SERMON 1ST MAY 2011
By Rev. Fei Taule’ale’ausumai Davis
The Peace of Christ be with you all… These were the words that Jesus greeted his disciples within that closed room.
We didn’t need to be in attendance in London at Westminster Abbey to believe that Kate Middleton would make a beautiful bride, and perhaps we don’t need to know much about Prince William and Princess Katherine to know that the look they gave each other on their wedding day was one of “true love” of course the royal skeptics all have their own opinions. I found it very interesting to flick between tv1 and tv3 and I found TV 1 via BBC transmission very respectful and pro-royal family, whereas I found tv3’s commentary a little sarcastic and cynical at times and for me it was not something I was in the mood for on this special day. I think for a lot of the world they just all wanted to see “a dream come true for this special couple.” We have all grown up with the ‘…and they lived happily ever after’ and for many it was nice to see something of a fairytale coming true.
We’ve all heard the phrase “seeing is believing” or we sometimes rush in from witnessing something spectacular and begin with a negative, we say, “you won’t believe what I just saw” or if we have seen a blast from the past we say, “you’ll never guess who I just bumped into?” That happens a lot in my family and the response is always “oh wait don’t tell me, and we begin a process of elimination, often with Helen she will guess straight away. Isn’t it funny though when we say, “oh, you’ll never guess who I bumped into today”; we don’t really want them to guess - we can’t wait to blurt out their names because we can’t wait to tell them who we saw?” Why do we say, you won’t believe who I saw today. The other extreme is “as God is my judge I tell you that I saw... and I’ve lived to tell the tale” incredulous events are often accompanied with sensationalism because there is room for doubt and disbelief.
I wonder if that is how it was when the women returned from visiting Jesus’ tomb “you’ll never guess who we bumped into today?” I wonder if they would have known straight away that it was Jesus or would they have said “who?” thinking that Jesus was not going to fulfill what he said he would do. I remember a Samoan colleague in ministry telling me that when his father died he had recently joined a type of cult and his friends and everyone were happy after his dying because they really believed that he was going to rise again on the third day, they sang and prayed around his body and waited patiently for the third day when he would against all odds come back to life. Wow it happened to Lazarus, it happened to Jesus, and so therefore it can happen to him. After all, isn’t this what eternal life is all about, isn’t this what it means to live forever? Do you want to know what happened? Nothing, he stayed dead.
I know as a child I used to wonder why people still died after I was told that becoming a Christian meant that we would live forever, why then are we burying this person in the ground, how are they going to get out if we put dirt on top of them. Did you used to think this too?
So what does this eternal life look like? How do we know that it really exists? Has anyone come back to tell us that this is actually true? On Friday mornings on the Good Morning show they usually have a television psychic come on TV to answer questions that viewers have about loved ones who have ‘passed over’, to use their terminology, and I sit there eating my breakfast wondering how on earth they can just click into to where this lost spirit is hovering. How is it that this psychic can tune into the loved one of someone who has just phoned into the television studio? Is there a waiting queue of spirits hoping that their loved ones will ring in to ask for them in the next ten minutes? That is what doubt is to me, that is how I sound when I doubt something. We all doubt a lot of the time depending on what the situation is. I wonder if I will get a rise this month? I doubt it. I wonder if I will win lotto next week, I doubt it. I wonder if I will get shouted lunch today after church, I hope so?
We often assume the answers before we arrive. We know from personal experience that certain things are not going to happen for us, and yet every week some of us still buy that lotto ticket because you just never know. We live and we hope, we pray and we wish for good things for one another, for ourselves and for our families, and especially for our children. We wish that life was not about guessing and hoping, we wish that we could predict and know how our lives and our futures will pan out. We live in hope that all will be good, and we live and trust that whatever life dishes out to us, we will cope, and we will get through it. Romans 8:28 says: “all things work together for good for those who trust in God”. And one of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” These famous verses give us hope and strength on a daily basis to get us through the uncertainties and mysteries of life. Even if we doubt and are unsure then our faith helps get us through.
Imagine, missing one Sunday, and coming back to hear “Guess who showed up while you were gone?” Would you believe it? You’ll never guess who I bumped into today? Jesus! The women at the tomb seemed to have forgotten the “punch line”: that Jesus told them he would rise after three days. It took the angels to remind them of that rather important detail. And then when they ran back to tell the disciples, the men didn’t believe them! And Mary in the garden: she thought he was the gardener
And today we hear of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples: who were huddling in fear behind locked doors!
The risen Christ came to his disciples in the midst of their turmoil and fear; they were having a major crisis. He came in the midst of their doubt and their sense of having failed both him and their own selves and said to them: "Peace be with you."
Can we find him in the midst of our crisis? Can you see him here in our community? The vulnerability of Christ can be found all around us, we meet the vulnerable Jesus in ourselves as well. In our Gospel reading Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds. And when he said this he showed them his wounds - the holes in his hands and in his side -
The risen Christ is a reminder to us that death no longer has dominion over him. Our suffering although real and very painful through Christ and because of Christ no longer has dominion over us.
Easter is not just a time for day celebrating Jesus death and resurrection it is a way of life, not just 40 days of lent and 50 days of Easter but a lifestyle that we choose to live as followers of Christ.
Our walk of faith is a journey fraught with uncertainties, mystery and fear of the unknown, we live in hope, we live in trust that our doubt is overcome through the certainty of God with us. Our journey towards eternity is a step of faith that we just believe in because there is a peace that passes all our understanding and a presence that reminds us constantly that in our doubt and our fear Jesus reminds us time and time again, “Lo I am with you even unto the end of time”.
I want to close with this poem by Helen Mallicoat some of you might already be familiar with it: It is called “I am.”
I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
"My name is I AM"
I waited. He continued,
"When you live in the past
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I WAS.
When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.
When you live in this moment
it is not hard. I am here,
My name is I AM."
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April 2011 to June 2012