Craig’s Sermon – Luke 24:36-48

Resurrection Church – Luke 24: 36b-48/Acts 3:12-19

Welcome to the third Sunday of Easter. To me, Easter never seems to be a very meaningful name for the most momentous event in the history of our world. The resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ from the dead. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Resurrection – what a word. What a fact! Should we rename Easter Sunday as Resurrection Sunday? You’ve heard of being an Easter church, an Easter people. But what would we think of ourselves if we took seriously the fact that we are Resurrection people, living and witnessing as a resurrection church? In today’s gospel reading we hear another episode of the Risen Christ appearing to his disciples. Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. But he reassured them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look – my hands; look at my feet – it’s really me. Touch me. Take my hand. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. Jesus was still Jesus.

They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true. He asked for something to eat.

So they gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked earlier. He took it and ate it right before their eyes. Spooks don’t eat. Jesus really was Jesus. New. Fresh. Alive. It was Him. Resurrected. Still him, but different. Who didn’t feel that little bit more alive on Saturday, as what seems to have been a long sluggish winter suddenly gave way to the newness of spring? I saw our Magnolia tree which is in full bloom and was moved to ‘wow’-ness: Resurrection beauty: my heart gave a leap of joy and I said ‘God, you’re amazing’! This is resurrection. The old has gone, the new has come! Winter is over, summer is coming. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

So what is resurrection? Well, it’s not resuscitation! In the Creed we say that he was killed on a cross. Under Pontius Pilate – it actually happened in history. There were witnesses. He was thoroughly dead. Buried in a new tomb. He descended to the dark place of the dead: the Lord of Life takes on the Lord of Death and is victorious. The Gospel is preached to those in hell. Jesus has destroyed death and its dominion. And miracle of all miracles, Jesus rose from the dead. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We have this idea that the Resurrection of Jesus is somehow the end of the story. Maybe because it comes at the end of the gospels. But actually, this is just the beginning. This is something new, which has reshaped our world forever. The book of Acts, also written by Luke, is ‘part two’ of his gospel. It’s the continuing story of the resurrection.

Traditionally, we’ve understood the resurrection as Jesus having secured somewhere else for us to go when we die: heaven. But the resurrection was a cosmic event. Creation in entirety. It’s not just about us: in Revelation we hear of a new heaven and a new earth. The same ones – but better. The entire creation. Enhanced. Renewed. Restored. Resurrected. Resurrection is now, not when we hear the pearly gates clang shut behind us after we have died. It has already begun. Here. Now. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In all the messiness of life, we can see glimpses of glory. In pain we can find hope. In desolation, we can find consolation because He is risen. Resurrected. Alive.

Jesus went on to say to his followers, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.” He went on to open their minds to the power of the Word of God, showing them how to understand what had taken place. How it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and a new way of life of sins is proclaimed in his name. He says “You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses”. You are my resurrection people.

Whilst I was cutting the grass yesterday, I reflected that creation began in a garden. Beauty. Order. Fellowship between God and Humans….but we know the rest of the story. This story was embedded in the hearts and minds of God’s people, the Jews. In his gospel, John tells us that Jesus was buried in a new tomb… in a garden. This image is loaded with meaning. Re-creation – resurrection – began in a garden. On the first day of a new week. Resurrection is now. Despite the darkness and cruelty in today’s world, where evil seems to be particularly rampant. Despite the lack of vision in our politicians, and the defense of the status quo and the poverty and pain around us.

The fact of the resurrection should radically reshape our hearts, minds, and world-view. That new creation is here. Right under our noses. And we should live in the light of that knowledge. In Acts, the disciples had taken this radical fact of Jesus rising from the dead to heart and became fearless witnesses to the reality of resurrection. Absolute hope in an uncertain and very dangerous world.

