Tag Archives: Resurrection

Cranky Beautiful Faith – A Scripture Index

The rowing team – on God’s misfits – Matthew 5 – On being called to preach through the death of a friend

God’s aunt – 1 Timothy 2, Esther –  On Wicca, going to seminary, and the reading of her parents when she came out that she was going to be a pastor (page 18)

La Femme Nadia – on working for the opposition – Romans 7 and her reaction to the Bible

Thanks Elca – Those who come late to the field – Matthew 20 – on her friend Ross being ordained as a gay pastor, the stereotype that pastors wives are school teachers

“Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every tie we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”  (page 57)

It’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the marketplace – the parable of the vineyard and God’s desire for more – Matthew 20

Hurricanes and Humiliation – 1 John 3 (page 59) – on being a hero to someone in need and actually being conned.

I didn’t call you for this truth bullshit – John 3 (page 69)

Clinical pastoral education – on being a hospital chaplain, “you have to stand there and be present to God” , what her parents used to say “Nadia, you could at least come and visit more often as we won’t be spending eternity together”  Luke 23 (page 78)

Eunuchs and Hermaphrodites – this one spoke to me about connection as we were being served in Wagamamas, I need the other (page 87) Acts 8 – the Ethiopian Eunuch (page 87)

 

I need the other – the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8 – page 94

Whenever I am weak, I am strong (pastoral failure), 2 Corinthians 12 (page 99)

Pirate Christian – getting on with Pirate Pete who should be her enemy (Matthew 5) (page 108)

The Haitian Stations of the cross – Isaiah 62

Demons and snow angels – about the baptism of a man changing gender – Luke 4

Doormats and wrinkled vestments – Forgiveness of enemies – tells the story of the pastor who did the service for murderer Dylan Klebold and was put out of a job – Matthew 18 (page 144)

Ghosts in the kingdom of heaven – meeting a friend from the past, and her true identity – page 152

Dirty Fingernails – Mary meets Jesus on Easter morning – John 20

The wrong kind of different – Hebrews 13, showing hospitality to strangers (page 178)

He’s a fuck-up, but he’s our fuck-up (page 188), Mark 1

The new truth about you

Easter Sunday at Menlo Park, 2014

20th April 2014 – Transcript is here

Talks about a dynamically arresting new news which grips the disciples, then talks about Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem in Acts 2, and then a very arresting and gripping moment in which people are invited to be baptised.

The passage about news links in with Ecclesiastes 1, and the “nothing new” formula there.

For three years, the disciples would have been asked “What’s new?” and the answer would have been Jesus”, then on Friday, it would have been disaster and then on Saturday, nothing new, and then on Sunday, everything new, and talks about being gripped about something which is profoundly new. Continue reading

Reclaimed

A man called Billy Hybels, and American pastor of some note was one day preparing his sermon in a restaurant, and he has his Bible out in front of him, and a young woman saw him reading the Bible at his table, and said to him “Why are you reading that?”

 

And Billy looked back, this is an exact quote, he’s a kind of pugnacious, combative guy Bill Hybels, and this is what he said to her

“Because I don’t feel like going to hell when I die.”

 

So said to him, “There’s no such thing as heaven or hell”

 

And Bill loves edgy conversations, that get to the heart of the matter, so he thought to himself, “Why do you say that?”

 

She said, “Everyone knows that when you die, your candle just goes out… pooofff!”

 

“You mean, there’s no afterlife” says Bill

“That means you must be able just to live as you please”

“That’s right”

“Like no judgement day, no justice coming from God, world being set right, everybody giving account, nothing like that”

“No”

 

Bill said “Well, that’s fascinating to me, where did you hear that?”

 

“I read it somewhere”

 

“Can you give me the name of the book?”

 

“I don’t recall”

 

“Can you give me the name of the author?”

 

“I forgot his name”

 

“Did the author write any other books?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Is it possible that your author changed his mind, two years after he wrote this particular book, and then wrote another book saying there is a heaven and hell, is that possible?”

 

“It’s possible, not likely”

 

Bill said, “So let me get this right, you are rolling the dice on your eternity, on the basis of what someone you don’t even know, wrote in a book you cannot even recall the title of, have I got that straight.”

 

“That’s right”

 

Bill said, “Do you know what I think friend, I think that you have merely created a belief that guarantees the continuation of your unencumbered lifestyle, I think you made it up, because it is very discomforting to think of a heaven, it is very discomforting to think of a hell, it is very unnerving to face a holy God, on the day of reckoning, I think you made it all up.”

The Subtlety of Graveclothes

 

 

Good Friday seemed a much better day for such things,

But now we have to get ready for Easter

I never thought I would think this, but could not just have a few more days of Good Friday

I prefer honest misery, to artificial joy.

 

The First Easter

There are two things that I want to say about Easter,

 

The first is it is about seeing the whole of creation: the old creation and the new creation.

Because it is a challenge not see a little hole of reality, like looking out a burkha

But to have our eyes widened and to see the whole of it, the creation, and the new creation.

 

The second thing I want to think about this morning is that profound way that Jesus comes to a woman who weeps.

 

If you want two words = the first part seeing, the second part weeping.

 

Seeing

So let us look at the first part of the story,

And it become a story about things that do not quite add up.

 

Mary comes to the tomb early on the first day of the week, whilst it is still dark.

 

Now that “first day of the week” and whilst it is very dark, is very important,

 

There is a thing going on here where John is making a reference,

 

You get this all the time, in films, for example in High School Musical, which is about two people falling in love from rival gangs, there is a balcony scene which makes you think about another play where there is a balcony.

 

More obvious is the scene in Toy Story 2 where Buzz Lightyear and Zorg are fighting, and Buzz Lightyear says to Zorg “you killed my father” and Zorg says “Buzz, I am your father”, and then Buzz falls away going “noooooo”

 

And this is a reference to the Empire Strikes Back

 

John is making a reference to it being dark on the first day, is a reference to Genesis,

And if you think I am reading too much into things,

John does this all the time, he starts his book with saying “In the beginning”

And all the time he is talking about dark and light, and way that you are to read more into  this than simply, “you’ll need a torch outside”.

 

Or the moment where Judas betrays Jesus, and John adds “So after receiving the morsel of bread he went out” and “it was night”

 

So John is nudging us here “It was dark and it was the first day of the week”

Any clues what I might be referring to here?

 

Aaagh, yes, this is a second creation story, a new creation

Something profoundly new and different is happening in the whole of the universe

 

The Christian faith, the whole of being has two grounding points

One was 13 billion years ago when the whole thing went bang

And the second was about 1,984 when on the first day of the week when it was still dark Mary went to the tomb

 

And John is saying don’t just live in the first of those realities,

You have to live in the second as well

The reality of the New Creation where God who loves us with us

And dead people don’t stay dead.

 

Mary goes to the tomb and she sees the stoned moved.

