and finally the death of our Lord. For me, it’s not easy to attend Good Friday services – they can feel so dark and sometimes our lives have enough darkness. But whether we attend services or think about our own lives, we have to recognize these days in Holy Week in order to truly appreciate Easter Sunday and fully celebrate the empty tomb today.

So now we’re here… We’re here with each other and with the wonderful story of the women finding the angels in the empty tomb and asking what had been done to Jesus. We’re here with each other and with Peter and those absolutely amazed by what has happened.

On Christmas, my word for the day was Love. I like a simple thing to think about on these big days. Today, my word is Hope. If you remember nothing from today’s service but the word Hope then I’ll be glad. The Resurrection is about Hope! It’s not just about Hope – the Resurrection IS Hope. And as Christians we have a job to do that is about Hope as well. As Christians, we ARE Hope.
First I want to say that as I was writing this sermon I felt myself being very forceful about what I was saying … I felt myself really wanting YOU to understand how I feel, about how important this Hope is, and I’m going to be forceful in what I say, which -- as you can ask Joe – is not usually how I am.

SO, Hope! Let me tell you about the Hope I’m talking about. It’s not just our own hope of eternal life with Jesus that the Resurrection promises, and which our baptism connects us with. I mean hope in the lives we live – here in the day to day of Gorton.

Some people – scholars – argue about whether Jesus actually came back from the dead. They ask, How is that possible? What did the women really see in the tomb? Maybe it was just a desire to want to see Jesus alive?
I say, I may not be sure how it happened either – But, because of the Hope that the Resurrection itself brings into the world, I believe it DID happen.

Here’s what this Hope means for me. It is generosity. It is optimistic. Hope is caring and loving.

This hope is not simple or selfish – hope doesn’t say now that I’ve got what I need or want in the world, then the rest can get by on their own.

Sometimes a word like this can seem to be invisible – but Hope is not. Hope CAN be seen. Hope can be seen anytime one or two people decide to raise a child or people choose to love others’ children. In our children we have the hope of a continuation of ourselves and what we believe and teach them.

Hope can be also seen around us – it’s no wonder that Easter is celebrated in Springtime when we have all the signs of Hope around us. As I was writing this yesterday, there was the glorious sun, there were birds chirping and a squirrel in my back garden with all the beautiful green grass and little bright buds on the trees. After the long winter of short cold days, Spring reminds us of Hope.

But Hope is more than these beautiful things like babies and spring flowers. Hope is serious hard work. That’s right!
This Easter celebration is not just about Jesus’ resurrection – it’s OUR resurrection as well because of our baptism into Jesus.
Do you believe that?
Do you believe that you’re born into Jesus? And if that’s true, then this is YOUR resurrection as well!

Then it’s our job to do what Jesus did. Jesus was – Jesus is hope IN the world.
When Jesus was born, it was God’s action to put Jesus into the world – God didn’t just think “it might be a nice idea to have hope.” No! God made Hope happen with Jesus’ life and resurrection.
And whilst Jesus was on earth, Jesus didn’t just say to himself, “it might be a nice idea to have hope.” No! Jesus made Hope happen with his ministry amongst the people.
So you and I can’t just say, “oh, what a nice thing Jesus did with hope.” No! We have to DO hope ourselves.

This means our job as followers of Jesus, it’s our responsibility – it’s our Christian DUTY … yes I said our duty – to bring hope into the world.

We can bring hope into our families, bring hope to our friends and neighbors as well as to strangers and citizens; We must bring hope into the world.
We can do it with caring, loving and praying for other people.
I know many of you do it already by showing it – working for the good of this church in many different ways, for the good of the community by participating in it – and respecting all people around you, and for the good of the world with recycling and reducing energy demands as well as donating time or money to charities.

Here’s where I’m going to get forceful :

What will be different about YOU as someone WITH the Resurrection Hope of Jesus within you? What will your Resurrection Hope be this coming week? Where will you bring Hope?
How will you show Hope? Will it be in your home : whether you’re old or young you can be Hopeful. Will it be in church? Will it be in your school or neighborhood?
You can be in very desperate circumstances and still have hope. This Resurrection Hope doesn’t mean doing or getting more – it means BEING more.

It’s now time to think: Right now, sitting here today.
Do you have hope or do you need hope?
Listen for the answer to come to you from your heart.

Now, look around you. The person sitting next to you has just answered that for herself or himself. You don’t have to share your answer, but you need to know and trust this – that IF you don’t have hope right now … there IS someone here who does! And that person, listening to my challenge to them today will have hope enough for both of you.

And if there were not a single one of you sitting here today who felt you had Resurrection hope …
well, I’m telling you, I have enough hope for you all and I will love you and pray for you until you DO have hope.
This isn’t because I’m better than you, and it’s not because I’m clergy and hope is my job.
I have this hope because I believe it’s a gift that God has given me (for now) to share.

Whether you’re like me with lots of hope – spare enough to give – or not, please join me in truly believing that today Resurrection IS Hope. And that Hope IS and will be lived out in our world.

Alleluia, the Lord has Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

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