THAT IS WHAT FULFILLS US !

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke.

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:36b-48.)

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I haven’t heard about one for quite a while, but there once were  literally hundreds, if not thousands, of sightings of Elvis reported. After he had died!

He was  seen coming out of a Burger King; driving down a Nashville road; ducking into a bar somewhere; or ducking out of one – he was seen in places as disparate as Los Angeles and Dusseldorf.

But we know that he wasn’t really seen, don’t we? Someone had seen someone who had a resemblance to Elvis, just caught a glimpse of him, and had been sure that the king of rock and roll had really appeared. 

But we know that Elvis died. We know he was buried in a casket in Graceland, and that his body, what remains of it, is still there.

As much as his fans may have wanted him to be alive,  no amount of yearning for one more chance to hear Blue Suede Shoes,  or to see those swiveling hips, can bring him back.

Elvis had not only left the building, he left this world once and for all.

Jesus came back.

He found the disciples in the upper room where they were hiding. They had just finished hearing the account that two of them told, of meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. That couple had rushed back to tell their friends about their encounter with the Risen Lord. They were all excitedly discussing this, when suddenly he appeared.

They thought they were seeing a ghost. They were scared, as anyone would be.

But this ghost – as they thought – told them to come and look at his hands, and at his feet. The wounds were still there. He was flesh and blood, and he was alive.

And as if to prove he was as alive as anyone there, he asked for, and ate, food.

He tells them not to be so surprised, shocked, petrified, that he has risen from the tomb, and to demonstrate that it was always meant to be, he takes them on a little journey through the Bible, pointing out all that the prophets had said about a coming Messiah, and how those words applied to him.

It’s a lot for them to absorb, isn’t it? No matter how much you have loved somebody, seeing them again, alive, would knock your socks off.

I read of a case some time ago,  where a man had died, been buried,  and his family mourned him.  A couple or so years later, his brother saw him in their hometown, and collapsed from the shock of it.   It turned out that the funeral had been a phony one, set up to make this man’s many enemies think he had died. 

He had testified in court, giving evidence against an organised crime figure. The police thought he would be safer if everyone thought he were dead.  So they arranged his death, told his family he had died, and a funeral took place.

The man was really in the witness protection program.

No matter how his brother had loved him, he nearly died of shock when he saw him.

So believe it when Luke tells us the disciples were frightened.

Later, however, they were relieved and glad. 

He ate with them.

And here was Jesus alive and well, and with his disciples days after dying on that cross.

The resurrection was real!  Jesus was no phantom or hallucination, no product of someone’s fevered mind. He was back, and he was real.

Christianity is founded on the one who in actual historical fact faced, fought, and conquered death and rose again.

That’s a prime truth that we see in this account.

We also see from this account that the cross was a necessity. It was not forced on God. It wasn’t some Plan B to which God reverted when all else had failed. 

It had been God’s plan all along.

The cross is the one place on earth where in a moment of time we see His eternal love.

This account of meeting the Risen Lord in that upper room also tells us the message of Jesus that must be taken out into all the world. 

Jesus told his disciples what he himself saw in the scriptures, namely that all people in every nation must be told in his name to turn to God in order to be forgiven.

So ” Christianity” is not to be locked up in church buildings however beautiful . It is not some deep secret to be held by a few. It is not for the rich, nor for the poor, nor for the good, nor for the bad- it is for all.

For everyone.

And if we thwart that, by our own inaction or our timidity, or our wish to avoid challenges,  then we are actually going against his stated purpose for his church. And His plan for each of us.

And it’s an urgent matter.   

I can’t believe that God will stand idly by and see   ” Men like Min Aung Hlaing the dictator  in Myanmar who is clinging onto power by brutalizing his people, killing those who protest, and those who do not, but are in the wrong place at a particular time – I can’t believe that God will stand idly by……..

 He will not ignore the cries of his people for ever.

He will hear them.

Then the tyrants and the oppressors will tremble.

Such men will tremble. Such men will face the awful wrath of God. They will be held to account.