Now this is upsetting, because in the Old Creation that is a sign of grave robbery

In the New Creation this is a sign of resurrection.

 

But she runs away, back to the disciples, and two of them come running

Peter and John

And they have a running race and the beloved disciple wins

This is the only running race in the Bible, and I am sure John is hinting again

Peter who sees at the moment like Old Creation, he is beaten

By Beloved Disciple who will in a moment spot the New Creation

 

So the moral of that particular verse is that if you want to run faster

Believe in the New Creation

Which is not completely daft, because a week tomorrow, at the 20 mile mark I may well be praying quite hard, and remembering the New Creation.

 

So Peter, Genesis only, Big bang only, what you see is all there is Peter,

Goes in and he sees folded grave clothes and the face cloths in a place by itself

That is it, interesting.

 

But Beloved Disciple, Beloved Disciple who sees beyond the surface,

First Creation and New Creation

He goes in and sees the grave clothes, and the face cloth by itself

And he saw and (verse 8)

 

He believed.

There is something more going on here than grave robbery

We are in the New Creation and in the New Creation dead people are raised.

 

Graveclothes

 

Now let us just back up a bit here, and think about the subtlety of this.

 

Imagine there was a committee meeting in heaven – I am using an image here, heaven doesn’t work like that,

But imagine the angels were trying to give God suggestions for how he might intimate to the disciples that the New Creation had begun.

 

The suggestions might have been firstly for a mind blowing, unmistakeable Jesus appearance

Not just at the graveside, but above the skies of Jerusalem, enough for the disciples to see, for Pilate to see, for the Chief Priests to see.

 

Or perhaps just to the disciples, and some fireworks thrown in for good measure.

 

But no, God opts for the suggestion of the angel who said “graveclothes”

 

We want the world to know that there is not a Creation version 2.0

A  creation version 2.0 where God is with his people

Where dead people do not stay dead

Where in all the dimensions of the world, there is a place  called heaven and it is nearer

That the people of God are sharing in a destiny together now where they are not just one nation but also one body

And we want them to know that through grave clothes

 

In the new Creation the people of God are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

They have the Holy Spirit inside them to guide them and change them,

They have the forgiveness of their sins, so at the end of time God turns to everyone who has trusted in him, no matter their sins, the depth of their guilt,

And says to each one of them that they are justified

To each one, “not guilt”, “not guilty”, “not guilty”

 

And that in this God makes know the mystery of his will

That in Jesus he will unite all things, things in heaven and things on earth

And there is going to be a day when Jesus appears

And heaven descends

And every tear is wiped from every eye, and God is with his people

 

And this happens in the new Creation, and the way that this is going to be announced is graveclothes.

 

 

If you wanted a smaller, more subtle demonstration of the resurrection, I could not imagine it,

What is God doing here?

 

 

It seems to be the nature of God that he be discovered in the small.

 

I think there are reasons, that this gives us space to encounter him, to know him

Rather than being blown out the water

God wants to be loved, not simply impressive.

 

God seems to want us to hunt for newness in the most delicate of clues,

To tread carefully,

Not to blow us away with fireworks, but to meet us in small things.

And the implication of the small thing is enormous.

 

I want us to feel for that subtle delicate change there

That the outward realities of you life did not change at dawn this morning

The relationships that you struggle with – still there

The  body you have, for your friends, for your family, still there

The money problem you have – still there

The career uncertainties – still there

 

All that still there

But peer beneath the reality of you life

Beyond first creation, beyond Genesis

To new creation

 

God is with you, you are loved, there is new life

Life is not destroyed by the death you most fear

 

There is something else, the new creation penetrates small things

It is smaller than a quark when it needs to be

The New Creation covers clothes, and folded linen

It covers small words, small movements of the tongue

The turn of the head to give to someone our eyes

The step of courage into a difficult place, where believe newness can happen

 

And it deals with all that we worry about

The health of a child not yet born

The outcome of the a meeting

The size of our overdraft

The busy-ness of our overdraft

The coldness of a marriage

The state of someone’s mind.

 

All these places, the marriage, the womb, the mind, the meeting

All  our sites of resurrection as was a tomb

 

And New Creation transforms, goes beyond First Creation

 

 

 

Look at  your life

And I guess I want us to look at our lives this morning

And think, “How is my life different if Jesus is risen from the dead?”

How is your financial life different if Jesus is risen from the dead

How is your emotional life different if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is the pain that will be bearable if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is your career like if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is your family situation like if Jesus is risen from the dead.

 

Feel for this, he is risen

 

Subtly discovered

And discovered by those who weep

 

And utterly, utterly changed is the universe

And the sign of it is very subtle

Some graveclothes that have failed to keep hold of a body

 

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen

He is Risen Indeed

 

Now leave here, and in the all the small things, let your life not be the same

For he has risen indeed.

Eddie Izzard – Believe

I hate to force religious imagery onto a man who doesn’t believe in it (but perhaps we might be allowed, given the amount of Biblical midrash in Izzard’s material, unfortunately too much swearing in it so you can never use it in Church, I have tried), but there is something in the life of Christ.  If he does enough, then maybe he can bring back the dead.  And he does.

Living Hope

God on Mute

“You are living and searching in error, because God means movement and not explanation” – Elie Wiesel. Page 292

Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh.  There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye. – Auden – Page 294

On the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17:17-18)- Page 294

This story does not merely teach us a lesson about manners but also makes an  important point about priorities:  All 10 men were equally healed, yet only one truly worshipped.  The other nine considered their answered prayer more thrilling than the presence of the Answerer.  They took their healing gladly, but they missed the greatest miracle of all: The presence of God!

What I asked for (page 296)

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men,

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things I might enjoy life

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I received nothing I asked for, all that I hoped for

My prayer was answered, I was most blessed

Questions That Heal (page 296) on post-resurrection questions.

Jesus question for Mary Magdalene, ‘Why are you crying” (John 20:13) targeted her pain.

His question for the two men on the road to Emmaus, “What are you discussing … Don’t you understand?” (Luke 24:17-25) targeted their confusion.

His question to the disciples, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (Luke 24:38) targeted their crisis of faith.

And then he cooked breakfast for Peter and asked him a question that targeted his guilt. “Do you truly love me?”

Dealing with sin (page 298)

Or maybe in your journey through disappointment you have occasionally given in to the temptation to sin.  Like Peter, you have been scared and said things you should not have said, and held your tongue when you should have spoken up.  Perhaps you too have sometimes felt like giving up and sinned anonymously with servant girls and strangers.  Jesus may seek you out in the things you love to do.  After all, that is how He sought Peter – on the beach after a long night fishing – helping him to confess his love again, once for each denial.

Pilgrim Crosses The River With Hopeful

Page 312

Then they addressed themselves to the water, and entering, Christina began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful he said “I sink in deep waters, the billows go over my head, all his waves go over me.”

