The Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas: An Episcopal Election looms…

23 02 2018

Date of Election: 5th May 2018, St Michael’s Church, Hayes, Kansas, USA

Click the image below for more details

Election

Jonathan

The Rev’d Dr Jonathan J Singh
(Click pic for details)

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Sermon: Second Sunday before Lent

3 02 2018

It seems like Christmas is only just over, and already we are preparing for Lent – a period of the Church year which George Herbert famously referred to as a feast!

The Church of England sets readings, in these Sundays before Lent begins, which prepare us for the spiritual nourishment that this season of preparation brings with it. It is a period in which we are invited to understand better, receive, and get to know God.

Mr Men

I don’t know whether you know the Mr Men books. They are short stories about little characters that try to personify certain aspects of our human nature. I used them a lot when I was teaching as a primary school teacher. In a way, the characters look like their character names too. In those stories, shapes and flesh are put onto ways of behaving and being. Meeting these characters helped my pupils to understand aspects of human nature…what it is like to be forgetful, fussy, cheerful and so on. It’s quite telling that I accidentally bought two copies of the Mr Forgetful book. I literally forgot I already had a copy of it!

Logos

Our Scripture readings today try to help us understand a little more of what God is like. We meet aspects of God’s nature. We are introduced today to Miss Wisdom and Mr Word. Today we encounter quite complex ideas from Greek philosophy and Jewish Wisdom Literature. First, in Proverbs, Wisdom is introduced to us as being beautiful, joyous and creative, excited by the loveliness of creation. Then we are introduced, in John’s gospel, to the Word – the Word has something to say, telling us exactly what God is like, and even more than that, the Word has flesh put on it and we see the invisible God made visible. The Word became flesh – the logos – takes on a tangible real presence.

In the Jesus of history, and through the Christ of faith, we encounter God who loves us, who comes to meet us where we are, who loves us, and who commissions us to speak His Word to a needy world. Sometimes those words are not enough. Actions speak louder than words – our words, like God’s, must also become enfleshed, made incarnate. Our worship, our giving of worth to God, must be made real by its impact on our daily lives, and on the lives of those to whom we are called. What might that mean for you this week? For me, I wonder?

A story – powerful, and true…

MOlokai

You have probably never heard of the island of Molokai – it’s located in the state of Hawaii. And it has quite a history. You have to go way back to the late 1800’s to understand its significance. Back then, there was no cure for the highly contagious and deadly disease called leprosy – it would attack the extremities of the body, the ears, the toes, the nose, the fingers. A horrible dreadful disease which today is curable, but, it wasn’t then.
– So, in order to keep the disease at bay. In order to keep it from spreading and creating an epidemic, the government would send lepers to a colony on the island of Molakai where they would be secluded and isolated from those who were not infected with the disease.
In 1873, there was a young, brave priest named Fr Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the people secluded on the island of Molokai. When he arrived, he was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically, but socially, and emotionally, and spiritually. He saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and an overall sense of hopelessness. What he saw were people who desperately needed to know the answer to a question so many often ask… where is God in all this suffering?
In 1873, Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. Knowing the dangers, realizing the inevitable results of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and built some 600 coffins. And through it all he was giving them the answer to that question… where is God?

Whenever a church service was held. He would stand up in front of the lepers, and he would warmly, and lovingly address them as “my dear brothers and sisters.” But then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of “my dear brothers and sisters,” he began with, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.”
It was out of love that a humble priest became one of the them. Out of love he gave those lepers a gift that would change their life for all of eternity. He shared with them the answer to the ever-present question… “Where is God?” And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them. Sometimes words alone are not enough.

Sometimes, words need substance. Today, again, around the Lord’s Table, we partake of that real presence of Christ again – Jesus made present in bread and wine.

receive

John reminds us today that building a living, empowered relationship with God, through the incarnate Word – Jesus –  in the power of the Spirit, is not something we grasp for. It requires openness of heart and mind; this salvation is never grasped at, but received. Again, as we share in communion, we are taught to cup our hands that Christ’s body may be placed there – faithfully received, never grasped-for. We are invited again to receive and believe: to receive Christ in his Word (through engaging with the Scriptures), and through be-lief – ing. “Leif” comes from an old English word meaning valued, cherished, and dear. Through a life-long journey of learning, of followership of Jesus, come to love God, all God is, all God does, and all God makes us to be, in His name.

