Sermon on Easter Day 2015
Revd Chris Newlands, Vicar of Lancaster
We are God’s people
Humanity has been created in God’s own image to be his people, set in a world of beauty and wonder and shared with the myriad wonders of creation in the seas and in the skies, as well as on the land – and humanity over all this created order is entrusted with the wisdom and knowledge to preserve God’s creation, though humanity is also the species which has the potential to destroy it.
We are God’s Easter people
Through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead to live and reign in God’s kingdom, we – and all humanity – have been raised from the death of sin to the eternal life of those who put their trust in God through Christ our Redeemer. The tendency to disobedience of women and men everywhere is known and understood by God as he, incarnate as Jesus Christ, has known what it is to live an earthly life with its joys and sorrows, and as God’s Easter people, we are forgiven and redeemed through Christ’s wonderful gift to the world.
We are God’s Easter people now
Humanity has been around for a very long time, though that is only a tiny fraction of the earth’s history, and every generation – of every race, tongue, and creed has been a child of God. For two thousand years since the first Easter, countless millions have willingly embraced the faith in Christ Jesus and become His Easter people. They have built churches, schools, and hospitals, and have cared for people throughout the twenty centuries of the Christian era. They have also been aggressive warlords and caused untold suffering in their forced baptisms of native tribes in South America, or the violence of their Crusades in the Middle East, shattering for ever the peaceful co-existence of Jew, Christian, and Muslim. For good and for ill, God’s people have made an impact on the world we have inherited. But they are gone now, and will have received their judgment from their God. We cannot judge them for their world was very different from our own. But their actions have formed the present world’s fragile global relationships, and we, the present generation, have to play our part in the relay-race of creation, holding the baton for a short space of time. Only we can do things NOW, in this our present. As God’s Easter people in the present time, in our own generation, we have to take responsibility for doing all we can to listen to the still small voice of God calling us to be his Easter People now.
We are God’s Easter people here
With a whole world-full of God’s Easter People, it would be very easy to shirk responsibility, as there must be billions of people round the world to take the responsibility of being God’s people in the world today. There are Popes, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops everywhere… But right here right now, it is we who are the Body of Christ in this place. We are God’s Easter people for the here and now. No-one else is going to take that responsibility away from us, and no-one else is going to do what God’s Easter people are called to do. That is why we are all commissioned to be active in God’s service when we begin our Christian journey at our baptism. No-one else can do what has been entrusted to each one of us.
We are God’s Easter people with all that we are
Each one of us is an individual, made up of our influences, our history, the external things that have happened to us, and the things we have done which affect others. That is what it means to be human. And of course, each one of us is unique. No one before has been through what we have been through – and no one after us will go through exactly what has been our life and experience. That is why the contribution of every individual is vital to the wholeness of our shared life as the family of the church in this place. And that is what makes our Priory Family so special, because of all the many and varied gifts that are gathered here today, and day by day, Sunday by Sunday throughout the year. We are enriched by every new member who comes to be part of our family, and we are lessened when we lose one of our members – indeed this week, we were saddened by the news that one of our regular church members, David Griffin died on Good Friday. A quiet faithfulness was the mark of his presence with us week by week, and those knew him well will be grieving the loss of a wise and faithful friend – and we, his wider church family, are also lessened by his death. But today is about Resurrection – and we know that death is not the end of our story, and as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead today, we can be confident that David is worshipping alongside us today, though in the much nearer presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
But as we are the poorer for the loss of a friend, we are also the richer when a new member joins our fellowship and worships alongside us, and begins to play a part as a family member alongside us, with new gifts which add to our life and the wholeness of our community.
We are, of course, also thinking about our friends and brother, Joel, who is presiding at our service today, and who will be moving on this week to his new home in Rochester, and the new responsibility he begins in just two weeks’ time, as Vicar of Rochester. We are, of course, sorry to be saying “Farewell”, just four years after we were first introduced to him as our new curate before his ordination. 4 years is a very short time, but what Joel has brought us in his time with us – his teaching, his friendship, his gentle presence, his wisdom, and above all – his laughter! – will be remembered and cherished by many who have come to know him and appreciate all his gifts – for many years to come. And I hope that the many lives he has been privileged to share in, and those stories will have equipped him well for the task that lies ahead of him in his new ministry.
Our ministry will continue, of course, for it does not ultimately depend on curates – or even vicars – we all come and go; it is the whole people of God in this place who maintain its ministry by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, and those who are called to minister here are also ministered to by others.
Over the last few weeks we have been seeking to strengthen the bonds of friendship among God’s Priory People here in this our parish. Over 200 people of all ages, from our younger members to those who have been a part of the church for many years, have met in coffee parties, and have considered what it means to be a part of the Priory People. This has been the beginning of a new chapter in our life as we seek to get to know one another even better, and share the amazing giftedness which we have here among our church family. we will shortly be hearing more of what that has meant from those who were directly involved in running the Priory People – we all owe them a huge debt of thanks for the unstinting work that has been done over the last months to make this a transformative experience for us, the Priory family.
So, on this Easter morning, we give thanks that God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead calls us to be his Easter People, here and now, with all our wonderful eccentricities, our talents, our gifts, our resources, our challenges, our joy in fellowship, and our unity in the faith of Jesus Christ our crucified, and risen Lord.