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Canon Denise Acheson

The First Sunday of Easter- Easter Day
Almighty God,
through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
you have overcome death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
Grant that, as by your grace going before us
You put into our minds good desires,
So by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
Through Jesus Christ our risen Lord
Who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen
 
Readings
Acts 10 v 34-43
Psalm 118 v 1-2, 14-24
John 20 v 1-18
 
 
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

 

For as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead.’ John 20v 9

Peter said, “ I truly understand that God shows no partiality” –NRSV Acts 10 v 34

The Resurrection of Jesus can either be believed or disbelieved – can there be an ‘in –between’ position?

But can it be really understood?

Paul the Apostle said in 1 Cor.v 15 v19 that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then Christians are to be pitied for their belief that life with Christ continues after death. Not only that – but faith is futile and people are left in sin!

A great deal hinges on the Resurrection.

Grief, shock, belief, misunderstanding and joy are all intertwined in the story of that first Easter morning. When ‘the other disciple’ understood to be John- looked into the empty tomb- he ‘went in, saw and believed’, ‘for as yet they did not understand the scripture.’

He believed but did not yet understand- I can understand that and yet so often it is thought that to have real faith one must have even greater understanding.

A great deal hinges on the Resurrection. But thankfully the Resurrection doesn’t hinge on our complete understanding!

Peter was there at the tomb that day also- and later on in Acts we have his own statement that now he ‘truly understands’ that God shows no favouritism – his experiences on his own faith journey with Christ and his seeking to know more and more of what it is to live a life lived in Christ have brought him to another point of understanding or insight into the Mystery that is God. He is not claiming to understand everything but he is moving forward in his relationship with Christ – being drawn into a deeper and more profound level of ‘knowing’.

Can one have real faith without complete understanding?

I heard and have told this little story many times. It illustrates the relationship between faith and understanding.

A mother was asked could her son swim. “No” she said, “Until he learns I am not letting him into the water!”

When we take the step of faith in Christ – we will grow in our understanding.

How can I say that with any confidence? Jesus promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit – who will lead us into all truth.

We believe the Resurrection by faith – as we seek to understand it we may see evidence of renewed, reenergised, refocused lives – because of faith in Jesus.

Can we explain it – completely, scientifically, factually? Probably not, but we can ‘see’ the evidence before our eyes. See the power of the Risen Christ alive and at work in people’s lives, in communities, in the world.

After Mary came from the empty tomb she announced to the disciples ‘ I have seen the Lord’

Did she fully understand what had happened? Could she explain how it had happened? But she saw the evidence and believed.

Easter is the high point of the Christian year – Followers of Christ do believe that ‘Christ is Risen’! Followers of Christ do believe His Spirit is with us! Followers of Christ do believe they will live with him for ever one day! Followers of Christ do believe in Resurrection! Alleluia!!

Prayer- Risen Lord, we bless your Holy name. We give you thanks for your promise of forgiveness and victory over death. Help us to live joy filled lives as we accept your love and by your Holy Spirit help- us to grow in faith and understanding so that we may tell all the world the good news of the Risen Saviour! Amen

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6th Sunday in Lent - Palm Sunday
Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 
Liturgy of the Palms readings
Psalm 118
Matthew 21 : 1-11
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

 

They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns’ Psalm 118 v 12

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees….the crowds that went ahead shouted ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ Matthew 21 v 8-9

Jeremiah 17 v 9 says – ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’

Indeed, who can understand it? Sometimes we cannot even understand our own reactions to something!

We know the Palm Sunday story so well. Jesus, riding on a donkey into Jerusalem and everyone singing and cheering and welcoming him. Even singing the words of scripture – Psalm 118 – conferring on Jesus great honour, adulation and expectation! It conjures up the most wonderful images of celebration and hope – it would give the movie maker great scope for wonderfully dramatic scenes.

Jesus would have been so familiar with all the prophetic words of that Psalm.

Yes, today they would swarm around him- large crowds, hailing him as ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ What about the next bit? ‘But they died out as quickly as burning thorns.’

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was stirred’ v 10 – is this journalistic licence? The writer of John’s gospel puts it this way, ‘Look how the whole world has gone after him!