In Jesus, God touches earth with heaven. What an incredible concept! God bridges the gulf between heaven and earth – no longer is God ‘out there’, but here, among us, and within us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God knows that sometimes words alone are not enough.

The words of our worship – that which we say and sing with our lips, we do well to believe in our hearts; and what we believe in our hearts we must ‘flesh out’ as we are sent from here. At the end of this Eucharist, and every Eucharist I celebrate I say: The Eucharist is ended, our service must now begin….    It is then we receive afresh the challenge to turn words into action – in whatever circumstances, and with whomsoever we find ourselves.

The task of feeling blessed through gathering for worship is one inextricably linked with our scattering for service to others, for the sake of the world. The church is to be, in Christ, a bridge-builder, a preparer of the highway for Christ, making smooth his way.

So, may you, may I, this week, build a few bridges, prepare the road for Christ, and make Christ’s love known….

Sometimes words alone are not enough.

Words not enough

The Word became flesh…

And to all who receive him and believe in him, are given the power to become the children of God.

Be the beloved children of God afresh this week. Amen.

child of god

 





Christmas 1 / NYE 2017

30 12 2017

Mary pondered

Sermon for St John’s, Moor Allerton, Leeds

31st December 2017 – Christmas 1, Year B

Christmas is over for another year.  There have probably been family reunions, presents unwrapped – no doubt some already returned or exchanged for something more useful.  Some of you will have already taken down the decorations and packed them away until next December.
Here in church there are also signs that Christmas is over.  The advent wreath has been packed away.  And announcements about Christmas services and nativities are absent from the notice sheet.  But before we leave Jesus lying in the manger, adored by shepherds and wise men, and simply return to “normal life” and plan for a new year, there are few more things to reflect on and ponder – just before the supermarkets fill up with Easter Eggs.

Have you ever sunballousa-ed? You should, Mary – the Mother of Lord did. You should try it sometime! Sunballousa is the Greek work for “placing together, for comparison”. In our Gospel narrative as recorded by St Luke today, translates the word at 2:19 as “pondered”: Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”.

What was she pondering? The shepherds’ story? Angels and singing? The mystery of what was happening? Elizabeth’s words to her? Every word, every experience would add more to the unfolding mystery that she had given birth to. No doubt, as she cradled her son, so she would cradle in her heart all that was happening, pondering events, moments, experiences – trying to make sense of it all. Mary would hold each word, every moment, up to the light and compare them with other treasures she had in her back of faith and experience and knowledge. Maybe, as we gather on the last day of the old year, on the threshold of a new year, we do well to sunballousa, to ponder and reflect – on everything we have struggled to understand or make sense of, on the goodness and blessings that have been bestowed on us – however seemingly significant or insignificant. As we do so, we may well notice how hard it is to keep faith as we inhabit this challenging world.   The truth is, God’s love has been born into a world of lies and deceit, ruthless ambition, cruelty, despair, isolation and fear. He’s been born into your life and mine. There is much to ponder here.And yet the whole Christmas story reminds us that our God does not hold himself at a distance from our sufferings and struggles, but was born into them himself, prepared to share with us the vulnerability of a tiny infant refugee, bundled up in the night and taken off to a strange country in a life and death situation. This is the reality of life we live – it isn’t Christmas Day everyday – we’ve celebrated; the year is on its way, and a whole lot more awaits us – good and not so good – and this will face us with choices, opportunities to ponder and reflect.

Happy New Year 2018

‘The year is going – let it go!’ wrote Tennyson of 1833. There might well be a few today who feel much the same about 2017. For many of us, the ordinary pleasures of day to day life have been marred by the shadows cast by evil and violence, and those cast by disaster and personal challenge and sadness.

There will of course be good things to recall – a wedding perhaps, or a new baby, or a new home, job, or a new relationship.

Whatever the weather, tonight will see vast crowds on the streets in our great cities, celebrating. So – what are they celebrating? Not, probably, the memories of 2017, nor, I would think, the remorseless tread of time which takes us from one year to the next. It’s probably not 2017 they have in mind at all, but the new one, 2018, in which case the cheers are based on hope rather than experience. Who knows, perhaps next year will be better than the last one. Let’s turn over the page, as it were, and move quickly on.

God, in God’s great wisdom, has given you and me a sense of time: the past, the present and the future. Because of this we have the God-given power to ponder and to make decisions in the light of our experiences: it’s the only way we make the best use of our time – if we choose wisely. Time to care, time to talk, time to build relationships, time to listen, time to ponder (sunballousa).

