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Why is the resurrection a thing of joy? (In a nutshell sermon)

April 15, 2018

It’s quite a personal question. Nathan asked for the nutshell version. So I will try and answer it personally and briefly. Why is the resurrection a thing of joy for me?

I think Nathan is exactly right about that word ‘joy’. For me the resurrection is a deeply sustaining thing. Something I keep coming back to. But it wasn’t always so.

When I was young it wasn’t so much a thing of joy. It was more a kind of proof. If you could give good historical reasons to believe in the stories of the New Testament. Then you could prove that Jesus rose from the dead and somehow put the Christian faith on good standing in the modern world (the mid to late 20th century modern world). So in those days it wasn’t so much about joy as it was about intellectual security. Which I think is a sad thing.

Sad because there is no proof. The whole exercise is fatally flawed… a waste of time. Sad because the whole impact that the resurrection had on the world (the joy at its core which motivates my faith) was lost in this desperate exercise driven by fear.

I wasn’t there for those first resurrection experiences. None of us were there. We don’t have direct access. It’s always indirect. And yet it still gives us joy. It somehow resonates deeply with other experiences.

How so? How does that work?

What I have is a rumour … a strange and entrancing rumour which has come down through history through my family, through the community of the church. A rumour of unbelievably good news. A rumour that can be summed up in one short sentence. God is like Jesus.

Now that needs quite a bit of unpacking really. If I had all day … I should probably unpack the word ‘God’ and I should probably unpack the name ‘Jesus’ and I should probably say a whole lot more about ‘is like’

But perhaps there is enough there in this simple sentence for us to catch a glimpse of the joyful thing. That the universe, not a random collection of movements and atoms, but the universe which has its source in God, that universe has a direction. It has a grain to its movement, and the grain of the universe (and of God’s life) goes through the life of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s life is expressed in the life of Jesus. God is like Jesus. I think that phrase is worth a lifetime of meditation – especially considering the various versions of God floating around.

So I invite you to take a moment to reflect on this sentence and what it might mean to believe it with your whole heart. To let your sense of God be defined by the person of Jesus and how he lived his life. Because that’s what the resurrection says to us.

Self-donation… what a beautiful idea! Jesus of Nazareth gave himself to those abandoned by the world. He gave himself into the jaws of politics and religion. And as he hung naked and nailed he prayed to God, to God he knew as the ‘giver’. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The question is: Did God answer that prayer do you think?

The rumour is … that the answer was a decisive Yes. That the raising of Jesus is God’s answer to that prayer from the cross. The resurrection of Jesus is not just an event that doesn’t fit in the ways of the physical universe as we know it. Much more important than that … it is itself an act of forgiveness by God.

In the resurrection God gives Jesus back (not just gives him back his own life in a new way), but gives him back to us. The ‘self-donation’ of Jesus didn’t end with his death. In the resurrection God gives again Jesus to those who abandoned him and those who killed him. God confirms God’s own life lived out in Jesus life. But again he does so by giving it to them. God gives them a new way forward. Forgives them. So they too can pay it forward, this self-donation. Resurrection comes first to the disciples and then through them to all of us who would join a crowd and take lives from others (whether it be unborn children, slave labourers in asia, people in Afghanistan living in the sights of drones, or just people we don’t like at work). However, we take life from others… all of us too can experience forgiveness.

After all, God is like Jesus. God is with us. God is for us. That same wild spirit that animated Jesus, starts to animate his disciples and those who hear this rumour.

God is like Jesus all the way down. The universe is not just a place where there are many possible ways to live – and you get to chose one. The universe is a place where there is a good way to live… a truly good way to live.

And the rumour, which, once you have heard it deeply, just has to be true, the rumour is that the wild Spirit of the living Jesus will empower you and me to come to live this life of God too, in our work, in our homes, in our living and in our dying.

The rumour is, that death itself has been disempowered. Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

 

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