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Sermon for Easter Day

Here is an unspeakable secret:
Paradise is all around us, if we could but understand it.
Paradise is wide open, if we could but know it.
Words of Thomas Merton.

Paradise is all around us; paradise is wide open.
That’s what this morning is all about.
Jesus said to the thief who was crucified alongside him:
This day you will be with me in paradise.
He says to you and me: This day you are with me in paradise.

It’s not a paradise we have to wait for.
It is not a paradise we have to earn through being good. It’s a gift.
It is not a paradise that will be there sometime in the future.
It is a paradise that is here. Right now. In this very moment.

Because of Good Friday. Because of Easter Morning.
Something special and remarkable has happened in our world.
The veil between earth and heaven has been pierced
Love has come flooding through and new life has been made possible.
A new dawn has broken in upon our world; God’s kingdom has come.
We are the first-born of a new creation; we carry a light of new hope for our world.
A light that says paradise is all around us and it is wide open.
Do we know that? Can we believe that?

The resurrection of Christ, Easter morning, changed everything.
What Christ achieved for us through his death and resurrection,
changed everything we have ever been taught about where true power lies in life.

Easter says to us you don’t have to be strong; you don’t have to win;
you don’t have to keep ahead of the game;
you don’t have to make anyone proud;
you don’t have to be a success or an achiever;
you don’t have to stand out and shine; you don’t have to compete;
you don’t need to fulfil ambitions – yours or anyone else’s;
you don’t have to strive to be what you are not.
This day tells us that you and I are fine just as we are.
In all our failings, under achieving, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.

It tells us we are loved. That we are created by love. Sustained by love.
Grounded in love. And daily immersed in love.
Love that is so beautiful it will go to hell and back in order for us to experience it –
which is exactly what Jesus did.
Good Friday plus Easter Sunday = Love without limits. Love in all its fullness.

As Thomas Merton tells us. Paradise is all around us.
Paradise is right here, right now.
Paradise is in every joy we feel. Paradise is in every pain we encounter.

We simply have to trust the love that created us –
Trust the love that is central to our being.
If we can learn to trust it and surrender to it,
then all our joy and all our pain; all we experience in life,
will draw us ever closer to God – closer to who we truly are in God’s eyes.

This is the day of resurrection –
the door to paradise, the door to love, is wide open.
As we renew our baptismal vows and get sprinkled with the waters of life,
let’s open ourselves to it and allow to penetrate our lives and our relationships.

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Easter Sunday 21st April 2019

John 20:29 Have you believed because you have seen me?

These are the words Jesus spoke to Thomas who was not around
when the Risen Christ appeared to the other disciples,
and found it hard to grasp and believe that Jesus had risen.
Jesus went on to say that
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Jesus was anticipating the position all of us find ourselves in
who follow his teaching today.
It is still hard for many to grasp the resurrection of Jesus.
Even the most ardent believers among us have doubted if we are honest.
We should not be afraid of our doubts and questions,
they are healthy, but neither should we be afraid to dare to believe.
Love, in the pure form that Jesus revealed, is capable of any miracle.
THE LORD IS RISEN. ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!
HE IS RISEN INDEED. ALLELUIA!

 Happy Easter everyone. Thank you for following our Lenten Blog.

This is the last entry for this year.

The sermon for Easter Day will follow later

Sermon for Holy Saturday

We live in 2 worlds. We live in the world of time and the world of eternity
We are very much aware of living in the world of time.
It imposes itself upon us. We always seem to have too little time or too much time.
We are aware of trying to make time or save time; or of wasting time.
In fact, life often seems to be somewhat of a battle with this thing we call time.

That is because we forget that we also live in the world of eternity as well.
Eternity does not impose itself upon us in the way that finite time does;
it calls to us gently and quietly; it waits for our attention patiently.
Eternity is not time we can use, or save, or make;
it is simply something we can surrender to, and allow ourselves to be open to.

The mystic, Meister Eckhart said: Time makes us old but eternity keeps us young.
How true!
Time makes us aware of our limitations, but eternity helps us be aware of our potential.
We often make the mistake of thinking that we live in the world of time now,
and that eternity is something that we will discover sometime beyond this life.

But time and eternity are not 2 separate worlds they are part of each other.
We live in both time and eternity right now.
Eternity, said Saint Augustine, is the “Now” that does not pass away.
Eternity anchors us in the Divine, it keeps us aware that we come from a divine source, and that there is infinitely more to who we are than we can ever imagine.

This night of all nights reminds us that we are dwellers in both time and eternity.
Maybe it’s just me that over romanticises this Holy Night
but can you not feel that great presence of eternity right in the very midst of us.
The very atmosphere is alive with something awesome and tangible.
Time seems to stand still or as Augustine says: the Now is not passing away.

We are standing in a sacred moment of time and eternity when the 2 become one;
and await that momentous occasion when the Risen Christ
once again brings healing and wholeness to our world.

But this moment is not just a once a year occasion; it is a reminder of what is.
Every time we worship together, share Eucharist together, pray together,
laugh together, cry together, recognise beauty together;
we surrender to the eternal now and allow it to touch our lives and our world.
And in the eternal now flows the eternal love that unites us all.

So on this holy night let us surrender to eternity and know that eternal truth:
That in each moment we stand on the threshold of life in all its fullness.

Holy Saturday 20th April 2019

John 20:15   Who are you looking for?