Then said the other, “Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.”  Then said Christian, “Ah my friend, the sorrows of death have compassed me about, I shall not see the land that flows with milk and hone.”  And with that, a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him, a so here he in a great measure lost  his senses, so that he could neither remember nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his pilgrimage… Then said Hopeful, “These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, bur are sent to try you whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.”

Then I saw in my dream that Christian was as in a muse awhile, to whom also Hopeful added this words, “Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole’ And with that, Christian brake out with a loud voice, “Oh I see him again ! And he tells me, When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and when through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee…” Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow.  Thus they got over.

Third Day Story

Turning Points

I wonder what the turning points in your life are.

The moments where a new future became possible, or an old one went away.

We hang our whole being on these moments.

The moment that letter came through saying we had passed an exam or got a job

Or the moment that the letter came through “regretting that we had been unsuccessful”

The moment that we set eyes on someone, and when we asked them out they said “yes”

Or the moment that we decided not to ask

Or the moment that they said “no”

The moment that the doctor puller her chair a bit closer, and said “I’ve got some bad news”

Or the moment we got the all-clear

The moment that the line on the pregnancy test went blue

Or the month after month that it never did, until we stopped going to the chemists and buying the things.

The moment that a cross word was never followed by sorry, but only silence

Or the moment that we were able to talk things through, thinking that this thing might be worth salvaging after all.

The more I have tried to think about this,

The more that it strikes me that the biggest turning points are very small.

I was trying to think of exceptions.

One is the universe, this vast thing that I keep going on about all the time.

But even that started in ball of gas smaller than my hand.

The other one I thought of was D-Day the vast armada of ships crossing the English channel, to make Europe, and the world free for democracy.

That’s a big starting point I though,

That’s the one the breaks the rule, all the rest are small, but that one’s a big one,

And then I remembered that that too had a small start,

In an underground room in May 1940 in London

With a group of politicians deciding whether or not to make peace with Germany,

A humiliating surrender

And one of them, the prime minister, eventually winning the argument that they needed to fight on.

It’s always a small thing.

But this one is different, because it happens with people we don’t know

And we, lets be honest, not terribly sure that we can trust.

The Women Go To The Tomb

At dawn, on what has since been referred to as the “Third Day”.

A group of women get up early,

In a middle Easter city – about 1,983 years ago.

And one of them is called Mary – in many years people will say that she is former prostitute,

And Joanna – she was a connected woman, her husband a high up civil servant

And Mary, possibly the mother of Jesus, certainly the mother of James,

And other women.

And they exhausted go with spices to anoint a body in a tomb

And they receive a message saying “Why do you seek the living amongst the dead?”

That’s the turning point.

That’s the thing that we are asked to hang everything on.

To bet the farm on

To go to your death for

To give up financial gain for

To turn down promotion for

To risk all for love for

To speak up for faith for

To give up one hour of your time on a Sunday morning – this is a thing that is going to cost you lie-ins, and quizzical looks from your workmates for, and if you are doing the thing properly, its going to get you killed.

And you are thinking Mary, Joanna, and Mary – you had better be right.

We’re not the first to think that.

When they come back, there are twelve others, the leaders,

And their first response is “Mary, Joanna and Mary, “ you are not right

This is “an idle tale”

We are not betting anything on this.

Verse 11 says “They did not believe them”.

They did not trust the woman

But really, deep down, they were not trusting that there could be a God who could do that kind of thing.

Invisible, inaudible, incomprehensible, incapable.

You see, the best intellectual arguments can be used to come up with reasons for that moment.

You can show that these stories look genuine, look historical, unmade-up, not like the story of the resurrection of another legend, Apollonius, which just looks too hazy;

And none of this stuff looks like it is trying too hard.

It looks like people are so genuinely convinced, they have a relaxed-ness about this saying.

You can say things about the transformation of the disciples,

And the interesting detail that there was never any veneration of Jesus’ tomb,

Nor that they every went for a lesser belief – that Jesus was alive, his soul was still alive,

Or that they uneducated people, were so convinced that they started a movement, that was going to get them into grave personal danger,

Or that they chief opponent of this group, a man called Saul, actually was so convinced that he became a believer, and about 15 years later, wrote saying that he knew 500 people who had seen Jesus alive.

All that is there,

Of all the arguments for the existence of God

–        the existence of a moral dimension

–        The existence of a universe that could not have brought itself into existence

–        The character of Jesus, who could not have been made up

–        The growth and conviction of Christian witnesses

None of these arguments can even come close, to the argument that this thing actually happened.

The arguments are the best a Christian can ever put forward

And I have never heard a decent counter-argument.

The Jesus Ossiary

Recently there was a discovery in Jerusalem of a thing called the Joseph Ossiary.

In ancient times what would happen is that people would put a body in a tomb,

And they would leave it there for some number of years, and then they would come back and collect the bones of the person, and they would put that in a box,

And that box is called an Ossiary

And a number of years ago, people went into a tomb in Jerusalem and found three boxes,

And the first box said “Joseph”, and the second box said “Mary”

And the third box, what do you think that said

“Jesus?”

Well actually, no one could properly make out what it said, but it might just have said “Jesus”

And they said “Here is the proof that the third day never happened.”

We have the boxes to prove it.

Not many Churches have closed as a result of this Ossiary

The main arguments being that in Jesus day everybody was called “Joseph”, “Mary” and “Jesus”

And secondly if that had really been Jesus’ tomb there would have been some signs of veneration – that’s what people did with saints in those days

And thirdly, Joseph would have been buried in Nazareth.

But fourthly, no one would have died, no one would have been transformed, no Church would have been birthed, 500 people would not have said “We have seen Jesus”

Mary, Joanna and Mary would not have come back on that third day saying “We saw a man saying “Why do you seek the living among the dead”

If there had been three boxes sitting there saying “Joseph”, “Mary” and maybe “Jesus.”

But the reason we struggle to believe, is that what I might call the “Nah, factor”

It is too remote, too strange, the long ago,

To let that little thing, be the turning point of my life.

It is too little a thing,

Not quite enough.

Now hold that thought there “Not quite enough”

And I am going to change it something else “Just enough”

But first of all we are going to dive off into something else, which at the moment seems completely unconnected.

Getting To Day Three

There is a kind of odd story in the Old Testament, it’s at the beginning of the first book of Samuel.

And I am really grateful to talk by a guy called John Ortberg for what I am about to say today, it shows up in a lot of things I am saying.

It follows on from the story we all know about Samuel, you know the one where he is sleeping in the temple, and three times he hears a voice, and each time her runs to Eli his master, and Eli, says “It’s not me” and eventually he says to Samuel “say next time, it’s your servant listening”

Well we forget the next part, because what God actually says to Samuel is “Things are going to get bad.”

Things do get bad.