And what of us? What of his followers, who have heard his word and have tried to live as Christ lived?

My dear friends we are already God’s children.

He loves us so much that He lets us be called His children,  as we truly are.

It is true, however  that the people of the world, who don’t know Jesus won’t know us. But we know that when Christ returns we will be like him – alive for ever – and we will see him as he really is.  The words of John.

The world does not know Jesus.

That’s a strange statement. Surely everyone knows about him. Everyone celebrates Christmas and Easter, the two holidays that commemorate the three most momentous events –  the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
You Think?

Some years ago, when Jay Leno, was the Tonight Show host,  just about Easter, one year, he did one of his  “Jay Walks.” He took a mike outside, and stopped people and asked them some pretty simple questions about Jesus.

He asked one woman, “ Do you know about Jesus?” and she answered, ‘Oh yes.”

He asked her when did she think Jesus lived on earth. She said two hundred years ago. When Leno asked her if it seemed  right that Jesus lived about the same time as Abraham Lincoln, that didn’t seem to faze her at all. 

So he asked her the names of Jesus’ earthly parents and she perked up at that, replying swiftly, ‘Mary and Joseph.’

Leno then asked her when they would have been living and she said four hundred years ago.

“So Mary would have been about two hundred years old when Jesus was born,” Leno said, and the woman said, “I suppose so.”

Jay asked others when Jesus walked the earth and the answers ranged from a thousand to a million years.

The last answer came from a person who said she was studying anthropology. Leno asked her then, ‘So Jesus lived at the same time as the dinosaurs?’ She agreed.

It would be funny except that it is so tragic.

They don’t know Jesus.

And it tells us that we Christians have a bigger job to do than we ever imagined.

How can we keep it  to ourselves when there are people out there, poor lost  souls, who know nothing about the love of God?

What is going to happen to them when some crisis hits them? Separation? Divorce? Loss of a loved one? Serious illness?

To whom will they turn? Oprah?  Dr. Phil?

And who will help them to live through the strife and trouble of everyday?

And how will they know what is right and wrong? And how will they know what true love is? 

Oh we Christians have a big job on our hands, haven’t we?

And how can we Christians, simple human beings that we are, how can we know what to do, to  help such  lost souls?

Maybe first by learning what we can, ourselves – about his love and His plan and how Jesus came to save such as us – and them.

Then by living in such a way that they can’t help but wonder how we do it

Living in love. Living in harmony. Living in integrity. Living as children of God.

And knowing enough that when they ask, “How do you do it?” “How do you cope with the troubles that life throws at you?”  “How do you manage to make it through every day?”  How can you face life with a smile on your face when the world is going to hell in a hand basket?

…….knowing enough to answer, “Because of Jesus.”

And when they say, “How do you mean?”

And telling them in simple terms, that living for Jesus means not living for the world.

Loving Jesus means not loving the world.

So that  we don’t crave worldly things.  We like to live well, but that isn’t what drives us.

And when we have to let go of worldly things, we do that, we let go.

Because that isn’t what drives us.

That isn’t what fulfills us.

What fulfills us is that we have accepted the freely given love that God graciously sent to us in his Son Jesus.

We have accepted that we are sinners – redeemed sinners – and have cast off the old person and taken on the new.

And we know that when we slip, when we falter, when we fall, he is there to forgive us and take us back, and nurture us, because we are His own.

And we believe that because He lives, we will also live. And what he is we will also be.

That is what fulfills

AND SO DO WE !

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:19-31)

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June 18th 1815, the  Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going.

For those who don’t know, semaphore is a system of signaling using two flags and holding them in certain positions depending on the letter of the alphabet. Signalers would be placed within sight of each other, on whatever high point was available.  One of those signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.

Late in the day, it flashed a signal.  ”WELLINGTON…DEFEATED…” Just at that moment one of those sudden English fogs made it impossible to read the rest of the message. The news of the defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war.