Jesus didn’t just sneak into Jerusalem. No, his entrance was very deliberately public. Had there been newspapers it would have made the front page that evening.

This was a big moment in the ministry of Jesus – events were moving to a climax. Time was running out and we as readers of the events know that the celebratory mood of the crowd would turn to condemnation as Jesus stands in front of the crowd again and they shout ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns.

Which of those crowds would you and I be part of? If only we could get into the Tardis and go back?

‘Hosanna!’ or ‘Crucify!’

Are you sure that is the crowd you would be in?

Am I sure?

Those folk who swarmed round Jesus and then condemned him were ordinary people- going about their daily business, religious and God fearing, going to work, bringing up families, working in their communities, good neighbours- getting on with life. No wonder Jeremiah’s judgement on the heart is so incisive! Would this be a fair judgement on the state of my heart and your heart?

But for today we stay with the celebratory crowd in recognising Jesus as the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna!

Prayer- O Lord, I want to be part of the crowd that hailed you as Son of David. I want to bless you and be blessed by you. Stir up my heart to always praise you and when I find myself moving from that place draw me back into your holy and loving presence. May Hosannas always and ever be on my lips as I follow you as King and Lord. Amen

Canon Denise

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The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8: 6-11
John 11: 1-45
Click here to view the Readings via oremus Bible Browser
 
Collect
Most merciful God,
Who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
Delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
We may triumph in the power of his victory;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” v37

Suffering, sickness and death- of all that life throws at us probably these three cause the most angst, the most questions and possibly, the most doubting about faith and the ‘benefits’ of it.

When these things come I am reminded of the words of Psalm 46. Verse1 states ‘God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble’- but v 2 and 3 goes on to say ‘Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging.’ Particularly when death visits , it can indeed hit like an earthquake –our world is turned upside down- cracked wide open- and the hurt and fear and pain can swamp us- threatening to drag us right under.

But go a little further to the end of the Psalm and in verse 10 we have the words ‘Be still and know that I am God- the Lord Almighty is with us.’

But in real life going from the confidence of verse 1 , through the chaos of verse 2 and 3 , and then into the promise of v 10 , of knowing God in spite of all that has gone on- well- it can be tough!

And in the gospel reading we have this same pattern of moving from confidence – through chaos and then on to still knowing God- the continuing journey of faith.

When Lazarus became sick his sisters sent word to Jesus – “Lord the one you love is sick”- they know Jesus would be a help to them in their trouble.

But- Lazarus gets worse and dies and both Martha and Mary say to him, ‘Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ We cannot hear the tone of voice in which these words were said but it would appear that the pain of the loss of their loved one has led them to accuse Jesus of not caring enough.

With the death of Lazarus the earthquake has hit Mary and Martha’s life- and they are left questioning. Neighbours said “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” v37

Many of us today would be less than honest if we said that we too have never asked that same question – ‘Jesus , where were you – that you allowed this to happen to me or my loved ones?’

When Jesus comes to Martha and Mary he doesn’t give excuses –he doesn’t give deep theological answers as to the whys and wherefores of what has happened – sickness and death are part of this life – but - he reminds and reassures Martha and Mary that even though Lazarus has died he will live again and that this promise is for all who believe in Jesus. This was enough for them.

Those who live and die knowing Christ will know God completely. Is this enough for you and me?

The finality of death is one of the hardest things to accept. The physical presence of the person is what we want back – back as we remember them – full of life and spirit. Death does not allow us to go back – we can only move forward. Christ promises to walk with us through the chaos and fear and bring us to that point of still knowing God. We are not on our own. Is this enough?

No matter how long we live death remains part of the experience of humanity- until Christ returns.

Lazarus was healed this time – but the day came when Lazarus had to physically die again.

As we face our own fears about death and the death of our loved ones let us be assured and reassured of God’s continual loving presence holding and guiding us as we navigate stormy waters. Knowing Christ is not an insurance policy against the woes of life but he is the source of peace. Is this enough?

Prayer.

Lord, we come to you as you are the source of healing and wholeness. Lord, forgive us when the pain of our loss causes our hearts to cry out against you. But you are compassionate, you draw even nearer to us in our pain. Hold us close, as a loving mother holds her child – and bring us to the stillness of knowing and being known by God. Amen


Canon Denise

 

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March 2014