The Israelites are fighting a war against the Philistines, their enemies

And things are going badly, and people pray, and

And they are still defeated – 4,000 killed.

So they have an idea, let’s bring the Ark of the Lord

You know the Ark, the place where God lives, it has it in Manna from the desert, and the copy of the ten commandments, and this will gives us victory

So the Ark of the Covenant is fetched – actually the reason Israel is defeated is because Israel is sinning, but no one says “Let’s stop sinning”, instead “Here’s a new tactic that’s going to get us out of trouble”

And they go out to battle the next day; and when the people see the Ark of the Covenant appearing, there is a great roar

“So that the earth resounded”

And the Philistines say to themselves “What is this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews?

And when they hear that this is the Ark of the covenant, they are terrified

This is God, this is the God who defeated the mighty Egyptians

What chance have we?”

And then someone says

“Take courage and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves”

In other words, it is better to die fighting than be taken captive

“Be men and fight”

And fight they do, and they win,

The great tactic of putting God in box, has not saved Israel

And instead of 4,000 foot soldiers

30,000 foot soldiers fall by the wayside

And amongst them are Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas

And the ark, the ark is captured.

And a messenger comes to Eli,

Eli the old man, who is now 98 years old

And the messenger brings news of the battle

And he says “And your sons Phinehas and Hophni are dead

And the ark has been capture”

And as soon as Eli hears about the Ark, not the sons but the Ark he falls down, dead.

And when his pregnant daughter-in-law hears the news and that the ark has been captured, and that her father –in –law and her husband are dead she bows to the ground, and begins to go into labour, and this is how the Bible tells it

“About the time of her death” – I didn’t know she was going to die as well”

“About the time of her death the women attending her say

“Do not be afraid, you have borne a son”

It’s like, lets find something good here

The husband is dead, the father-in-law is dead, the uncle is dead, the ark has been captured, the Philistines have won, 30,000 have dead, in a moment you are going to be dead.

What can we find

“It’s a boy”

And she says nothing, and the only thing she can say is

“Ichabod”

Chabod, is this great Hebrew word, it means “Weight” and comes to mean glory

When God appears on Sinai with the ten commandments, the word is “Glory”

Chabod.

God is good, God is good.

“I” means without/ not

Like “Atheist” means “Not theist”

Ichabod, is what she says the boy is to be called

“The Glory” has gone.

The weight has gone

God has gone

And this boy, who will grow up and orphan, without a grandfather, needs to know this about life

Ichabod.

And as he is born,

The Ark is taken to the temple of the Philistines, and placed before the God Yahweh.

And this is the first day,

The day of Ichabod

The day when everything has gone wrong

It’s the day of disaster.

This is the first day.

You have known the first day.

The Second Day

The second day is this.

Not a lot happens on the second day, or it appears not a lot happens on the second day.

Only a few people know what happens on the second day.

It’s a behind the scenes day.

It’s a waiting day, an empty day

For the woman who bring Jesus spices, it’s a day of rest.

What kind of rest do you think they had on that second day.

Was it pleasantly lounging around, going “I am so glad there is nothing that I have to do, Peter, James, John, this is the kind of day off we have been waiting for for ages”

No, this is the day when you say “The waiting is the worst part”

This is the day when you say “I wanted to do something, but there was absolutely nothing I could do.”

Back in Philistia, home of the Philistines, there is one thing going on

A little accident in the home of Dagon the god

The people of Ashdod where the Ark is,

Dagon has fallen over, before the Ark of the Lord.

It’s an accident, so they put Dagon back

They sing their songs to Dagon, “Great is Dagon”

That’s the waiting day. The Second day.

You know about the second day.

Third Day

And then the third day.

The third day dawns, and this time Dagon is not only fallen over

But his head is cut off, and his hands, and they are lying at the doorway of the temple.

This is the day when a small band of people, the people of Ashdod, begin to realise that Yahweh is greater than Dagon

This is the day that a band of women begin to realise that Jesus is bigger than death.

This is the third day.

The third day is the day that people begin to find out that death is defeated.

Note that the people of Israel will not taste the full fruit of this for a while.

It says that they still have the twenty years of mourning before the kingdom is restored.

But when the victory does come, and David brings the ark back to Jerusalem from Abinadab on the hill.

It is odd to something that happened on the third day.

And this day shows up all over the Bible.

Joseph is in prison in Egypt, with Pharaoh’s cupbearer and Pharaoh’s baker.  The cupbearer will one day get Joseph out of prison, but that doesn’t happen yet, but when is the cupbearer himself released from prison, the turning point in the story, on the third day.

Moses gets the people to receive the ten commandments before the promised land.  How long will it be before entering the promised land – 40 years, but the basis of life in that land coming is the commandments, and these are received on the third day.

Jonah is stuck in the whale, he has been running away from God, and from the town that God wants him to go to to Nineveh, he is a long way from Nineveh, many days from preaching in Nineveh.  But the day that makes that day possible, is the day he is released from the whale, which day is that – the third day.

Esther’s people are in grave danger, she has to find some way of rescuing them, and having their chief tormenter Hamaan removed from office.  That is going to happen, but first of all the turning point in this story is that she has to approach her husband the king, and what day does that happen on, it happens on the third day.

The third day is not the day when everything gets fixed.

It is not the day that you enter the promised land.

But neither is it the day of disaster – that’s the first day

Nor is it the day of waiting – that’s the second day.

It’s the day when we begin to realise that God is bigger than death

It is the day when we can start to hope.

It is the day when the glory is not fully realised, but is not the ichabod when the glory is gone.

And here is the question,

How much faith does it take to get from the first day to the second day to the third day.

And here’s the answer “Enough”

“Enough”

The people are not yet running around, delighted.

Peter is not totally reinstated in his job, but also marvelling – a curious mixture.

Nobody has yet touched Jesus,

The Spirit has not yet come

The winds of Christian faith have not yet blown across the Roman Empire

It has not yet reached Scotland

The kingdom of God has not yet come.

But it is not the first day, it is not the second day, it is the third day

And today is the day of the third day,

And God will, give you enough faith to get there

Not certainty, not 100%, but enough.

If you ask him

Ask him, to get you to the third day

We are the third day people

The people who began to realise on the third day

That the tomb was empty

And that death was no more.

AMEN

Unless Your Belief Is Based On Nothing

In the agony of the positive test result

In all that we call earth shattering,

There is another shattering, quaking of the earth, that the Christian finds hope

They find another story

Which is somehow bigger dare we say than all these other stories

That on the first day of the week

In a Jerusalem graveyard, someone actually came back from the dead.

This sort of thing has never happened at any other grave in history (although there is a verse in Matthew that does get kind of near)

And the way that we get to it

The way that we let this speak to us

Is through the people who were near there

Long dead themselves,

Barely literate peasants and fisher folk themselves

People who lived on the bread line

With decayed teeth and worn clothes

Who had no power

And almost nothing in common with us

Upon their account we rest our belief in the earthquake

That is bigger than all the other seismic shifts that hit us in life.

