Monday, 28 March 2016
Sermon Easter Sunday 2016
Hallelujah, the Lord is risen.
I have preached on Easter Sunday every year since I was ordained in 2004. When I started to consider my sermon for this morning I wondered what I could say about the Resurrection that I hadn’t said before and what you have probably heard many times before. Well, I asked Lorna what she would like to hear in an Easter Sunday sermon. Her response was, “why not do a Lectio Divina on the Gospel and then preach about that process”. Those aren’t her exact words but that is the gist of it.
I thought that this was an excellent idea as are many of Lorna’s ideas. So I decided that I would do just that as the approach to my sermon. To remind you, there are four steps to Lectio Divina; read, contemplate, respond and rest.
I read the Gospel that we have just heard proclaimed—the first step. I read it out loud to myself twice. The phrase that resonated with me was, “9for as yet they did not understand the scripture”.
I then contemplated the phrase considering why it resonated with me—the second step. I wondered what it was that they did not understand.
Reading on I discovered that they did not understand that “he must rise from the dead”; that Jesus must rise from the dead. How was it that these disciples did not know what had been foretold by Jesus himself.
We are told in Matthew 16:21, “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. They had not yet understood.
How could they not have understood when Jesus had told them what was to happen? Everything that had happened up to this point had happened the way Jesus had told them it would. And yet they still did not understand. How did they respond? “Then the disciples returned to their homes”. It might have ended there. But it did not. Mary did not return with them. She stayed at the empty tomb. She wanted to discover where the body had been taken. In effect, she did not understand either—not until she saw the person she took to be the gardener. Jesus spoke to her and her eyes were open and she recognized him, “She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”. She responded to this by rushing off to tell the others, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her”.
Part of my contemplation of the phrase was to realize that we can understand what Mary has done as Lectio Divina. Now she didn’t read scripture per say but you could say she lived it. Mary arrived at the tomb and read what had happened—the Tomb was empty. Then she did not act like the other disciples.
She stayed and contemplated what she had “read” in the scene. She certainly realized what resonated with her—Jesus appeared to her and opened her eyes to the meaning of the scripture.
She then responded by going and telling the other disciples the Good News the Gospel; their teacher, their rabbi, their friend and their Lord had indeed risen as he had foretold.
Now the Gospel does not tell us that she rested. However, I can well imagine that after all that had happened she would have rested peacefully and joyfully in the knowledge that he had risen.
Let us turn to the third step in my Lectio—my response. Well, my response was to compose this sermon and to preach it this morning. However, I think that is a bit of a cop out. It is doing what I would expect to do. But surely as a Christian I need to respond in more ways than that. I need to consider why that phrase resonated with me, “for as yet they did not understand the scripture”. What is it about scripture that I need to respond to in my life? If I am to understand that Jesus Christ is actually risen from the tomb how am I to respond to that fact in my life? How am I to live my life in a way that is true to that fact?
That is truly the difficult part for me and I think it is for many Christians. What does it mean to have Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the only begotten son of God the Father? For me it means that I must truly believe and know in my heart and mind and body and soul that Jesus has lived the life that was so in- tune with his relationship with God that he was able to do what God intended him to do and be the person that God intended him to be. He was fully human and he was fully divine—of one substance with the Father as it says in the creed. I must make an effort every day to live the life that God intends me to live and become more fully the person that God intended me to be when God created me. Will I succeed? No, without a doubt I will fail—I will fall into sin. However, through Jesus Christ I have the assurance that my sins will be forgiven and I will live to make the effort tomorrow and tomorrow after that and every tomorrow that I am privileged to be on this earth.
Well, what about the last step—to rest. I can say without a doubt that this afternoon I will rest and recharge my batteries after all these services of Holy Week. But beyond that I know I need to rest to be able to reflect on what God’s will is for me. And so it goes; read, contemplate, respond and rest.
Hallelujah, the Lord is risen.