As we ponder, we need to be realistic about the world in which we live – the world into which God was born, with all its messiness and pain, not just its tinsel and starry nights. Our faith must not be our opiate, our drug – it must become our reason to love and serve – to resolve not to let the lessons of the past go unlearned and unheeded. There’s an opportunity hidden here too…Somehow Christmas and New Year feel different as the years go by. I feel that this year’s going to be a little different for me – maybe for you too – so maybe we could all make a new start by giving some post-Christmas presents which cost nothing: given not from what we have but from what we are. A small change compared to climate change and fragile democracies in our world, but it points us the in the right direction.

Christmas Present

A compliment is a great gift- a perceptive and helpful one. I was speaking to a very special friend of mine in New Zealand recently who told me she’d been flattered by a lovely young man – this eight year old said to her, I think you must be the oldest woman in the world!  She laughed, and was strangely flattered.

Perhaps you’ll give the gift of a promise to listen for an hour to someone’s woes. Or comfort a bereaved person over a cuppa and so on…

Don’t worry if your present is rejected or misunderstood. Say, for instance, you’ve given sandwiches to street people with greetings and they’ve given you the brush off. Remember they’ve been rejected so often; they, too, need to reject someone themselves. Offer your humiliation to God. It’s the only gift possible. He’s got everything else.





Advent 3 – Gaudete Sunday – REJOICE!

16 12 2017

Gaudete Sunday

Today, Gaudete Sunday, REJOICE Sunday, reminds us that Christmas is nearly here. The tone is lifted today – we shift from deep purple to pink to give us the clue that we’re nearly there. All the expectation, the longing, the waiting will soon be over – we’ll be opening the presents we asked for, and some perhaps we didn’t – socks, home-made knitted scarves, chunky sweaters knitted by a well-meaning relative. The faces will always give it away: ‘O lovely’!

Sometimes the disappointment can’t be hidden. This is why, as a people of faith, we really do well to know where our true joy comes from – those who know the pain of disappointment in others, in what they say and do, or what they forget to say and do. True joy comes from God. If we rejoice only when times are good, only when we get what we want, only when we hear what we want to hear, then quite frankly God needn’t bother with Christmas at all. ‘Keep your Son’, we should say – we don’t need him thank you very much. Even John the Baptist wondered whether the guy he was hearing so much about was really to be the One – he sent his disciples to double check. Jesus said: the proof of the pudding is in the eating – see what’s happening – lives are being changed.

Lives are being changed through encounters with Jesus – is yours, is mine – or is something holding us back?

The truth is though, that those who have any kind of faith which brings them to worship God (rather than just be ‘entertained’ on a Sunday morning), the truth is that joy and faith are what can keep us going – despite what life churns out for us.

Our hymns at this time of year can particularly hit nerves. Take In the bleak midwinter for one. Hasn’t it been miserable enough? This last year, once again, we’ve had floods, drought, fires, winds and storms. One newspaper carried the striking headline, ‘floody hell’. Now Christmas is nearly here to lift our hearts, and we start singing about bleak midwinters!

Perhaps the writer of that hymn really did lose the plot and think that Jesus was actually born in north Leeds in a January blizzard. Was it really winter in Bethlehem? Did it really snow? Or was it an ordinary Middle Eastern night with not a lot happening except angels appearing and singing?

Perhaps, though, some of us really have in our minds what a bleak midwinter is really all about – I don’t mean the weather outside, I mean the experience inside. There are many stories within our own communities of the midwinters of life’s experiences – whose ground is hard and cold, and comfort is not easily found: maybe because of a loveless marriage, a depression that is hard to shake off, the sadness of life without a loved one, concern about a child, worries about health and the future and so on. Christmas in this light can seem like fluffy, trivial nonsense. Christmas might be special for the comfortable or those who wish to escape from reality. But to those who are in the bleak midwinter of life, romantic, fluffy Christmas can offer little refuge.

So, I think it’s brilliant that Christmas is actually about God’s surprise: God’s surprise gift – the selfless gift of God’s own Son. It speaks of God coming to us, right where we are – where the pain is most acute, and the fear most dreadful. In the baby of Bethlehem – whatever the weather was like – we see the vulnerable face of God. This baby’s hands and feet will one day be wounded grievously. And yet, even then, after the world has done its worst, he will still, three days later, open those hands in embrace and shine resurrection over the manger of Christmas and the cross of Easter.