So my final point is this: we have our Vision Meeting following this service. Perhaps we should ask the question: what am I bringing? is it just my thoughts, my preferences? Am I happy with things as they are, will it see me through until I’m gone? Or dare I think like a child of the resurrection? That here new life is now. Hope is now. The reality of Jesus Christ among us is now. I’ve written ‘resurrection’ on my hand to remind me of that when my mind feels the need to get a bit parochial! he reassured them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look – my hands; look at my feet – it’s really me. Touch me. Take my hand. As a church, lets take him at his word. Put our hand into his, and fearlessly be the resurrection church in our village. A beacon of hope. A people of hope. A people whose song is “Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Leading your Church into Growth

EVERYONE is invited to be part of the training sessions for Leading your Church into Growth – an exciting programme that will help all the congregations in the parish to grow. It is practical, simple, transformational and fun. Please put these dates in your diary, make it a priority and come along:

Saturday 21st April at St Mark’s 10:00 – 15:30 (though Hannah thinks it may not take that long). We will have pizza for lunch.

At St George’s at 7:30PM:

1st May – Our Focus

22nd May – Our Plan

5th June – Our Culture

4th Sep – Our Calling

25th Sep – Our Journey

16th Oct – Our Heart

At all Churches:

13th Jan – Celebration Services

Lesley Crawley

Sermon by Wendy last week at St John’s

Readings:

Acts 4:32-35

1 John 1:1 – 2:2

John 20:19-31

My first reaction to the Bible readings today was ‘What a lovely trio of readings!’ That’s not always the case when you check Bible passages when due to preach. Sometimes an initial reaction to them is ‘How on earth can I say something helpful and hopeful with these readings?’ I am sure other preachers would agree. However, God is in charge and prayer is part of preaching. Sometimes, with difficult passages it is a very big part. Gradually, with God’s help, even the toughest readings impart some thoughts, some sense, some hope and some peace for the preacher and their patient spouse or partner if they have one!  Our readings are long today so I cannot cover everything in a 10-minute sermon. Here are some highlights for me.

What do I like about these readings today? I love the sharing of personal possessions and money in our Acts reading so that no-one is in need and I love the fact that the early Christian believers were ‘of one heart and soul’- oh if only both things could happen now, worldwide, nationwide, locally. There is so much need in the world and such an uneven distribution if wealth and resources. There are many differences of opinion on all sorts of subjects, even within this church and that is exactly as it should be but isn’t it wonderful when our differences are put aside at a bring and share lunch, when the Holy Spirit makes us one in heart and soul during a service or   a hymn or over coffee or when receiving communion or singing hymns or helping one another in various ways? Nothing compares with that feeling of oneness and fellowship when we help another in need and when we enjoy fellowship. There is much more that unites us than divides us.

I could not give away all my possessions or persuade my husband, Steve that we must sell our home and give the proceeds away to those in need.  I know I am not that generous even though I think I am quite generous.   Do we give testimony with great power about the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ so that great grace comes upon us? I guess this sermon is an attempt to do that on my part, but I need also to take that powerful testimony outside the church walls.  I try. I think we all try in our own different ways to do that. This Acts reading gives me such a boost though and an encouragement to keep trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I hope it does the same for you and that maybe, like me, when Christian Aid week comes up soon in May we will remember to help and give as generously as we can.

I have too little time to unpack the reading from the first letter of John. However, we are assured that the testimony about Jesus Christ has come from real people who saw and heard Jesus, The Light of the World, preach and teach and who felt his healing touch. We are assured that Jesus will surely lighten our darkness.

In our Gospel reading, it’s Sunday evening that first Easter Sunday, Jesus has risen from the dead, appearing to either just Mary Magdalene or to several women (depending on which Gospel account you are reading). The message has been passed to the other disciples that the Lord had risen from the dead but many may have thought the women hysterical in their grief- it is a normal part of grief to believe you hear or see a loved one who has died- and, anyway, a woman’s testimony in those days was, sadly, not worth a great deal.