Suddenly the fog lifted and the message was again being sent. It was clear now that the  message had four words, not two. The complete message was “WELLINGTON – DEFEATED—THE– ENEMY”

Sorrow was turned into joy. Defeat was turned into victory.

So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died, even in the hearts of Jesus’ most loyal friends,

After the frightful crucifixion, a fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They could read only part of the divine message : CHRIST—DEFEATED, was all  they saw.

But then on the third day – Easter Sunday – the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted and the world received the complete message: CHRIST– DEFEATED — DEATH!”

Defeat was turned into victory; death was turned into life.

The first one to know this, was Mary Magdalene, who saw  the Risen Lord.   Although, we might say that John, the beloved disciple who ran with Peter to the tomb, and got there first – we might say that he was the first – because when he saw the empty grave clothes lying there, he believed.  In other words, he understood the truth of what Jesus had been telling them about  rising again.    He found his faith.   But Mary actually saw Jesus first.

So, the message of Easter has two parts. The first part is the death on the cross  where we know Jesus died for us; and the second part,  where he rose again, freeing us from the fear of death – we will live for ever, as he indeed does.

The first part tells us that because of his sacrifice, we can now be forgiven our sins – without having to pay for them, and that we can now come to God without fear. He has opened the door to heaven for us.

The second part tells us that life continues after we shuck off our old bodies, and join him in Heaven.

But there is a third part, and one which affects us immediately, and that is that there is new life for us now.

We talk in terms of  new life  coming from  baptism, or after dedicating our lives to following Jesus, because it seems to me that the new life in Heaven begins with new life right here.

Our life down here is a prelude to life in the hereafter, so new life down here has to be the beginning of our new life in Heaven. A continuation? 

Think about it. It’s a serious consideration.   For some people it is too serious a notion.

We have all come across the sort of Christian who lives life so rigidly that they look down on someone who doesn’t live quite as they do..   .

I have known so called Christians who lived such unhappy, miserable lives, that you would wonder, if they are on the first leg of their journey to the hereafter, you wouldn’t want to see the rest of it.

If you are miserable here, then surely you will be miserable there.

I have known so called Christians who were so mean-minded, so lacking in  basic generosity of spirit, that they surely are headed for a Spartan, meager heaven – small room, no view, next to someone practicing the harp at all hours of the night.

One that suits their outlook, I suppose.

Real Christians, despite adversity, have a glimpse of the future; an inkling of where they are going, and their image of where they are going is such that they cannot stop smiling.

It’s like children being told they are going to Disneyland. They can’t keep still for excitement. They keep asking, “Are we there yet?”

Knowing what we are promised, it’s hard not to smile – like an undertaker trying to keep a straight face at a twenty thousand dollar funeral.

Christians should by nature be happy.   And why not? We know where we are going –  and we know who is traveling with us.

We are going to a much better place by far, and on the way – on the way through this world, which can be rough – we have a traveling companion who will provide care and love, and compassion, and encouragement through all this world’s troubles.

Instead of looking at our troubles and crying about them, we can, with God’s help rise to new life, and find ways around them, or through them, or if we fall,  there is always our Lord to pick us up and set us right on the path again.

Because we all have to face troubles at some time or other. It is the rare person who has not faced some sort of problem.

Like when you wake up in hospital all trussed up in bandages, with your leg pulled up in a sling, and your insurance agent tells you that yes, your accident policy covers falling off the roof  … but it doesn’t cover actually hitting the ground.

We are going to have troubles.

The difference is that we will never face them alone. New life for the Christian includes the promise of Jesus, “ Lo I am with you to the end of  the age.”

The person whom life has broken, knows this, because  God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop. It takes broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken  bread to give strength.

It is the broken alabaster box that gives its perfume; it is Peter, weeping bitterly – a broken man – who returned to lead the disciples to  conquer the world for Jesus the Christ.

It is Jesus, once broken on the cross,  who now walks with us and gives us new hope, new life.

Christians therefore have a positive view of life. They know that whatever,          …things can and will turn out right for them.

