Event Name Sermon given at Evensong on Easter Day 2016
Start Date 27th Mar 2016 3:00pm
Description

The Reverend David Stanton, Canon in Residence

Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian Church. We are an Easter people, a people marked by joyfulness. Jesus is raised. He has conquered sin and death.

His victory is our victory. His resurrection means our salvation.

Our Easter celebrations form the heart of our Christian living, and every genuine Christian cannot help but be transformed by the Easter event.

All is changed: darkness to light, doubt to faith, selfishness to generosity, despair to hope, sin to grace, and death to eternal life.

The lesson we heard this afternoon from 1 Corinthians 15 contained some tremendous and familiar words: 'Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.'

But let's not forget, the first fruits are offered at the beginning of the harvest, as the sign that there is much, much more to come. So as we've heard, Christ has gone on ahead, and the rest of us will follow.

This is fundamental to our Christian understanding of Resurrection. Firstly we live between Jesus's own resurrection and our own, not just looking on, but as active participants. Secondly Jesus calls all of us who believe in him to be part of his resurrection and to be part of his saving rule for the whole world.

The point of 1 Corinthians 15 is, after all, to see the future resurrection of believers within the larger worldview of God's kingdom. The verses that follow today's lesson (20-28) are St. Paul's classic statement of the kingdom of God.

They're very carefully nuanced; at the moment Jesus is ruling the world, and when he has finished by overcoming death itself, he will then hand the kingdom over to the Father, so that God may be 'all in all'.

Of course, when we suggest that Jesus is in charge, and has been since his resurrection this makes absolutely no sense to those who do not believe.

When most people reflect on the recent terrible terrorist atrocities in Belgium and Paris, the millions of suffering refugees, indeed the presence of so much deceit and chaos around the world, they reply it's ridiculous to say that Jesus is in charge.

But when we read the gospels we get a very different sense. Think of the Beatitudes: This is how Jesus wants to the world to exist, by calling people to be peacemakers, gentle, lowly, hungry for justice.

When God wants to change the world, he doesn't load the rifle or charge the bomb; he sends in the meek, the pure in heart, those who weep for the world's sorrows and ache for its wrongs.

Christians who have set up schools and hospitals, who have fed the hungry and cared for the orphans and the widows. That's what the early church was known for, and that's why they turned the world upside down.

In the early centuries the main thing that emperors knew about bishops was that they were always taking the side of the poor. Wouldn't it be good if it were the same today?

If we really do claim to follow Christ, we must claim to know and love the one who has defeated death itself, not with more death, not with superior killing power, but with the power of love and new creation.

For Paul, Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep; and we who follow him are being called to work with him in revealing his kingdom.

Today's New Testament lesson comes from a spectacular chapter, where one of its most remarkable verses comes right at the end: 'Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.'

That is at the heart of the meaning of the resurrection. Because God is already making his new creation, all that we do in Christ and through the Holy Spirit is part of that new world.

Resurrection is therefore not just about a glorious future. It is about a meaningful present. In this sense we are all being called to be courageous and active in bearing witness to the Good News as it relates to some of the toughest issues we face today.

You may recall that an expert of the law once asked Jesus who is my neighbour? Jesus answered him with the story of the Good Samaritan. In this story, he challenges us to ask of ourselves, who is my neighbour, rather than, who exactly do I have to love and who can I not love?

Through his own compassion, Jesus exposed the Jewish religious leaders' lack of concern for those who were perishing. Jesus summarised his teaching with the command that his followers were to live like true neighbours, showing mercy to those in need.

The bible is clear that the church must care for the poor and the marginalized in the world, caring for their needs and pursuing justice on their behalf. The risen Christ teaches us that we are not to neglect spiritual needs for social ones, nor social needs for those that are spiritual.

The two areas of need are not in opposition. On the contrary, through his resurrection, Christ demonstrated care for the whole person, body and spirit. As His followers, we too must demonstrate the same, not allowing laziness and poor excuses to keep us from addressing the most pressing social needs of our time.

Recall the practices that are blessed by our risen Lord: being kind to the needy, lending to the poor, being generous, sharing food with the hungry, giving to the destitute, caring about justice for the poor, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, judging fairly, and defending the rights of those in need.

At the end of time, God will have the world judged, and justly judged by Christ.

He has given proof of this by his Son's resurrection from the dead.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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