Our Gospel passage today describes not 1 but 2 resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. Before I go on I would like to give a little plug here for some art evenings coming up soon at St. Mark’s on 10th (this Tuesday), 17th and 24th April 2018 at 7.30pm about the Stations of the Resurrection, the appearances of the Risen Christ.  Do try to get along to St. Mark’s for them.

In our reading today, Jesus has appeared once to the disciples when Thomas was absent and once, a week later, when Thomas is present. On both occasions the Risen Christ somehow gets through a locked door, nothing being impossible for the Son of God. This is the part of Scripture from which we get The Peace part of our Communion service. A bit later in this service after Pamela has prayed our prayers of intercession, John will say to us the words Jesus said that evening to his amazed disciples ‘Peace be with you’.

I like Thomas. I have doubts at times, we all have doubts, if we are honest. Thomas is honest and courageous enough to express his doubts. We human beings are a sensory bunch. We are much more inclined to believe something we have seen with our own eyes or touched with our own hands or felt inwardly with our hearts and souls, especially something quite this miraculous. A dead man coming back to life as had happened to Jesus.

There is a painting by Caravaggio from the start of the 17th Century called The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. It is not for the faint hearted in some ways. Jesus’ left hand holds Thomas’ right hand at the wrist and guides and controls Thomas’ right hand as Thomas’ index finger enters the wound on Jesus’ chest. I was a lawyer, but I am a frustrated medical doctor- I love medicine and anatomy and find the human body fascinating. I am not squeamish, and I love that painting despite its slight gruesomeness. What it says to me is that Jesus is telling us, as he told Thomas, that it is OK to doubt, and it is OK to believe. It is OK to do possibly painful explorations on our journey of faith. Jesus guides and controls our faith, our doubt and our explorations as he controlled Thomas’ hand.  Doubt, as I have found on my own journey of faith, can make belief all the sweeter when the darkness lightens.   I think Jesus is saying something else also. Whilst we should not share publicly about our own wounds when they are still too sore and in need of healing, Jesus encourages us to share our healed wounds with others in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about healing in others in God’s power and timing.

Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, reassures us that we who have not, with our own eyes, seen his wounded risen body here in Hale today are still blessed by our belief in Christ as we touch and taste the holy sacrament of his body and his blood.

May we who are so blessed at the Holy Table today feel just a tiny sliver of the knock out grace felt by Saint Thomas when he said, ‘My Lord and My God!’   Amen.

Christian Aid Week Dates – 13/5-20/5

Christian Aid Week dates for your diary

5th May – raffle tickets for painting being sold in Gostrey meadows at the Duck Race.

12th May – coffee and cake morning at Farnham Methodist church 10am -12noon

13th May – Speaker at 10am at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea

13th May CAW service 5pm at St Andrews

14-18th May collection in morning rush hour at Farnham station- volunteers needed 6.15am- 9.15am,

19th May – CAW Big Brunch at URC Farnham from 10-2pm Bacon rolls,sausage in a roll, assorted soups , cakes and hot drinks.

19th May -street collection in Farnham town centre all day – volunteers needed across the day- hourly slots.

20th May – Speaker at 9:30am at St John’s Church, Hale and 11:00am at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale

20th May – Circle the City of London sponsored walk. Fun day out for the family.

23rd June  Concert at St Martins in aid of CA. Anemos Wind Ensemble and Andrew Harrap (organ) will be performing on the evening. The concert begins at 7.30pm and will be followed by refreshments.

 

Annual Report on Church Activities – 15/4

Sunday 15th April at St Mark’s we have the Annual Meetings. Please try and attend to hear about how much our Parish has achieved over the last year. All may attend the Annual meeting of parishioners, but only those on the electoral roll may attend the APCM. This year we will be introducing material from a course “Leading your Church into growth”.

Please find below the annual report on church activities.

REPORT DOCUMENT 2017 V2