The Christian knows that we are the way in which Jesus works in this world and we gladly lend a hand with another’s burden.

Unlike the cynic, who says, “Don’t bother telling people your troubles, half of them don’t care, and the other half figure you probably had it coming, anyway!”

But I shall never cease to be amazed at how people rally around when someone needs help.    I shall never cease to be amazed at how people share each other’s pain and sorrow, and each other’s triumphs and happiness.

That’s not the way of the world is it?  Someone’s misfortune often comes from  someone else’s good luck. Someone’s  triumph is often at the price of someone else’s defeat. .

Susan and I watched the series, Suits, on Netflix.  It’s set in a large prestigious New York law firm. Every character seems to be set on winning, and when they win someone always loses.

What a way to be. What a way to live, eh?

The new life we have in Christ helps us to love each other, and when you love someone you can’t help but want the best  for them, and they for you.

And because we find Christ in the Eucharist and in each other, we are empowered in our worship and praise.

Someone wrote about attending another church, while on holiday. She said, “ In the middle of the eucharistic liturgy, when the congregation was kneeling and singing the “Alleluia” I saw a woman near me with her hands lifted in praise. The thing was, those hands were terribly twisted and gnarled, and she had a pair of crutches near her.

“Dear Christ,” I thought, “What makes a Christian sing Alleluia?”

Clearly there was something besides self-interest welling up from that woman in that act of praise.

We know the answer, don’t we? And so does the psalmist:

          The Lord is my strength and my song,

        And he has become my salvation.

          The sound of joyful shouting and salvation

          Is in the tents of the righteous.

The sounds of joyful shouting and salvation!!  I like that.

Despite what this world can throw against us, the sounds of joyful shouting and salvation will be heard from those who follow Jesus.

And why?

          The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,

          I shall not die but live,

          And tell of the works of the Lord.

          This is the day that the Lord has made

          Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We got the whole message: CHRIST— DEFEATED— DEATH.

He lives, Alleluia!!

And so do we.    

LET’S CELEBRATE

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16.1-8)

Easter Sunday

If we were in church today, we would see the church dressed in white. The altar would have a white frontal, the pulpit and lectern would have white and the celebrant would be wearing a white stole and chasuble). The reason is that this is a celebration.

We also wear white at funerals.  

A funeral doesn’t seem like a celebration. You have lost somebody you love. You won’t see them again – at least in this world – and you will have to do without them while ever you live. Nothing to celebrate there, is there?

On Good Friday  we mourn the death of Jesus on that cruel cross. Nothing to celebrate there either. What happened was a despicable, shameful act on the part of the authorities.

The disciples, after his death on that cross were understandably depressed, sad, grieving, mourning – and perhaps most of all – lost. 

What were they going to do now? They had given up everything to follow Jesus – jobs,  family life, secure positions –  and they had changed, too, while they were with Jesus.  It  was going to be hard, perhaps impossible, to go back to their old way of life.

But the bottom had fallen out of everything.

What a mistake they had made following Jesus. Who knew it would end like this?

Then the women came back from the tomb. They had gone to prepare  the body of Jesus, with spices, and expected to find his broken body in the tomb.

They had wondered, as they walked, if there would be anyone around to roll back the big round stone that covered the entrance to the tomb.

When they got there, what a shock!  The stone was already rolled away.

An angelic figure had told them to go and wait in Galilee. They would see Jesus there, he had said.

Now, they told the disciples what they had seen – the tomb was empty.  How the disciples must have confused by this. How could it be possible?

But  they would see Jesus again!

He would talk to  them. He would send them out into the world. He would send His Spirit to be with them. He would not leave them orphans.

More than that, his rising from the dead, they would realise later, means that we too will rise from the dead. That we too will live again, after we die.

That’s why a funeral, as strange as it seems, is a celebration.  As much as it hurts to lose someone, knowing they have gone to a new life, should, if possible, be reason to celebrate. 

The problem is that we live in and of this world too much. We can’t seem to focus on the next world.

