Sunday, 12 April 2015

OMG! or 'My Lord and My God' (Transcript of 2nd Sunday Easter Sermon)

Cheadle & Freehay 12th April 2015 

2nd Sunday of Easter

Acts 4.32-35 1 John 1.1-2.2 John 20.19-31

‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

From the 1st Letter of John…

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we   proclaim concerning the Word of Life.

Jesus’ words to Thomas, struggling to accept that Jesus had been raised to life (and who can blame him!)

‘Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

I take that to mean you and me and all those over the centuries who have put their faith in Jesus. The countless millions who have declared along with Thomas, ‘My Lord and My God.’ Or perhaps in modern parlance…OMG!

Those who have found the truth of Jesus’ words ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ John 10.10

Jesus was an epiphany of what it means to be a true human being, walking in perfect obedience and love of God. Someone who had mastery over the natural order and could commend sickness, demons and death to depart.

He drew back the curtain in much the same way as Elijah prayed his servants eyes would be opened when surrounded by his enemies. (2 Kings 6.17)

I stood in the place of Thomas on the 1st January 1975 when at the age of 24 I said, ‘my Lord and my God’ and became a Christian.

Once having made such a declaration the question then is; how shall I now live? One of the most important aspects of growing as a disciple of Jesus is to meet regularly with others disciples.

Proverbs 27.17 declares, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’

This is what is happening to the infant Jesus Community as outlined in our reading from Acts.

Not too many people today would argue that this is a blue print for how a Christian Community should live. Although there have been some brave attempts over the years to do just that, the Anabaptist in particular. Of course to some degree Monastic Communities do operate in this way.

And it is from Monastic Communities that valuable lesson are being learned, or perhaps we ought to say, re-learned as to how we can be the People of God in this 21st century.

There is a whole new movement being called New Monasticism which is influencing many churches. The argument being that we need to shift from being Church Congregations to become Faith Communities.

Faith Communities that are committed at the core and open at the edges. Faith Communities that are both evangelized and naturally evangelizing. Faith Communities that hold a Common Rule of Life and a Pattern of Prayer. (Which is made so much easier today with electronic communication.)

By far and away most people are brought to a Thomas like confession through a friend. What better place to draw them into the heart and love of God than a Faith Community of which you are an active member.

Just as Jesus pulled back the curtain and let us see a glimpse of what it means to live as an authentic human being, so the Church is meant to show how authentic human beings can live together and bring a blessing to the world.

‘The gate of heaven is everywhere - our role is to help open the door... to roll away the stone and unleash the energy and wonder of the risen Christ’.

Thomas Merton

The Church is the means by which God brings a blessing to the world; ‘the Church of God doesn't have a mission in the world, but the God of mission has a Church in the world.’

So what is God’s mission – nothing less than to bring about the redemption of the whole cosmos?

And we are invited to participate in this noble venture – you are invited and I am invited because as Michelle Quoist puts it…

‘You are a unique and irreplaceable actor in the drama of human history, and Jesus Christ has need of you to make known his salvific work in this particular place and at this particular moment in history.’

Without God we cannot, without us God will not.

Jesus’s death and resurrection wasn't a tragedy, or part of God’s plan when everything went horrible wrong. In a way that is beyond our comprehension, in the deep mystery of divine economy Jesus was always part of God’s plan.

"The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things," he (Jesus) said. "He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead."  Luke 9.22

‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

So, let me ask you this…

Are you able to declare as did Thomas, ‘My Lord and My God?’

Perhaps you are on the journey towards that belief and that is absolutely fine. 

Because if you thought making a decision about choosing a life partner or a house or a car or anything else you care to name was important – they all fade into insignificance when compared with making a decision to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

Embracing such a belief is a game changer like no other. Or it ought to be if we take it seriously enough.

There are plenty of accounts in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles about people whose lives were turned around because they declared their belief in Jesus.  And that is still happening today across the world, maybe not so much in our own country, but certainly across Africa and China and many other places.

In some ways we have lost the dynamic, lost the passion, lost the drive. We have lost the expectation that people will come among us and in so doing will encounter the living God, an encounter that offers them life, and life in all its fullness.

Let me ask you this simple question as I draw to a close…

Where are you this morning in your relationship with God?

Augustine of Hippo wrote...

‘Jesus Christ will be Lord of all or he will not be Lord at all.’

How true is that in your personal life and how true is that in the life of this church?

As you ponder on that let me close with some beautiful word from His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XV1

And only where God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.

We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
Each of us is loved,
Each of us is necessary.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel,
By the encounter with Christ.

There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.

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