Sermon - 27 March 2016 Easter Day

Sermon for Easter Day - 27 March 2016, Westbourne Church

Words from the final verse of Psalm 27.
"O tarry and await the Lord's pleasure; be strong and he shall comfort your
heart; wait patiently for the Lord."

How good are we at waiting? As children how long it seems until that
wonderful morning of our birthday when all the attention will be for us.
I have always enjoyed my birthday even more than Christmas because I did
not have to wait long for it to appear. No sooner had the decorations and
Christmas delights  been packed away my birthday loomed on the horizon.
I hardly had time to breathe and there it was. But oh the despondency on
the following day, all that waiting began again, and why oh why did I have
to be born in January, when all my friends could have their parties outside
in May or June.

"Everything comes to those who wait." was one of my mother's favourite
phrases, one I remember well as it applied so often to me. I was and still
am a wishing person, wishing for the most mundane to wishing for the moon.
The most mundane can sometimes be managed, but the moon takes a little
longer. The wish for the "Lord's pleasure" takes a little longer too. It
must first be working out what that pleasure is, or if you like, His wish
for us and our lives. Jesus, in his agony in the Garden accepts that His
Father's will for Him is to suffer agonizing death for the sake of the
world and each one of us.  What a hard acceptance that must have been.
Jesus says, in Matthew 26.v39 " Yet not what I want, but what you want." 

After the events of Good Friday, a means of death that we would
look on as barbaric today, the writers of the Gospels leave Jesus there in
the tomb, and we wait. It is very important this waiting, this time when
God was not in the world. It is almost like an indrawn breath that you
can't exhale.  We are waiting for the Lord's pleasure, and for this we have
to be strong.  Just think of the disciples, huddled together in the house,
wondering what on earth to do next. Desolate. The desolation too of Mary,
witness to her son's death, someone she had born and nurtured through a
controversial life. Her path had never been easy either, not since the
days she had learnt from the angel of God's will for her. Yet she had
waited too, waited patiently throughout all those years, for it to come to
this. How strong did all these people have to be, how easy it would have
been for all of them to get as far away from Jerusalem as they could, to
flee in the night.

How do we wait in desolation? Do we wait for the wish of the Lord to
be known in our hearts, or do we flee into the night, blindly without
thought. Even worse do we even bother to ask our Lord's pleasure. There
are many forms of human desolation, when the end of the road is reached,
when the darkness closes in all around. They come sometimes too when we
cannot predict, just when we think we're fine and have coped wonderfully
well with this or that and are busy patting ourselves on the back, wham,
we're right back where we started again.  Do we wait then, and how long?

The desolation in the lives of the disciples was, in actual time not
long. On the morning of that first Easter Day imagine their joy when
greeted by an ecstatic Mary Magdalene telling of their risen Lord.  Their
beliefs were whole again, God had comforted their heart, and brought them
joy.

How long each one of us waits to truly know the will of God is
personal to ourselves, as is what brings us close to Him and ask for his
guidance.  Some may know Him through joy, some through the deepest
desolation, or the Dark Night of the Soul.  We must come close to Him
through prayer, it is by this alone that he wills us to be His, by this
that we learn our comfort and our strength.  This power transforms the
lives it touches through us, His instruments in the world.

In the television programme "Waiting for God" that wonderful character
Diana transforms lives by refusing to be anything other than herself, a
feisty determined lady with a mind of her own.  Diana is waiting for God
in her own way, just as we wait, with hope, in ours.

Easter Day dawns and the waiting is over, that is, the waiting for the
next chapter in the story. 

We know now of God meeting us in our joy or in our desolation, being
buried in it and rising victorious from it.  We are caught up in the life
of God and if we are diligent and stay with him we remain aware of his
presence with us.  That is the good news we as Christians are called by God
to proclaim.

It is a many faceted news item. Good news, is food, justice,
recognition, love, health.  But first it is the knowledge that we are
accepted by God as his as we are and that he will help us to turn and be
like him. We can see him in Jesus and the desolation of the world after
Good Friday has taught us a quality of waiting which is holy anticipation.

We are called by God to proclaim this good news, that God met us in
Jesus when we had wandered away from him and by his action draws us back
giving us life again, afresh and intense. We might ask how we can do this.
Few of us are any good at standing on street corners and if the example of
the people who stand at the corner and preach in Slough High Street is
anything to go by people would probably cross the road to get out of the
way.

We worry when we have to speak don't we. Perhaps we worry too much.
That's one reason why I have been 'heavy' about the All-Age events we have
been running over the last few years.  Getting next to someone and
discovering with them is a great way of passing on your faith and you may
not talk much at all.  And if you do find yourself being asked an awkward
question by a child you have to buckle down and answer it as best you can.
And where you fail you may just make a convert. There's plenty of examples
of holy failure in the NT.

St. James makes the point in his epistle that 'faith without works is
dead.'  A major part of our proclamation is in the way we live our lives;
how we accept people, what we offer to the community we live in -
especially those who do not yet share our faith. 

"O tarry and wait the Lord's pleasure;" the opportunity will come to
you and the Holy Spirit will show you how. All you need do is to put
yourself in the way. 

These words were once written to me by a friend shortly after we had
both been ordained and were making the alarming discovery that the job we
had taken on is impossible (for us as individuals that is!). "The grace
of Holy Orders, Father. What a wonderful thing it is!  To think that this
confusing mass of self-centred, neurotic, timid rude angry impulses can
actually be used for the glory of Almighty God and for the salvation of the
world.  It is a staggering thought." He goes on to quote St. Paul, "we
have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power
belongs to God and not to us."

Proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ is in the ordinariness of
our lives, the joys and the desolations, the ordinary meetings with our
fellow human beings, sharing our rudeness and timidity, being prepared to
say, "I don't know." We might have to do some work on understanding bits
of the faith but that can be done easily enough, it only takes the desire
to do so.

The greatest tool we have at our disposal is our faithfulness. Right
at the end of his epistle St. James writes," Are any among you suffering?
They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and
have then pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up;
and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your
sins to one another, so that you may be healed.  The prayer of the
righteous is powerful and effective."

That is being the Church proclaiming the good new of Jesus Christ.

 

© 2016 Frank Wright


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