How are we going to pay the bills? How are we ever going to afford a new car?   When will we ever get  around to that renovation?

We hope that aunt Millie will survive her illness. We pray that our kids will turn around and be what we want them to be – more like us!  

We don’t spend too much time thinking about the fact that we will live again, and that we will see the ones we lose, again.

This old body, with its aches and pains, its varicose veins, scars, and wrinkles, and arthritis, and missing this and that – this old body will have been left behind in the ground where it belongs, and we will have gone on, clean and fresh and brand new – in the spirit – but definitely us – to new life. 

And when you think about that, doesn’t it change your view of this life, and of this world?

I have known people who as they neared the end of their lives, began to give away things they had once treasured.  

One woman  had collected spoons all her life.  She had spoons from all over the world. She cleaned them and polished them every few weeks, and they were displayed prominently in her house.  However, they were mounted high enough on the wall that her grandkids couldn’t get to them.

You could almost say that her life was defined by her collection. 

She was the Spoon Lady.

Then, soon after her sixtieth birthday, she seemed to lose  interest in her spoons. The cabinet gathered dust. The spoons didn’t shine as they once had.  And  one day when the grandchildren came to visit, she took out a few spoons and allowed her grandchildren to play tea party with them.

I would like to think that at age sixty, she had taken stock of her life, and decided that she had invested too much in her collection.

Imagine how much good she could have done in her life had she devoted the same energy and dedication she had put into her collection of spoons, into something more worthy?

How much more would get done in His name, if we weren’t hung up on the things of this world.

We focus on the wrong things, I think.

Like the people of Baghdad.

In 2003, Saddam Hussein was  overthrown.  People were now free from a regime that executed people on a whim – executed men women and children, for nothing at all.   Hundreds of thousands had been tortured, raped, burnt alive, dipped in acid,  hanged, shot, kept in solitary for months, gassed, under what was surely  the worst regime since Adolf Hitler, and they rallied in great numbers to complain that the electricity has not been restored in the ten days since US forces defeated Saddam Hussein. 

A temporary inconvenience blinded them to the greatest gift they could have been given  –  freedom! 

The disciples may have been thinking  how much they had missed  in the world by following Jesus.  They didn’t yet appreciate the earth-  shattering events they had witnessed.

It’s hard  to look beyond the everyday, the inconveniences, hard to see beyond our world.  

A boy named Jeremy Forrester was born with a twisted body and a chronic, terminal illness that was slowly killing him all his young life.  Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and had sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School. At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. 

His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him.  He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises, yet  at other times,  he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain.  Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher.  One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Theresa’s for a consultation.

As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classroom, Doris said to  them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school.  It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems.  Why, there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!”

Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke.  “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby.  It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school.  We know he really likes it here.”

Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside the window.  She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters.  After all, their only child had a terminal  illness.  But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class.  She had 18 other youngsters to teach and Jeremy was a distraction.  He could never learn to read or write.  Why waste any more time trying?

Suddenly, as she sat there pondering the situation, a wave of guilt washed over her.  “Oh God,” she said aloud, “Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family!  Please help me to be more patient with Jeremy.”

From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares.  Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him.  “I love you, Miss Miller,”  he said, loudly enough for the whole class to hear.  The other children snickered, and Doris’ face turned red.  She stammered, “Wh-Why, that’s very nice, Jeremy.  Now please take your seat.” 

Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about Easter.  Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg.

“Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it  back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life.  Do you understand?”  The children responded enthusiastically – all except for Jeremy.  He just listened intently, his eyes never leaving her face.  Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Did he understand the assignment?  Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.

That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink stopped up.  She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it.  After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day.  She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.

The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk.  After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.  

In the first egg, Doris found a flower.  “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said.  “When plants peek through the ground we know that spring is here.”   A small girl in the first row waved her arms.  “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,”  she called out. 

The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real.  Doris held it up.  “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly.  Yes, that is new life, too.”  Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.”

Then Doris opened the third egg.  She gasped.  The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s,  and, of course, he hadn’t understood her instructions.  If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents.  Not wanting to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.  Suddenly Jeremy spoke up.  “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?”

Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy – your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty too!”

Time stopped.  When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?”     “Oh yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there.  Then his Father raised him up!”

The recess bell rang.  The children excitedly ran out to the school yard, while Doris cried.  

Three months later Jeremy died.  Those who paid their respects at the funeral home were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.

Jeremy had had the wonderful ability to see beyond this world.  Maybe that was what enabled  him to live – really live – despite his handicap.

He would be terribly missed by his parents, and by those others who had looked beyond the twisted body, and seen the sensitive mind trapped in there.

But he wouldn’t have wanted anyone to cry, would he? He was free, free at last, and alive – really alive.

And new life gained is surely something to celebrate.

That’s why we celebrate the new life we have gained  in Jesus the Christ this Easter Sunday.

And that makes it very appropriate to wear white, the colour of celebration, doesn’t it?

Amen.

*I first came across the story of Jeremy some  years ago, on the site of the First Baptist Church of Arthur, Illinois USA. My thanks to them.

We Could Start Today!

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew

Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head.

They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”(Mt 27: 11-54)

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You know, this Sunday, Palm Sunday, we share the joy that people felt when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, as we joyfully sing ” Ride on Ride on, in Majesty ” –  and then later we share the sadness in his death by crucifixion.

We walk alongside a triumphant Jesus, and then we stand at the cross and see his humiliation.

What are we supposed to feel today? Happiness or sadness?

Are we supposed to feel an affinity with a Messiah, a winner, someone who will conquer those things that oppress us, or feel kinship with a man who dies on the cross, humiliated? Make a choice!

In the Eastern Church, the Orthodox Church crucifixes tend not to have the figure of Jesus on them. Here, in the Catholic tradition, we have crucifixes with the “corpus,” the body of  Christ on them

The first emphasizes the resurrection, the latter the crucifixion.

So the church is divided East and West on which reality to focus. .

But maybe we don’t have to choose one or the other as a guide to faith.

Maybe the tension is between, on the one hand, praising Jesus, as a winner, and then deserting him as a loser.  Praising him and then condemning him. Because make no mistake about it we do condemn him in some of the things we do in life. 

I remember when I was in elementary school. I was perhaps eight years old. I saw some of my friends gathered around a boy who was a year or so younger. I asked what was happening, and I was told that you only had to pull a face at this kid and he would break into tears.

So I did.  I grimaced at him and sure enough he started crying. It was funny.

It wasn’t funny for him. But we soon got tired of it and left him alone.

We all have a share in driving the nails.

A punishment for thievery, in Medieval England was to be placed in the stocks. The stocks were a wooden frame with holes for the legs, and the head, and for the hands too, and a thief would be locked into the stocks and left there for a few days. And anyone going by could throw vegetables, fruit, mud, even stones, at the poor unfortunate victim. It was expected. Considered the duty of all law-abiding citizens. 

Even people who didn’t know the miscreant or his crime, would take a shot.

In Biblical times and in now in Afghanistan where the Taliban rules.  and stoning was reintroduced, everyone  watching was expected to take up a stone and throw it,

You share the punishment. You share the blame.

But we have all thrown stones, haven’t we? 

Passing on gossip.  Condemning people without really knowing them.

We have all hurt someone at some time.

We have all taunted Jesus.

Wait a minute, how did Jesus get in there? I never taunted him!

 “What you do to the least of these my brothers or sisters, you do unto me.”

That’s how!

I wonder if we get into a certain way of doing things, that it becomes habitual, and we don’t realise we are doing it. 

Like Sunday we are good Christians, but other days we are not so good? 

Like when there is nothing at stake, we are good Christians, but if rules need to be bent, or when acting as  a Christian would make doing our job difficult, we aren’t?

I have seen commercials advertising a great deal on an automobile – so much down and a ridiculously low monthly lease amount, which looks really good at a glance, but the small print which by law has to be there, mentions that the lease is a reduced mileage lease – 10,000 kilometers a year only.

