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Sermon: Eucharist 19th April 2015

Sunday 19th April 2015
Sung Eucharist
Acts 3: 12-19
Luke 24: 36b-48
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Alleluia: Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed: alleluia!

My gold-glittery Easter shoes have been packed away and it's unlikely that there are many (indeed any!) chocolate eggs left in our homes.  Perhaps all those things we'd given up during our Lenten fast are now a routine part of our daily diet.  Yet this season is anything but routine.

Alleluia remains our refrain.  Love and joy, hope and life, faith and forgiveness are bound together. 

Rather than being frivolous, drinking a glass of fizz during Eastertide continues to be a tangible expression of resurrection in the midst of ordinary.  With a healthy lunch, whilst cooking a meal, at the end of complicated day, spontaneously with friends - it recalls the joy of new creation. 

Such joy is an invitation to live intensely now, moment by moment; remaining open to the way in which each conversation, task and encounter might reveal something of the love of God. It is a reminder to live lightly now, moment by moment; knowing that life is a gift and assurance that death is the beginning of life.

Our joy is the love of God poured into our hearts as he speaks to us words of peace; our fear and frailty is transformed.   Our joy, as a community of faith, is the love of God poured into the world as we speak words of forgiveness; as we walk with the disciples as witnesses to repentance and healing.

In our readings, Luke writes both about encounter with Christ in waiting and witness to Christ in the world.

Startled, terrified, frightened and doubting: these aren't surprising reactions for a small beleaguered group of disciples who are trying to make sense of what others have seen, heard and encountered.  Their risen Lord comes to them in the midst of grief and confusion and speaks words of peace. His words allay their fears.

Jesus Christ gives substance to this peace by inviting them to look, touch and see. This is the reality of resurrection; they aren't hallucinating.  Yet even as they rejoice in new life they are sill wondering; still disbelieving. He eats a piece of fish; this is no ghost. 

Here there is joy and transformation. His presence with them reveals the glory and power of God. Resurrection is not resuscitation: the crucified victim is the risen lord, he is their hope. The appearance of Jesus' glorified body amongst them heals and restores memories of hurt and failure.  The disciples are liberated to face the future.

This moment of encounter is purposeful. They too are transformed - disciples are prepared to become witnesses.  In order to embrace this responsibility and calling, Jesus invites them to remember. He refers them to his own words:  his suffering, death and resurrection in fulfilment of God's purposes. He opens their minds to understand the scriptures. 

God's love was poured out in creation; humanity used freedom to pursue our own desires. In the law and the prophets our desires are redirected to the source of love; we learnt to share responsibility for acting with justice and mercy. Jesus has walked the land as God with us. He opened wide his arms on the cross and broke the bonds of sin and death; his risen presence draws us into this new reality. Our lives are turned around in repentance; our lives are renewed in forgiveness. We are witnesses to these things.

We bear witness because Peter and others testified to the immediacy of their experience of Jesus' presence. We walk with them in faith and hope and love.  The Acts of the Apostles recounts the conviction and reality of this witness.  In the verses preceding today's text, a crippled man has been healed - a gift more precious than the few coins he'd begged for.

Peter's first response is to re-direct the crowd's attention: why stare at us, he says, this is the action of God. God's restorative power breaking into human lives.  He reminds them of their shared heritage of faith and of God's faithfulness.  He also speaks of our human complicity with violence and our propensity to reject God's holy and righteous servant.  Just as his risen Lord had interpreted the scriptures to him, so now Peter witnesses to the crowd. He shares the purposes of God in fulfilling the law and the prophets.

We all get caught up in actions of crowds - we're shaped by social, cultural, political and peer pressures.  Yet, Peter is balancing our human excuses with the invitation to put God centre stage.  He is interested in effecting positive change - in the face of personal responsibility we are assured that within God's story our ignorance or failures is not the end. God's faithfulness to us changes our hears and minds.  His forgiveness and healing transform our penitent hearts.

Peter isn't pointing the blame at an anonymous crowed.  He stands alongside them as one who denied God's holy one. His encounter with the risen Lord took his past failings and memories of hurt and opened up a new future. He is recalled. So are we.  We are drawn into the promise of blessing - not just for a few, but for the whole earth.

We are being asked to respond afresh today.  Here in a community of faith, we are being drawn back to God in worship.  Here we can name our deepest longings - for insight, companionship, forgiveness and hope.  Here we discern God's presence with us in the intimacy of out stretched hands taking bread and wine. 

Here at the heart of our waiting fear is turned to peace.  We are transformed by the risen Lord into a  joyful people.  Here we are forgiven and called into a new way of living and a new future.  Here we become witnesses to that reality in the  tapestry of our lives:  work, responsibilities, interests and relationships.

Over the coming weeks, we long for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  As we wait, we are to give prayerful consideration to the life and witness of this cathedral community. We are to open ourselves to a new future. Let us pray for those who are standing for election to positions of service and governance.  Chapter, Council, Synod and Community Committee are instruments of discerning and fulfilling God's will and purposes for us. 

In the power of the Spirit we witness to the transforming love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ our Lord. Each of us has a part to play in proclaiming this good news: may we grow in trust and mutual affection - forgiving, encouraging and celebrating. This is the substance of our Easter refrain: Alleluia is our compelling song.

Alleluia: Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed: Alleluia!