Manger and thorns

There’s nothing romantic in this. Just hope and realism. And God among us, right here and right now – now that’s something that should fill us with true joy – a joy that lasts…a rejoicing that can happen in every circumstance. If something stands in the way of your joy, let it go.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, be filled with the joy, the faith, the hope and the love which God wants desperately to reborn in you and me again – and all this, not so that we can feel great about ourselves and be smug and self-satisfied. No, all this in order that the love we encounter in the God who gives everything may be modelled in what we do and think and say alongside others – those who believe, and those who have yet to see through all the rubbish of religion and encounter the God of love and joy and relationship. That’s the sort of Christmas I want to sing about, don’t you?

God of singing hearts
re-tune our hearts to the song of your Son;
surprise us with the joy of your incarnation,
and renew us in faith, with joy and with loving service;
through the One who is God-in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen





Rejoicing, prayer, and peace

14 10 2017

Sermon for Proper 23 Year A

Rejoice pray

A little boy was kneeling beside his bed with his mother and grandmother and softly saying his prayers, “Dear God, please bless Mummy and Daddy and all the family and please give me a good night’s sleep.”  Suddenly he looked up and shouted, “And don’t forget to give me a bicycle for my birthday!!”

“There is no need to shout like that,” said his mother. “God isn’t deaf.”

“No,” said the little boy, “but Grandma is.”

In our reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians today we realise that there is an aspect to prayer which is concerned with our relationships with each other. True, God isn’t deaf, but often we are deaf to each other’s cries for help – or we respond to them in a way which clearly doesn’t spring from prayer.

The theme today is pray and rejoice: they are both vital disciplines as we build a faith-full community, rooted in the love of God. Being disciplined in our faith and prayer lives isn’t something that many of us, if we’re honest, find easy. Prayer is hard, and, being reserved people, we don’t tend rejoice much either. Sometimes the world needs to see and feel our joy too!

Paul offers advice about how we can help ourselves. pick up your notice sheet:  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

According to statistics, an average person’s anxiety is focused
40% — things that will never happen
30% — things about the past that can’t be changed
12% — things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% — about health, which gets worse with stress
8% — about real problems that will be faced.

It’s all very well to know at a thinking level that anxiety is unnecessary, but personally that doesn’t stop me feeling anxious. But St. Paul goes further, he says not only is anxiety unnecessary, but instead of it, we should rejoice.

It’s interesting that among the many cures for stress there are on the market, one which features again and again is meditation. And those people who meditate regularly are more relaxed people. They suffer less from stress and less from illness than the majority of the population. They are more stable and better able to cope in a crisis than non-meditators.
St. Paul didn’t need the benefits of scientific study to tell him that. He sums it up: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests, your needs, be made known to God.”
If you want to get rid of anxiety, if you want to dispel fear, begin to regularly spend a few minutes every day in quiet in the presence of God. And then you’ll begin to know what inner peace is all about.
Paul used the themes of rejoicing and prayer many times in his letters, but isn’t he being idealistic? What would he, or God for that matter, know about the struggles you and I face.

What would St Paul know about those who suffer at the hands of terrorists? What would St Paul know about the struggles of cancer, pain, loneliness, lack of direction in life?

Being thankful all the time, even when pain comes near, or trouble is ahead, is not easy.

St Paul, who wrote all that stuff, clearly had no idea of what suffering and struggle were about….or did he?

The letter to the Philippians is thought to have been written round about A.D. 64, when Paul was in prison in Rome. He and his companions had previously been thrown out of the town of Philippi; he was familiar with all kinds of adverse circumstances. During his ministry, Paul was jailed, beaten and left for dead more than once, and finally put to death for his beliefs. Yet, he was thankful in all these circumstances.

Paul did not give thanks for the troubles he faced, he gave thanks in them. He saw the ways God could and did use these bad circumstances to make good things happen.

So ,the idea is to give thanks not for all things but in all things. Paul could be thankful in all circumstances because he had one thing that he was so thankful for that it overrode all of the circumstances in which he found himself. He had a relationship with God, who loved him and gave him deep peace – a peace which is beyond words.

When much of our world faces difficult times in the face of violence, murder and anger, the natural instinct is for retaliation, retribution. Yet the way of peace is a different way. We know what stressed lives people lead, how angry people get when you stall the car at the front of the traffic light queue, hesitate at a junction. It’s a symptom of many people’s stress-filled lives – anger is just waiting to burst out. Yet the life Jesus offers in the cross – that symbol of self-emptying and sacrifice – is a life of peace, thankfulness and rejoicing – and we know how much the world, our lives, this church needs that.