You are not going to take the reduced lease of course, but it gets you into the showroom. 

Or the store manager who marks up the prices of the furniture on the floor, by ten percent and then holds a sale featuring ten per cent off.

And he has no problem coming to church on a Sunday, never even thinking about the contradiction in his Sunday behaviour and his weekday behaviour.

It’s what he has always done.

Its normal marketing behaviour.

Nothing wrong with it.

I wonder if the marketing person who thought up that scheme is a Christian.

If he or she is, then they are doing something that is at odds with what they do on Sunday, aren’t they?  If they did this, then they probably have done other slightly misleading things too.

Because you kind of get into the habit of it.

The point I am trying to get to is that if that is the case with us, then we need to bring both sides of our lives into line with each other.

Live our Sunday life, Monday to Saturday.

Break old habits.

Habits can be dangerous.

I read about a man who was a creature of habit.

 He followed a strict and precise routine every morning. His alarm went off at 6.30 a.m. He rose briskly, shaved and showered, ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth. Picked up his briefcase, drove to the nearby ferry landing, parked his car, rode the ferry across to the downtown business area, got off the ferry, walked, hung up his coat, spread his papers out on his desk, and sat down in his chair at precisely 8.00. Not 8.01, not 7.59. Always 8.00 on the dot.

He had followed this same routine for nearly eight years.

Until one morning, his alarm did not go off, and he slept fifteen minutes late.

When he did wake, he was panic stricken. He rushed through his shower, nicked himself when he shaved, gulped down his breakfast, only halfway brushed his teeth, grabbed his briefcase, jumped into his car, drove to the ferry landing, jumped out of his car and looked for the ferry. There it was out in the water a few feet from the dock.

He said to himself,  “I think I can make it.” And he ran down the dock towards the ferry at full speed. Reaching the edge of the pier he gave an enormous leap out over the water and miraculously, landed, with a loud thud on the deck of the ferry.

The captain rushed down to make sure he was alright, and said, “Man that was a tremendous leap, but if you would have waited just another minute we would have reached the dock, and you could have walked on.”

Every year at our Palm Sunday service, we break the routine a bit don’t we? Instead of sitting squashed up in the back five or six pews, we have to meet in the hall,  then process into the church in a sort of mixed up order.

And we are scared stiff that someone will have take our seat – the one we have occupied every Sunday for the past umpteen years.  

And we are reminded that going with the flow, doing things without thinking about them, taking the easy way, is what condemned Jesus.

Not everyone in that crowd that yelled out, “Crucify him,” really wanted to have that man hung on a cross, but they went with the flow.

Some of them had even welcomed him when he rode into Jerusalem, shouting Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

If our life is like that, loving Jesus on the one hand, and then on the other hand, by our actions “condemning him,” then we need to look at our daily habits, and change them.

We need to think for ourselves.

Maybe go against the flow for once in a while.

Don’t do what everyone does.

Take a stand against racist or sexist jokes; stand up for the underdog; speak out when we know someone is lying; don’t gild the lily; tell the truth.

Write to the government when you disagree with its policies, rather than just letting it go by.

Get involved in a writing campaign for Amnesty International, adopt a Foster Child, take positive action to try and put right, things which are wrong.

Don’t be afraid of standing out in a crowd.

You know, the Jews have been blamed over the centuries for crucifying Jesus. That fact has been used to justify pogroms, persecutions and ultimately genocide.

Right now, Hindus are persecuting Moslems in India, and Moslems have persecuted Hindus, in Pakistan.

Israelis are persecuting Palestinians, and Palestinians are persecuting Israelis.

Every hour of the day someone drives a nail into his hands, or into his feet, or drives a sword into his side.

Don’t you agree that it’s time we changed out habitual way of looking at other people?  

That we changed the way we do things?

Maybe just take a look at how we live, and if there is a bad habit that needs to be thrown out, to do it.

We could start with today. Here and now.  On this kind of crazy mixed up Sunday.

Amen.