Looking At Corinthians

Remember the problems that the Corinthians were facing

The communion meals eaten by the wealthiest members

The court cases and fights

The sexual stuff that was way out of line

The showing off in worship, the competition to see who was the most spiritual

And Paul gives this Church two stories in which to redefine themselves

Both stories are to do with bodies

The first is the one-ness of the body – you are one body, many parts.

The second is the raising of the body – you are due to be raised.

Paul begins his reminder of the second story at the beginning of chapter, its revision, because they know the story, but part of the problem is that they have forgotten it.

“Remember, brothers and sister, the good news that I good news-ed to you

Which you received and in which you have stood – so these are Christians who have heard and taken a stand

And in this you are being saved, if you hold fast – unless you have believed in vain.

And it’s that believe in vain part, – I am being saved, unless I believe in vain

Unless I have been sold a dummy pass here.

That is the thought that must creep across every Christian from time to time

For some it creeps across rarely

And for some it creeps across all the time

And there is actually no link between your depth of a Christian and the number of times

“I might have got this one wrong” creeps across your head

So you have people like Mother Teresa who had visions for fifty years and then doubts

And then me here, who goes through a period of doubt about once every two years, when I think, I have seriously messed this one up

And then you have folk who just believe, they just say “I have a simple faith, and I believe”

And what does Paul give us to deal with the fear that we might have believed in vain

He takes us back to the witnesses of the earthquake

Those women and fishermen who ran to that tomb and who saw it empty.

And Paul says, let me remind you what happened here.

So let us,

Who have believed

Who have stood

Who have

who occasionally ask the question “Have I believed in vain?”

The Witnesses

I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; 4* that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; 5* that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, and afterward to all the apostles.

8* Last of all he appeared also to me—even though I am like someone whose birth was abnormal.

[1]

So the story that Paul is telling about Jesus being read, the way that he expects the Corinthians to believe

Is to believe that quite a lot of people saw Jesus

And then Jesus also appeared to Paul.

So from this letter which is being written about twenty years after the birth of Jesus

We know two things

About 20 years after Jesus died, a man called Paul appeared in a Greek city called Corinth and said “There is a man Jesus who rose from the dead, and this is very important, and I want you to believe it because of the signs that I do amongst you, but I want you to believe me”

The stories about Jesus being resurrected that we have in the gospels were probably going around at this time,  but they hadn’t yet been written down, that wouldn’t happen for about another 15 years.

However, Paul would have know these stories because his companion Luke was one of the people who wrote them down, and Paul also knew Peter who was Jesus’ disciple.

Now what do we do with this?

Let me assume that Paul is making this up

That there is something gone wrong here

And that this guy who appears in Corinth has indeed got the wrong end of the stick

Let us assume for the moment that for next 10 minutes everybody here is a non-believer, how do we establish that.

Well he has to be deluded, because if he is deliberately lying he wouldn’t be going to all this bother (people that deliberately lie tend to run cults in which they are in charge, Paul is never that bothered who is in charge here)

So he is deluded, and that means that the disciples he has all met are deluded

So that means Peter, and James and the twelve

And harder to pull off is the 500 who have also been appeared to, many of whom are still alive – so there are five hundred deluded people in Jerusalem, and Paul seems to know who they are because he knows that some are still alive and still dead

But Peter, James, the twelve, Paul the 500 are deluded

Now what would it take for them to be deluded.

What would it take for this kind of a story to gain traction, such that someone who was against it, 500 people around it, started to believe it.

There are two things

The first is some sort of psychic experience of Jesus being with them

The second is some sort disappearance of Jesus body – let us say it was stolen (maybe by one rogue disciple, or some thieves)

You need both

Without the psychic experience, people would just say “The body is stolen, that’s not great”

Without the stolen body, people would just suppose that the psychic experience was them seeing a ghost; and all the stories that would be invented, or told would be of a disembodied, ghostly Jesus, and there would no need to go on about empty tombs.

So, most plausible theory,

Paul, Peter, James, John, 500 people are all hopelessly deceiving themselves.

A body has gone missing and nobody has been able to find it.

Now, what are the problems with this theory is going to have to overcome.

Invented Stories

Firstly, you are going to have to claim that all the stories about Jesus resurrection are invented.  Which is kind of hard first of all, because you have a group whose big claim is that they tell the truth and love, and the heart of that is an invented story.

Fair enough, invent a story if you are going for a power grab.  That’s happened plenty of times before, even by Christians.  The most famous example is this document called the donation of Constantine, a document found in the XXXX’s by someone in the Church which was meant to be the will of the Roman Emperor Constantine, saying that all the land of the Roman Empire was to be given to the Church.

But there is no power grab going on here, but there is a kind of influence, thing, people are inventing a story because it gives them some sort of credibility within the group which is clamouring for resurrection stories.

The next, is the invented stories; they are kind of odd.  First because none of them quite match up.  It’s the kind of slight jigsaw effect when something really has happened, rather than a copy of an original story.  Different people are arriving at the tomb at different times, but you also have the road to Emmaus, the women arriving at the empty tomb, and all the time in the background the fact that the body has actually gone missing.

The next thing is that the stories are not trying too hard.  More of the content of the story seems to be that everyone is a bit frightened and confused; nobody is really trying desperately to say “this actually happened.” They all kind of believe that.  What they are worried about is reacting to it. Not proving what has happened, but coming to terms with what they have little doubt has actually occurred.

A lawyer called Sir Edward Clark, writes

As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The Gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate.

And then you have got the whole thing of women appearing at the tomb and this not being very believable.

And then you have this thing where nobody quite recognises Jesus.  That is not something that you would have predicted.  And yet it seems to appear in all the accounts.  That would serve no purpose, other than if it were actually true.

So you have invented stories with women, who don’t recognise Jesus, and you have no accounts of Jesus actually being raised (like an invented story might have a witness to the resurrection – as actually happened with some later invented stories in the invented gospels)

So, you have some invented stories, which are nothing like the stories you would have expected someone to invent,

Quality Of Appearances

The next thing for everyone to be deluded is that the resurrection appearances would happen to a small number of people;  because that helps your group dynamics (the great leader who alone has seen the truth).  I find it interesting that James had seen Jesus in a way that people recognised.  James was a pain, he was a pain to the early Church, he was never one of the early disciples.  People would have found a way to keep him out if this was delusional power politics going on, or deception.

Secondly, James doesn’t seem like someone who likes to shift position, who was not keen on Jesus, and not too keen on his new disciples

Next there is Thomas who asked lots of questions, he gets an appearance

Next there are the 500 people who are still alive

Next there is Paul years later, who is in the middle of persecuting the Christians when he gets this experience.