With that sense of thankfulness we come to every Eucharist or Mass. Right from the earliest days faithful followers of Jesus have given thanks by making Jesus present in bread and wine. They called the celebration the Eucharist, which is the Greek word for Thanksgiving. We do the same 2000 years on. In the Eucharist, we give thanks for Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Believers gather together to recall the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. In the Eucharist it is Christmas and Easter rolled into one; here we commit to renew those stories in our own lives, to put the cross and Jesus back at the heart of our rejoicing and our praying. In the Eucharist, the same actions are repeated. The priest takes the bread and wine, blesses them, breaks the bread and then shares it. As we do that together, we bring those stories alive again, and tap into the peace, hope and joy they offer.

If we can tap into that peace which God offers us, our lives will be changed – different from those around us who are trapped in anger and retribution. When we have that peace growing within us we will be people who are recognised as those who enjoy life with one another, we will not be interested in judging each other, conflict will not interest us, we will have an overwhelming sense of wanting to welcome everyone – not just those who come up to our perceived standard, or those who are like us, we will want to make the peace we share a reality in the lives of others.

These are the symptoms of the peace of God which passes all understanding. And it’s there waiting for us all – the world cannot give this peace – it comes only from a disciplined, prayer-filled life in which we can rejoice, and leave anxiety behind, trusting in the One who brings us life – life in all its fullness.

 

 

 

Living each day with confidence

“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is YESTERDAY with all its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. YESTERDAY has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back YESTERDAY.
We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. YESTERDAY is gone forever.

The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW

with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and its poor performance; TOMORROW is also beyond our immediate control. TOMORROW’s sun will rise, either in splendour or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in TOMORROW, for it is yet to be born. This leaves only one day, TODAY.

Any person can fight the battle of just one day. It is when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities YESTERDAY and TOMORROW that we break down.
It is NOT the experience of TODAY that drives a person mad,
it is the remorse or bitterness of something which happened YESTERDAY and the dread of what TOMORROW may bring.
Let us, therefore, Live but ONE DAY AT A TIME.”

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

and all is well: so pray and rejoice!

 

 

Blessing

Go into the world which cries out for competent compassionate, faith-full people.

Be a tree that bears the fruit of love.

Be a fountain that springs for peace.

Be a mighty river that flows with God’s justice.

Be an eagle that soars high on the wings of hope.

May others thank God because of you:

And may the blessing of God almighty,

the +Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

be upon you this and every day.

Amen.





Our churches…for Easter

28 03 2016

Thank you to EVERYONE who made our two churches in our villages of Burton Leonard and Bishop Monkton look SO beautiful!

Burton Leonard:

Easter Candle BL

Easter Nave BL

Easter flowers BL

At Bishop Monkton:

Easter Flowers BM

Easter Nave BM

Easter Candle BM





An Easter Sermon

28 03 2016

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Even two thousand years on, the news is still remarkable. It‘s still cause for exclamation. Throughout our services for the next fifty days of the Easter season, we repeat this refrain many times. It’s no coincidence that there are 31 exclamation marks in this morning’s order of service! The final and most important holy days of Holy Week have been moving and powerful.

More than 40 people shared in a Passover supper at St John’s from our three churches in our two villages. 30 people gathered in the bareness and starkness of Good Friday to reflect on Jesus sacrifice of himself on the cross.

In many churches, Easter Eve is an event of great celebration in the darkness. I remember as a curate keeping the Easter vigil, and the Easter fire late one Easter Eve.

It is an ancient tradition. I vividly remember this one particular Easter Eve. The fire was lit outside the great west doors of Spalding parish church. The wind blew and the flames leapt high. Eventually, with singed eyebrows and burnt fingers, we got the Paschal candle lit, and began the procession into church. But soon, against my one tone singing, were the two-tones of the local fire engine, called out by a concerned passer-by.

The Vicar, my boss, ran to the fire crew and assured them that ‘everything was under control’. The fire officers were gracious but much less enthused by our news of resurrection. The miracle we proclaimed was for them a false alarm. The Roman authorities, too, had thought everything was under control. Jesus was finally destroyed and out of the way. End of the story.

At dawn this morning, following the emptiness of Holy Saturday, we went out to light our new fire at Burton Leonard, to proclaim the truth that it was NOT the end – and, following ancient tradition, we renewed our baptismal promises – reminding ourselves that no matter what we face, we are Easter people, in a Good Friday world – and alleluia is our song.

