Sunday 8 April 2012

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Our world is in a bit of a mess. After 2000 years of Christianity, what do we have? A world lacerated by wars and the threat of terrorism; millions starving while others live in opulence; our western culture has largely rejected the Gospel, while in other parts of the world you take your life in your hands to be a Christian. The Church’s reputation has been badly damaged by scandals; fewer people are going to Church and many fewer are coming forward to serve God as priests and religious.
If you think that picture is dark, what about the reality that the first disciples of Jesus found themselves plunged into? This Jesus in whom they had begun to believe was the long awaited messiah sent by God, who had spoken of God in such a new, fresh and profound way, who had reached out to the poor, the sick, the excluded, this same Jesus had been arrested, whipped and crucified. He was buried in a hurry so as not to break any rules about the Sabbath.
So the first disciples of Jesus were plunged into a very dark place indeed, made more dark by the fact that most of them had run away. One had even betrayed him for money and then committed suicide; the leader, Peter, had denied that he even knew Jesus. Only a few of the women disciples stayed with him and watched from a distance as he died on the cross. They watched as he was buried hurriedly by a kind man.
So what happened? What happened to transform the cowering group of former followers of Jesus? It must have been something so strong that these frightened people suddenly became courageous disciples who went out to the whole of the known world to proclaim the Good News from God. The women had gone to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, which was the Jewish way of giving an honourable burial to someone and had not been possible on the day he died. These women were so grief stricken that they had not fully thought out what they were going to do. It was only while they were on the way that it suddenly struck them that there was a huge stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb. Who would roll it away? When they got there, they discovered that the stone had already been rolled away and they heard the joyous news: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here” (Mark 16, 6).
Something so totally unexpected, so unheard of, had happened. What the Jewish people had expected at the end of time for everyone, had happened in one man. Jesus had risen from the dead to a new kind of life. The disciples of Jesus realised that in this event, God had finally fulfilled all the divine promises that we find in the Bible but had done so in a completely unexpected way. They understood that their task was to proclaim what God had done in Jesus and invite everyone to enter God’s family. They understood that it was through this new family that God would renew the face of the earth. They looked back over the whole Bible and understood how God had prepared the Jewish people over their whole history for this supreme moment – the resurrection of Christ.
So God has finally acted and has fulfilled His promises. So what has happened? What about the mess our world is in? What has the death and resurrection of Jesus actually accomplished? Surely not much has changed, except perhaps that we have got worse? However, God seems to work best under cover of darkness. When things could not have got any worse, when Jesus was dead and buried, then the great event of the resurrection took place. In this holy season, let us place our trust in God’s way of working. When things seem to be most bleak, God is powerfully at work preparing the world for the return of Christ in glory. This will not happen in our way or our time, but in God’s way and in God’s time.
Until that time comes, let us be faithful to the mission given to all disciples of Christ to proclaim that he is risen from the dead and he is Lord. We can do that in word but above all by living our faith in the victory of God over darkness and evil.
Remember that no matter how big the stone is that blocks your relationship with God, on this Easter day, it is rolled away. Alleluia!     

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