It’s hardly wishful thinking by a small number of people, turning itself into a psychic experience.

Instead it is happening to lots of people, many of whom it was not in their interest to believe.

Transformation Of Disciples

The other thing is that none of the disciples is saying that this is a sort of inner experience.  If that was so they would all be going “Jesus was with me, and he is with me now”, but these events are all in the past “He appeared”, as if it was a thing, something unique; and something that stopped.  It’s not been a feature of life.  It stopped.

The next is the transformation of the disciples

These people are a confident bunch.  The New Testament has an air of conquest and victory about it.  It is not written by frightened people.  They are not broken by what has happened to Jesus.  To let you see the difference, let me quote something to you from Tom Wright about what might have happened with the killing of another revolutionary experience round about the time of Jesus.

From “Surprised By Hope”, page 60

Many have suggested that the early disciples were so overwhelmed with grief at Jesus’ death that they picked up the idea of resurrection from their surrounding culture and clung on to it, persuading themselves that Jesus had been raised from the  dead though of course they knew he hadn’t been.  Some have suggested that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus, after his death, had been exalted to heaven, or that they had a strange sense that his mission, to bring God’s kingdom was now going ahead in a new way; and that this kind of belief led them to say he’d been raised from the dead.

But would this  make any sense?  We can test it out with a little thought experiment.  In AD 70, the Romans conquered Jerusalem, and they led thousands of Jews captive back to Rome; including the man they regarded as the leader of the Jewish revolt, “the king of the Jews; a man called Simon bar Gioara.  He was led into Rome at the back of the triumphal procession, and the end of the spectacle was Simon being flogged then killed.

Now: suppose we imagine a few Jewish revolutionaries three days or three weeks later.  The first one says, “You know, I think Simon really was the Messiah – and he still is!”

The others would be puzzled.  Of course he isn’t’: the Romans got him, as they always do.  If you want a Messiah you’d better find another one.

“Ah,” says the first, “But I believe he’s been raised from the dead.”

“What d’you mean?” his friends ask, “He’s dead and buried.”

“Oh no” replies the first, “I believe he’s been exalted to heaven.”

The others look puzzled. All the righteous martyrs are with God, everybody knows that; their souls are in God’s hand; that doesn’t mean they’ve already been raised from the dead.  Anyway, the resurrection will happen to us all at the end of time, not to one person in the middle of continuing history [here Tom’s style loses a little of its believability]

“No” replies the first, “you don’t understand.  I’ve had a strong sense of God’s love surrounding me.  I have felt God forgiving me – forgiving us all.  I’ve had my heart strangely warmed.  What’s more, last night, I saw Simon; he was there with me…”

The others interrupt, now angry.  We can all have visions.  Plenty of people dream about recently dead friends.  Sometimes its very vivid.  That doesn’t mean they’ve been raised from the dead. It certainly doesn’t mean that one of them is the Messiah.  And if your heart has been warmed, then sing a psalm, don’t make wild claims about Simon.

That Sort Of Thing Just Doesn’t Happen

Some I don’t think the “Honestly deluded with stolen body” theory has real struggles.

The only thing you are left is “This actually happened”

This guy Paul who appears in the Greek city 20 years after Easter saying “Jesus was raised from the dead”, he was telling the truth.

And then you just want to say “Naah”

I know that there is lots of good answers, but it just doesn’t sound right,

That sort of thing I can’t get my head around.

There is one other thing I would want to add

This is a reaction against an inexplicable one off

Not just a one-off like a Brit winning at the tennis

Or escape from Dunkirk

Or Usain Bolt

Or a female prime minister

Or bumping into a long lost friend in the London tube

The kind of unusual thing but nevertheless something that you can understand

Not this kind of one off is the sort of thing that refutes all the rules up to now

That is tangible, real; earth shattering

And you think, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen

Except we know it happened once

We know that 13 billion years ago, for reasons no one understands

With just the right set of laws to hold it together

With freakish quantities of energy

We know that happened, we no of no other instance when it has happened since.

And the claim is that sort of thing happened twice

Once 13 billion years ago

And about 20 years before a Jew pitched up in a Greek City and said

“Jesus Christ was buried and on the third day was raised again”

He preached, and the Corinthians believed

This morning that same word has been preached

And have you believed also?

Like them, many, many of us have

AMEN


* 15:4: Psa 16:8-10; Mat 12:40; Act 2:24-32.

* 15:5: a Luk 24:34; b Mat 28:16,17; Mrk 16:14; Luk 24:36; Jhn 20:19.

* 15:8: Act 9:3-6.

[1]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

Fitzroy – New Creation

After Conversion
The whole heaven and the whole earth and all the things beyond the confines of the world are filled with God.  How can we be considered poor when we don’t feel anything that we want.  Much more should the one be considered poor who craves more and more while they already have so much.  If we regarded wealth as useful then we would ask God for it, but as it is everything belongs to God and we despise wealth.   What a beautiful sight it is to God when a Christian mocks the clatter of the tools of death and the horror of execution and the Christians upholds and defends liberty in the face of kings and princes obeying God alone to whom the Christian belongs.  Among us, little boys and frail women laugh to scorn torture and the cross and all the horrors of execution. – Minucius Felix

South Africa

And these early Christians were not content to have a form of belief that was simply “Everything will pan out in the end”

They gave us the book of Revelation

And they gave us 1 Corinthians, particularly the 15th chapter.

The early Church, persecuted and harassed,

Still running to the lions,

Had this believe in Revelation that heaven would come down

Remember Revelation, a passage I first heard expounded by David Livingstone at an evening service in Fitzroy

The Christian hope is that the earth, this same old earth will be transformed

As David Livingstone said

“The Grand Canyon will still be there

And Ben Nevis will still be there

And Belfast Lough will stay there

And let us just hope that they will made of diamond and not straw.”

And I found this kind of hard to take

I thought “Nice idea”, but everyone knows that we really “go up there and it will be clouds and a bit dull but hopefully nice”

You can test this.

“Who would like to go to heaven when they die?”

“Who would like to go there now?”

So we need to unlearn some of these songs.

Once In Royal David’s City

Firstly,  Jesus leads us on to the place where he is gone

Comes from Jesus in John 14 saying “Where I am going, I prepare a place for you”

But the word for place here, most commonly refers to a temporary dwelling room

It is the word used in the Nativity story “there was no room for them in the guest room”

When Jesus says to the prisoner on the cross

“Today you will be with me in paradise”

The word for paradise is customarily used for the temporary garden of the dead

And the big verse, the verse behind all the left behind

About us being caught up to meet Jesus in the air

The verses in 1 Thessalonians

Seem to me to be the most insurmountable

But there are two things

The first is that Jesus goes comes down, meets us halfway

And then we all carrying on up

When of course we know that Jesus does return to earth

So perhaps he sends us up and he carries out the business of wrapping up the company

Like a receiver

But N.T. Wright suggests that the image is like what would have happened when Caesar visited a colony and rather than waiting for Caesar to arrive

The populace would come out to meet him – exactly what happens in the Palm Sunday Story

And then they would go into the city together.

