Sermon: the Risen Christ and the Community of Faith.
Many years ago I was on holiday on Lundy Island….. a small island that straddles the Bristol Channel between Wales and England. It was in the days when I was young and foolish and would try anything. (Now you might say that I am old and foolish.) Lundy Island is a rocky island and I met there a small group of rock climbers. They invited me to join them in climbing the derelict lighthouse. When I accepted the invitation I was thinking of the view to be had at the top. However, there was one small matter which became alarming. They had forgotten to mention that most of the internal staircase had collapsed and that we climbing the outside of the lighthouse!! Until then the highest thing I had climbed was the kitchen table in order to change the light bulb. So my eagerness to get a view left me hugging a lighthouse many feet off the ground, and on a ledge about three inches wide. I had to trust my new friends. After some heart-in-mouth moments and a lot of perspiration I got to the top. We cheated a bit because part way up we climbed through a broken window and used the staircase which was useable from that point. What we do for a view!
Through this Eastertide our thoughts have been on the Risen Christ, and now our view is extended as we move towards the Ascension. I wish to step back and get a larger view. Let us look again at the resurrection appearances, and then look at the presence of the Risen Christ in our community of faith.
Thinking of those resurrection appearances, the Risen Christ was experienced by people in different ways. I believe that the Risen Christ was recognised when he met a fundamental need. Let us take a long view on three incidents. (i) Firstly, two weeks back our Gospel was the Road to Emmaus. It was about Jesus applying pastoral care and presence to two disciples in grief. Only in the last moment did they recognise Jesus: He had met their need for healing, and for restoration of faith. (ii) Secondly, the disciples in the locked room. They were afraid. They needed Jesus to restore their faith and dispel their fear. Jesus met this need and gave them peace. (iii) Thirdly, Mary Magdalene was in the garden, she was bereft of the close relationship she enjoyed with Jesus, her “soul mate”. The relationship was restored when Jesus said one word, her name. Each time I read the account of Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb, I try to work out how to say “Mary”. How does one convey this name with deep compassion and concern? How does one say “Mary” in a way that dissolves all the grief in an intimate friend? How does one say “Mary” in a way that re-establishes a tender relationship? Mary needed all that and Jesus met the need. The Risen Christ was experienced y people in different ways but every time it met the person’s fundamental needs.
That same Risen Christ who came to those early disciples comes to every community of faith. The Risen Christ comes to be in the midst of our community of faith here at St.Alban’s. How will we know that the Risen Christ is in our midst? How will those outside the community know? We will know when the spiritual needs of others are met; we will know when people regain hope and purpose; we will know when people accept forgiveness
People will know the Risen Christ is here when we put others before ourselves. The Vestry was accepted the principle of giving ten per cent of income to mission, and humanitarian agencies beyond the Church boundaries. The Vestry has decided to give one thousand dollars to the East Africa and South Sudan Famine Appeal from a separate fund. As we are motivated by the Risen Christ who sacrificed himself for us, so we make a sacrifice, putting others before ourselves. And those outside our community of faith will know we are different for the Risen Christ is with us. Those outside our community may be inspired by our life and what we do. Our actions can reveal new vistas, and make people think. It is a question of healing, self-less actions, and inspiration.
The Risen Christ met the needs of his disciples, and the same Risen Christ is in our midst. Others will see the quality of our ethical and pastoral life by the sacrifices we make. In today’s Epistle reading, Peter said:
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
While the Risen Christ is with us we can make real our empowerment and do even greater things. Jesus said this quite clearly when he was talking to the disciples in the last days. From today’s Gospel account:
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
In the next verse:
“I will do whatever you ask in my name”.
The show does not come to an end with the Ascension. The curtain rises on a new period in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Shortly after the Resurrection, people met the Risen Christ and He satisfied their fundamental and deepest needs.
Today, as a community of faith we are motivated by the Risen Christ to sacrifice and we affect the lives of people around us with healing and inspiration.
Looking forward, we are empowered with hope and vision to do even greater things.
There is no need to climb a lighthouse……… in fact, as they say: do not try this at home. The view is closer at hand, the Risen Christ is near and He has given us the vision of a Kingdom to come……. A Kingdom that is within us.