Our Gospel reading this morning tells of the first Easter person – Mary Magdalen. It is a profoundly moving and beautiful story. Just when she thinks everything is lost, suddenly and miraculously, everything is well again. Here in a garden, on the first day of the week, we find a man and a woman, and creation is made new – reminding us, perhaps, of that first garden – in Eden.

In this garden encounter there is a monumental transformation and change, not in Jesus’ re-appearance, but chiefly in Mary. It’s told in close-up, intimate detail. So often with both tragedy and joy, we can cope much more easily on a one-to-one basis. When there’s a terrible disaster in which many are killed, we comprehend best, not by the numbers, but by the story and experiences of individual figures, by understanding the profound and personal impact on them and their lives. We’ve seen it on the news in recent days as the stories have surface from Brussels.

And so John relates this remarkable, miraculous story through the eyes of Mary. Mary, whose life was once-before turned around by Jesus, who has faithfully followed him throughout his life, who kept vigil at the foot of the cross with the other women when nearly all of the male disciples were nowhere to be seen; Mary, who here in John’s Gospel has come alone to his tomb before the dawn; Mary, who now for a few brief hours, is the only person in the world who can say, hand on heart and no doubt heart in mouth, “I have seen the Lord!”

Jesus hasn’t changed – he still meets us where we are; for Mary, it is in the midst of grief. He doesn’t leap out from behind a bush and shout “Ta-dah! It’s me. I’m back!” He meets her, as before, gently – in her anguish and distress, asking simply “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” and in his simple, profound and earth-shattering speaking of her name, her question is answered, her whole world transformed and her faith confirmed.

Mary is transformed by this garden experience. Transformed lives are what makes Easter real. It is the profound effect of their encounters with the risen Christ that turns the disciples from terrified individuals to exuberant evangelists. As we heard in our reading from Acts today, previously shy fishermen become bold, passionate preachers. They become Easter people. They don’t become immune from all suffering – far from it, but they become people of hope, whose song is Alleluia. But even for Easter People our lives rarely fit neatly into the liturgical seasons of the church’s year. For some, it is still Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Some are still living with the horror of the crucifixion; others are immersed in tomb time – bereaved and bereft, wandering how on earth they can move forward. We all, I’m sure, know people who are in the midst of personal trials and tribulations, people who are sick, anxious, bereaved, betrayed, in debt, in addiction. That may be where you are today. This is Easter Day but we know that our news will still bring us stories of terrible ongoing suffering around the world. In my ministry, I’ve encountered terrible tragedies. Lives cut short before they’ve even begun. Long lives but with unfinished business, unforgiven hurts. Tragedies almost unspeakable. I’ve also encountered those whose stories are nothing short of miraculous – coming through surgery against all the odds.  The arrival of a baby so longed for that hearts were filled to bursting with love and expectation. Easter people are those for whom their faith is their cornerstone in times of trouble. Easter people are those who come through some of the hardest, most painful experiences in life knowing that it is our faith, our relationship with God, which has somehow sustained us. We can’t always explain it, but we simply know, at a level too deep for words, that somehow, even if we only recognise it looking back, God has been present with us – not always in a tangible sense, and often through the presence and witness of others. God can be present even through a seeming absence. Easter people are those who have a longer-term perspective, who know, in ways they cannot explain, that this is not all there is; that death is not the last word on life. Easter people are those who know that all our experiences – the best and the worst, the most painful and the most joyous, are held in the palm of the one whom death could not contain. Easter people are those who recognise that there can be no empty tomb without the cross. We are Easter people!

We know the resurrection because of the transformation it brought about in Mary, that first Easter person, and in all those who came to recognise the truth of which she and the disciples spoke, down through the ages. We may see it in the faces of those who have been shining examples of faith to us, and we will shortly see it in the faces of one another as we gather around the altar to share in this Communion. Today, simply by our presence here, we are opening ourselves to the truth of the resurrection. We are opening ourselves to new possibilities of peace and justice in our world. We are opening ourselves to the possibility of change and transformation in our own lives too.

Resurrection has no meaning, no purpose, no place, unless like Mary Magdalene we go and tell it to a world living in Good Friday! Resurrection has no meaning unless we are willing to live as Easter people.

The resurrection isn’t an event it is an experience. We are called to go and tell not only with our lips but also with our lives – the experience of triumphs over life’s most difficult stuff. This is resurrection. Your presence here confirms it!

 

We are an Easter people & alleluia is our song.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!