Saturday, 14 April 2018

Easter 3(B) St Bartholomew, Brighton 15.4.18

Christ is risen from the dead! He has crushed death by his death and bestowed life upon those who lay in the tomb!
Words from the Orthodox Easter service. Since I last stood here at the Easter Vigil I’ve celebrated Easter again in Greece with fireworks and all!
We can’t get enough of Easter. It’s the Queen of the Church’s year. The Paschal Candle standing proud in the sanctuary, alleluias galore and an especially joyful repertory from the choir over these great 40 days - for we read in Acts 1:3 how after Christ’s suffering he presented himself alive to his disciples by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days speaking about the kingdom of God.
As some of you know I spent Lent preparing 40 pointers to Christ’s resurrection to release in Easter Season via a daily blog on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, address on the back of the readings sheet.
People get intrigued into church as much as they get persuaded by good fellowship, intelligent preaching and sound liturgy - and there’s nothing more intriguing than resurrection - and social media is one way to intrigue people on this, especially as I’ve attempted using 40 or so paintings of the risen Lord each with a 100 word caption setting forth evidence for the truth of Easter.  As former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, Lord Darling, observed about Christ's Resurrection: In its favour there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the Resurrection story is true.
Let’s go back to the readings for this third Sunday of Eastertide. First the passage from Acts 3. It follows on from the apostles’ healing of a lame man who went leaping and bounding into the Temple. How intriguing that must have been! Something worth following – someone worth following!  Let’s read what’s actually v16 on our sheet: we are witnesses… faith in the name of Jesus hath made this man strong, whom you see and know; yea, the faith which is is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of all of you.
When God is at work people get drawn in - and God’s at work here at St Bart’s! People are talking of him being with them, sometimes through their trials, as they live with health or relationship or employment challenges, other times as they go leaping and bounding forward into a new future.
It’s always heartening to me as a priest to hear of resurrection occurring, of the risen Christ coming to bear on the lives of parishioners, very often uplifting them and carrying them through suffering and humiliation into God’s best future.
Moving on to today’s Gospel reading from St Luke’s Gospel Chapter 24.  Our Lord provides here an an intriguing demonstration of the physicality of the resurrection, showing his wounded yet glorified hands and feet and eating a piece of broiled fish.
Those who were at the Easter Vigil two weeks ago will recall that when we blessed the Pascal Candle we placed four nails in its side to represent the crucifixion. As we read in today’s Gospel Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The point Our Lord makes is the same point St Peter makes in the first reading: it is written, that the Christ is to suffer.
The atheist writer Albert Camus once debated the resurrection with French Dominicans. He complained that the resurrection was an unreal and unsatisfactory happy ending. They answered by pointing to this text. God came to share our suffering which served to expiate the sin of the world. No suffering we have to endure is now strange to God. As one of Wesley’s hymns puts it: Those dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears. Cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshippers. With what rapture gaze we on those glorious scars.
Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.
This morning the risen Christ invites us once more to repent, to turn to him for forgiveness, so that his light may shine in us and through us.
St Barts as a light house? Maybe, if you and I become lighthouses, little candles lit from the Easter Candle? Lit with this faith – that the most meaningful thing in life is what conquers death.
In Jesus Christ we gain not ideas, doctrines, rules but Life - and where that life is to be found – as I believe it is here at St Bart’s – people who possess it will intrigue and infect others who’ve yet to find it!
The source of false religion is the inability to rejoice, or rather, the refusal of joy, whereas joy is absolutely essential because it is without any doubt the fruit of God’s presence. So wrote Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann.  
So then - let our focus this Sunday in Easter season be on rejoicing for eucharist and Christian life itself means no less than thanks and praise.
Christ is risen! ‘In his, in God’s presence is the fullness of joy and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ says the Psalmist.
Alleluia Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter vigil at St Bartholomew, Brighton 31st March 2018

Joy isn’t a component of Christianity it’s the key!

How can you believe in God without sensing joy?

Tonight we see God writ large, God to the dimensions of God and not to ours, showing his grandeur as taking human form he breaks through death and reveals eternal life to us and for us.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures.

We gain joy as we gain God and that’s in the present moment. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

What the resurrection effects is twofold. It delivers us from the prison of our mental constructs of past and future.

To know Christ is risen is to know God’s unalterable newness, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – to know it and live in it is joy. This is eternal life, to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. John 17:3

In the knowledge of what God in Christ has done we gain two benefits.

First we’re freed by forgiving both wrongs we’ve suffered from others and by welcoming forgiveness for the wrongs we ourselves have done.

Second we’re freed of fear for the future. Tomorrow also is God’s and his love is stronger than the worst power we’ll ever encounter including death. You will be with me always, he says, nothing can separate us, enter my joy, as the Psalmist writes: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Absence of joy links to self-sufficiency and pride, imprisonment in past regrets, future anxiety - all of which cut us off from the living God.

Tonight we affirm God for who he is, and his opening to our intuition of death’s diminishment.

The only meaningful thing in life is what conquers death, not what but who, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.

Since April 33AD, or maybe 27AD with a six year slippage, humanity has the full picture of God in his grandeur and humans in their immense potential as those in his image destined for the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21).

The hope of this glory is further cause of our joy.

Our intellects balk at death and wrestle with its reality 20 centuries on from Easter.  There’s no knockdown argument for the resurrection but many pointers to its truth. I commend my 40 pointers to Christ’s Resurrection blog.

We are joyful in spirit tonight knowing deep down God is God and he always will be God and we’ve got friendship with him that’ll never end.

Joy isn’t just a component of Christianity it’s the key. We can’t believe in God as he truly is without sensing joy and tonight we see him as he really is, God writ large, God to the dimensions of God, showing his grandeur, taking human form, breaking through death, revealing eternal life to us and for us.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  May the unalterable newness of Jesus be our joy today, tomorrow, to the last syllable of recorded time, and beyond that to eternal ages! Alleluia!