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early, while it was still dark,
and discovered that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb.
After a while she spoke to who she supposed was the gardener.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
It may well be the question that Jesus asks us.
Who are we looking for? What do we expect Jesus to be like?
What picture or image of Jesus do we have in our minds?
Mary had a clear image in her head – she was looking for her friend.
It was this image that probably stopped her recognising the Risen Christ.
It was not until he spoke her name, “Mary”, that she recognised him.
Sometimes we have such a fixed image of Jesus in our minds,
that he remains just a figure in our imagination,
and we fail to recognise the Risen Lord’s presence in daily life.
Easter calls us to live with open hearts and minds,
we never know in what guise or situation our Risen Lord will appear.

…………………………………………

Holy Saturday Sermon will follow later

Sermon for Good Friday

Earlier this year I read Shushaka Endo’s powerful novel: Silence.
Some of you may have seen the film version which has been around a couple of years.
The novel, based in the 17th Century, tells a true story of missionary priests in Japan
during the time of great Christian persecution.
To try and break Christianity’s growing influence
the Japanese authorities made a concerted effort to wipe it out,
and one of the methods used was to make priests trample on an image of Christ
in front of their congregations.
Priests often resisted, no matter what torture they endured.
In Endo’s novel the Portuguese Priest, Sebastian Rodriguez, resisted all he could,
until he was finally made to watch his fellow Christians being tortured.
He was told that if he trampled on the holy image and ground it into the dust,
the torture of his congregation would stop. His compassion broke his resilience.
With a broken heart he trampled on the image of Christ, and ground it into the dust.
As he did it he was totally overcome with the hurt and shame at denying his God;
but at that moment, he heard the voice of Christ saying to him:
“Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know your shame.
It was to be trampled upon that I was born into this world,
It was to share humanities pain and shame that I carried my cross.”

It was to be trampled on that that I was born into this world.
God chose to become one of us, one with us, to share our pain and shame.
To be trampled on. To be attacked with a knife on the street.
To be blown up by a terrorist bomb. To be racially abused and beaten.
To be shot dead while worshipping in a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.
To be starved to death through injustice and greed.
To become a homeless refugee, an asylum seeker at the mercy of others.
To be nailed to a cross.
God chose to take on all our pain and suffering, to be trampled upon,
so that such a trampling would not be the end of the story.
So that we would know that love will prevail.
So that we will not give up, or give in, or be paralysed with guilt.
So that love, mercy, forgiveness, and beginning anew
would be the foundation of human life, and could not be overcome.
God chose to be trampled upon with us, so that we can choose to rise up with God.

There is no denying the sin, the pain, the violence, the alienation, the desperation,
the lostness, the hurt, the sheer devastation that many experience in this world.
This day highlights all of that.   But, more than that,
it highlights the love that will never give up or give in,
until that Kingdom of love, mercy and grace fills all of life.
May we daily rise up in the love and power of the one who chose to be trampled.

Good Friday 19th April 2019

Matthew 27:46 My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?

These are probably the most powerful and profound words
that Jesus ever uttered: Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus is, for Christians, the most profound spiritual being that ever lived.
Jesus, we believe was the Son of God, was one with God;
was God incarnate – God in human form.
Yet even Jesus, in his time of deepest trial, questioned God’s presence.
How often do we feel guilty for doubting God, for lashing out at God,
for daring to wonder what God is playing at?
Yet , even Jesus at that moment felt forsaken by God.
We have an intimate, beautiful, relationship with God,
God understands when we lash out, doubt, and feel forsaken.
We are allowed to get angry with God. God is big enough to take it.
As with Jesus, our God will only respond with an ever deepening love.
…………………………………..

Sermon for Good Friday to follow later

Sermon for Maundy Thursday

In the Hindu tradition touching the feet of a Spiritual Master or Teacher
is seen as a respectful thing to do.
It is an act of surrender and commitment to everything that they represent.
It is a little bit like kissing the Popes ring in the catholic tradition.
It is an act of recognising their spiritual authority and calling.
But in the Hindu tradition, touching the feet of a Spiritual Master goes further;
by touching the feet of their teacher
the follower is seen to connect with their holiness and wisdom,
they open themselves to receive holy gifts, to receive a spiritual experience.

In the Bible there are also many instances of touching,
or falling at, a prophets feet; or sitting at their feet,
or kissing their feet, as the prostitute did with Jesus.
Through such an action they were humbling their lives before them,
they were placing themselves at their disposal, trusting them with their lives.
There are similar actions in all the major religious traditions.

All of this makes it even more remarkable
what Jesus did to his disciples on this evening.
Not only was he taking on the role of a servant and ministering to them,
he was recognising the holy within them, bowing to the holy within them,
trusting them with his life and placing his life at their disposal.
He was connecting with their holiness and wisdom.

He turned the whole master/disciple relationship on its head
and instead of receiving their obedience, service, and honour and homage,
he gave his to them.
No wonder Peter was so shocked and taken aback by it all!

Jesus was saying: I recognise, trust and bow to the holy within you.
You who will betray me, you who will deny me, you who will desert me,
you who will let me down and disappear into the night when my accusers come.
But – I still believe in you, I still honour you, I still keep my trust in you,
I still place my life and mission into your hands.
I still lay everything I am at your feet.

That is one of the amazing things about that holy night……
the trust and honour that God placed in those disciples,
and in turn, on this holy night, places in us – in you and me.

God knows, that like those disciples, we too will get it wrong time and time again.
That we, the church, religion, will at times be lousy adverts of God’s love and kingdom.
But God touches our feet, our hands, our hearts and our lives, and says:
“I still trust you. I still believe in you.
I still my place my hope in you. I still honour you.
And I will continue to place my mission to this world into your hands.

Like Peter, we might want to resist.
But like him, we might as well just accept it’s true.