Amazing Grace

Now it feels slightly like you are contradicting the Bible if you are going to have a go at Amazing Grace

There are two points of contention with Amazing Grace

Nowhere is the place we go somewhere else

It is rather this creation renewed

It is here, but here transformed, real, vibrant, full of life

As C.S. Lewis said

In heaven we trip over the grass

While we are at, the language in the New Testament is never of us going to heaven

It is always of heaven being near

Or heaven coming down

And the second point of contention with “When we’ve been there”

Is the vision it gives of heaven as being like a very very long choir practice

We we’ve been there 10,000 years we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

And yes, after the resurrection, singing will lose it’s ability to exhaust

It will be fun singing

But there will be other activities on offer

As the golden streets are walked and the different tongues are spoken

And the work of tending the new creation

And of judging angels is given to us.

And I have visions at the BB displays after the resurrection

That Charlie Black will do the high horse.

I Am A New Creation

Now this comes from a verse

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Now the problem with this is that it ties down the verse in a way which is limiting

It is like they are part of something which is bigger than them.

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. In Colossians 1:20

or

as a plan for(Y) the fullness of time,(Z) to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Thinking About Corinthians

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians,

A sexually promiscuous

Elite-ist

Liturgically anarchic

Collection of fools and nobodies

Whom Paul called saints despite their use of prostitutes

And the body of Christ, despite the fact that the hand was bringing a court case against the belly button

Ends his painful letter to this Church

As he urges them to live as the body

How does he end

He talks about the end things

He talks about the resurrection

And we in the Church are always directed from inside with our disputes

To the perspective that this world is being remade

And we are called to be, as we always have been

To be the co-workers of God.

And there are a number of hints of this throughout the letter

In 1 Corinthians 3, where the Church is something which is something,

If it has been built properly which will come through the fires of judgement

The properly built Church will last into judgement day

The context here is of a Church as a local congregation

So Fitzroy will exist after judgement

The New Creation will have a Fitzroy Presbyterian Church

Need to believe in this New Creation.

And then the famous chapter in love

Paul’s entire point here is that there are certain things that will not last through the judgement day

Wonderful things like speaking in tongues, and prophecy

But three things will

Faith, hope and love  – how does hope last into eternity, is it still hope, or what does it become;  can you still hope for things in the new life.

And love.

And then the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 15

Dense, mind-stretching theology to the bickering and the promiscuous and elitist.

Some may say that the resurrection has already happened.

It has not

Well, yes we say, the resurrection has not happened to us,

But it has happened to Jesus, and to those who have died

No they have not yet been raised

There is not enough time to go into this

They are asleep, in the language of Paul

In the language of Jesus, they are in Paradise

They remain in someway conscious, they cheer us on as they surround us

They are at rest

But they have not yet been raised,

And then he says, we will all be raised,

In the twinkling of an eye.

Transformed

This world transformed

To be something like the way we were in creation

But somehow more.

And we do not go to heaven

You see in chapter 15, Paul has been talking about all these things

And you might expect him to say

Now, everything is going to be sorted, everything that you are a part of is going to be fixed, and redeemed and rescued, by Jesus when he comes

It’s like you are painting the house – just leave it, Jesus will do a better job when he comes

If you are building a community – just leave it – Jesus will do a better job when he comes

You are preaching a sermon – leave it, Jesus will preach a better one when he arrives

You are attempting to steward creation – just leave it, Jesus is going to give us a better one when he arrives.

Why plant roses in a garden that is going to be soon abandoned

Why try to repair a car which is heading off a cliff.

In fact, Paul takes the though in completely the opposite direction.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:58

50I tell you this, brothers:(BK) flesh and blood(BL) cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold! I tell you a mystery.(BM)We shall not all sleep,(BN) but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For(BO) the trumpet will sound, and(BP) the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and(BQ) this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

(BR) “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55(BS) “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56The sting of death is sin, and(BT) the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God,(BU) who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58(BV) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in(BW) the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord(BX) your labor is not in vain.

Thinking As A Church

The Redemption Of Past And Future

There is an interesting thing about this continuity with heaven.

Because it says that every good thing will be preserved

And that every good thing still requires redemption.

This says something about the journey that we take as people

It says that best of the past will somehow be kept

And that the best of the past will somehow be redeemed.

There is a story that Spike Milligan tells of a place that he and his friends went to when they were on leave from fighting from the Second World War

It was a cottage in the English countryside

And for a weekend, away from the guns, away from the training.

They would play each other records all day

And then they would return to the monotony of training, or the horror of war.

And Milligan comments that whenever he visited that cottage in later years

He could not speak to anyone for hours.

I think that has something to do with the pain and estrangement that we have from the best we have in the past.

The pain of the past is that we can never go back

For those of you that enjoyed school, you can never go back

For those of you from another country, you can never go back

For those of you who in your early twenties, or as a student experience the possibility of everything

You can never go back

To your first girlfriend, you first boyfriend, you first kiss, your first dance

And yet all that was good in the past

Because in Romans 8, Paul includes the “past” in all things.

All that is past is kept

But never let us pretend that it is perfect

All that is in the past, also needs redeemed.

It is not yet perfect, so let us not pretend that this is the best

Changeling

I don’t know how many of you have send the Angelina Jolie movie, Changeling

I watched it recently on DVD and I was nervous about watching it,

Because it was about the abduction of a child, and I knew (from cheating on Wikipedia) that the child was never found.

And I knew that there were other positives about the movie.

The story is about Christine Collins, whose son Walter is abducted,

She asks the police for help, and despite the fact that they won’t respond to requests to find children for more than 24 hours, they try to find her.

At this time the police department, the LAPD is under pressure because of the campaigning of one Rev. Briegleb who  has a weekly radio broadcast which documents the abuses and corruption of the LAPD.

In this climate of pressure the LAPD find “Walter Collins” and have a high profile reunion with mother and son at the Los Angeles railway station, the only thing is that Christine Collins says “This is not my son”

The police, force her to take the boy, and despite the fact that he is three inches shorter than Walter Collins, despite the fact that claims to be Walter but has no memory of school, the police do not believe Christine and eventually have her  committed to a psychiatric ward.

At this point Rev. Briegleb launches a huge campaign to have Christine Collins released, and eventually to have the law changed so that code 12 psychiatric patients cannot simply be thrown into a psychiatric ward when they complain to the police.

At the same time as this, police discover the ranch of a Gordon Northcott and an accomplice, and the accomplice admits that Northcott murdered up to 20 boys including Walter Collins.

Whatsmore, the police chief and superintendant both loses their job and a corrupt mayor declines to stand for re-election.

Northcott is tried and executed.

But Christine Collins never finds Walter.

Five years later, a boy turns up who had imprisoned by Gordon NOrthcott, and he says that it was Walter who enabled him to escape. So there is kind of a sense of redemption that Walter had allowed another boy to live.

But I was very reticent to watch the film

Because all the changes of penal code and the all the disciplining of corrupt police officers

And even the escape of one boy

Could not undo, could not redeem the loss of this one innocent, helpless 10 year old boy, Walter Collins

And I did not want the film to even attempt to give me a happy ending.

But the story of resurrection of all things

Of the past

Of the relationships of the past

And the goodness of the past

Suggests that we can somehow find a way to light in thickest darkness

Because it says not only that removal of code 12

And the downfall of the corrupt

And the bravery of Walter Collins is good work that makes it past the resurrection

And is redeemed

But also that Walter and Christine will one day, as Rev. Briegleb says to Christine in the film, will one day be together.

It is this faith that allows us to keep hope

When all is lost.

It is lost to this life

But not to God.

There is a beautiful line uttered by King David in 1 Kings

It is a line of scripture that should be better known

Uttered by a man in the collapse of all that is good

He has lost a child, the child that he had illegitimately with another man’s wife

And David says

2 Samuel 12:23

“Why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

The Glass Half Full/ Half Empty

This notion that all that is good should be good news to both personality types who are here

The glass half fulls

And the glass half empty

The glass half full people

The visionary kind of people

Can press on and not fear

Because what is good, will become part of the fabric of life after the resurrection

Therefore be courageous,

Because anything that is of God will somehow be kept

** Yes We Can ***

And those who are half empty

They spot the imperfection

Will know that what is imperfect will still be redeemed

Nothing is perfect.

Redemption happens to the imperfect.

The past and future of a Church

I think this says something to the past and future of Fitzroy

The past which was characterised by reconciliation

By peace-building

By multi-faceted youth work

BY worship which blended the traditional with the charismatic

That is not lost

It is kept for eternity

It does not have to be artificially preserved if parts of that are not for the future

Just because it is not preserved does not mean it is lost.

And the future,

We do not have to aim for perfection

There is a danger that when people describe the Church of the future

They always describe a Church with vast youth work

And beautiful worship space

And social engagement that would make Mother Teresa feel intimidated by its scale.

This can only create disappointment

Because the Church of the future will remain an imperfect Church and in need of redemption.

What you dream of is a Church which can be offered to God

Which can do things which will be kind of work that is steadfast, and immovable

And good, so that it might be used by God for the work of New Creation.

And what we dream of for ourselves

Is not a perfect life, with a perfect house and perfect children and perfect career

Because the future will still need redeemed as much as the past and the present

But what we aim towards is what kind of life

We can offer to God that it too might be part of the New Creation

And it to in need of redemption.

Gives it a new story

It is interesting that Paul gives the great resurrection Chapter to the Church in Corinth

And not to the star pupils at Philippi

Or to those who are receptive to lengthy theological treatises

Like the Church in Rome.

Why to Corinth.

I think it is that Corinth needs a different role to be part of.

It cannot be the Church which succumbs to the cultural messed-up-ness

The pettiness, the power struggles, the sexual immorality, the class-snobberty

Of the elitist, unforgiving, pleasure-driven society around it.

It needs another story.

Donald Miller tells the story of a friend of us who was suffering in a failing, embittered marriage, and with a daughter who was in e destructive relationship with her boyfriend.

As things are desperate, the husband decides on radical action

He hears that it is possible to build an orphanage in Mexico for $45,000

And decides that what he wants to do

Is for his family to build one of these orphanages

So a few days later he sits the family down – the wife and the daughter

And says “This is what we are going to do, we are going to build an orphanage in Mexico.”

For two days there is shock

The wife and daughter say nothing to crazy Dad

But on the third day something strange happens

The wife kisses the husband, for the first time in months

The marriage becomes increasingly affectionate.

And the daughter, begins to raise funds for this orphanage on facebook.

And shortly after she dumps the unsuitable boyfriend

And Miller comments that this is because she has been given a new story

And in this story she is the heroine

And heroines don’t go our with losers.

And what Paul does for the Church in Corinth is that he gives them a different story

They resurrection of all things

The resurrection that includes you story

That resurrection that means every good thing must be redeemed

But that every good thing will be redeemed

And be part of the life to come.

The Leaves

Each of us have a leaf here

And what this is an allusion to the second tree that is in this room

We live this life between two trees

And the first tree represents the trees of the garden of first creation

Trees whose fruit we are to enjoy.

And the second tree, represents the tree of life which appears in the new creation

And it has twelve kinds of fruit – a magic tree this, but many different things to be enjoyed

And the leaves were for the healing of the nations.

And I guess that we write down here,

That which we wished to be healed in the New Creation.

Invest our hope

That which is broken and imperfect   might yet be redeemed.

I love the word “All things”

It includes no only mountains and loughs

It also includes jokes and melodies

It includes dances and spices

It includes youth clubs and group dynamics

It includes elbows and toenails and smiles and glances

All things

Every blessed thing

In the direction of new creation

All projects and youth clubs and worship events

And battle of the bands

And American Mini-Series featuring Jed Bartlet

All caught up in the gorgeous elasticity of this word “all”

What is to come

Let it be dear God

Let It be in the time to come

When the people gather from north and south and east and west

Let it be when the feast is served

Let it be when we walk the golden streets and gather and pearl marked gates

Let it be when we march round the jewel encrusted walls

Let it be that hope will have been met

And pain will have been transformed

And what is good will be kept

And those whom we miss from this life

Will be our companions once again.

In the hope of that great day

In the hope of Jesus.

AMEN

So point your endeavours in the direction of love

And point them in the direction of Jesus

And point them in the direction of hope

And point them in the direction of faith

And you point them in the same direction as the universe

And that labour is not in vain,

It lasts into new Creation.

And Jesus will come on clouds

And we will gather with him on his journey into the new creation

And what we have nurtured will be there

And what we have hoped for will be there

And what we have loved will be there

And he will say

Well done good and faithful servant

AMEN

Resurrecton – Metaphor or Miracle

14th April 2009

Implications of being able to say “He is risen indeed”

1. Your worth does not fluctuate (7 mins)

2. Your future is not at risk – the story of taps at Winston Churchill’s funeral

3. Your past is not unforgiveable – Charles Steinmetz from General Electric, who knew how to fix a machine

Two strategies that we have

1. Be perfect

2. The comparison strategy – we imagine that on the judgement day we find ourselves next to Saddam Hussein, but what happens if you are next door to Mother Teresa.

With possessions we tend to compare up, but with morality we tend to compare down

This is about a relationship, it is like we are engaged, but one day, there is going to be a wedding.