Posts tagged ‘Easter’

April 5, 2015

Easter Day

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Risen from the Dead

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

Matthew 28:1-10 (The Message)

April 3, 2015

Good Friday

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(Photo of the recent Solar Eclipse)

The Death of Jesus

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Luke 23:44-49 (ESV)


April 8, 2012

Night had become day, death had become life.

Welcoming the Sunrise

Easter Sunday, John 20:1-18

I suppose that Mary Magdalene thought that things could not get any worse. Her Lord had been brutally killed and the horror of it all was still very fresh in her mind. Like any of us who have lost someone close, she wanted to go to where the body was. We feel that if we can go to where our loved one is buried that somehow it will help, we cannot find the words to express our loss and our sorrow, the bleakness and finality of it all, but we think that just being there will help, and it does. Perhaps this is what is going through Mary’s mind; she knows Jesus is dead, she saw it happen, but if she can just be near where His body is, perhaps it will help. She probably has had very little if any sleep and so before the sun has even come up she makes her way to the tomb. As she nears the place where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid Jesus’ body to her utter dismay, she sees that the large stone in front of the tomb has been removed and she knows that this can only mean one thing, that Jesus’ body is no longer there. She runs, as fast as she can, on legs that will barely support her to Simon Peter and to John and she says:

> ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ (2)

Peter and John waste no time, the news that Mary Magdalen has told them requires an immediate response. I wonder what they are thinking, is it horror at the possibility of Jesus’ body being stolen or at this point is even just a chink of light and hope entering their thoughts? Everything is happening quickly now, Mary had run from the tomb to tell them, now Peter and John run back from where Mary had come. John, the younger of the two men reaches the tomb first, he is cautious and he stops at the entrance and peers inside, he sees the linen wrappings lying there, but does not go in to investigate. Then Peter arrives, perhaps puffing and panting and with no caution whatsoever runs straight into the tomb, he too sees the linen wrappings lying there and also the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself (7). John then lets go of whatever it is that is stopping him entering the tomb and he steps inside. Describing his own reaction he says:

> … ‘he saw and believed.'(8)

‘Believed what?’ We might say. Certainly John believed that Jesus was no longer dead. He had seen Lazarus raised from the dead and Jesus had given enough strong hints that He would die and be raised again too (Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22) and now it seems that even as the sun is beginning to rise on that first Easter morning that the light is dawning in John’s mind, that what is happening what was Jesus had been telling them all along, He really was going to be killed and He really was going to rise from the dead. We don’t know why but Peter and John decide to go back to their homes, perhaps it’s to tell the others, perhaps it’s just to try and take in the enormity of the fact of the empty tomb, but as they depart we see that Mary has returned to the place of the tomb once again. Any of us who have stood weeping at a grave will know how she felt, though how much more so if the body we had come to be near was no longer there and we thought it had been stolen? Through her tears, Mary sums up the courage to peer inside the tomb. Instead of darkness, instead of a place of death she sees light, two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been. One angel sits where Jesus’ head had been and the other where his feet once were. The angels speak to Mary saying:

> ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’

Mary replies:

> ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ (13)

Something makes her turn around and she sees a man standing there. She does not know who he is, she thinks he is the gardener. The man speaks to her, as the angels had already done, saying:

> ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ and then ‘For whom are you looking?’

Still thinking this man was the gardener Mary says:

> ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ (15)

The man says her name, ‘Mary!’ And now he is no longer just a man, it is Jesus, it really is Jesus! To one moment be in utter despair and in the next be in complete surprise and joy must have been overwhelmingly wonderful for Mary; one moment her world was in chaos, the pattern of her life in shreds and tatters and in the next moment it was utterly transformed; night had become day, hell had become heaven, death had become life.

All Mary can do is turn to Him and say, ‘Rabbouni, teacher’. She clings on to Him, overcome at all that has happened. He is alive! He is not dead! This is the happiest moment, the turning point of history, of his-story, ‘death (as the Apostle Paul would later describe it) has been swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15:54).

Yes, Jesus was alive, more alive than ever He was in His earthly body. Mary and the others would soon see that Jesus’ resurrected body was different; He could appear before them suddenly in a locked room and He was not a ghost because he could be touched and because he could eat and drink.

Jesus does not wish for Mary to cling on to Him for long, there is something that she needs to do. He says:

> … ‘go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘ (17)

Here is a new level of friendship; Jesus’ Father is their Father too, His God is their God. The same level of intimacy that Jesus has with His Father they can have too. He is their Daddy and they are His dear children.

Of course it is Mary who has the important job of telling the disciples, of bringing them the Good News of Jesus’ message. She goes to them and says:

> ‘I have seen the Lord’

Mary then tells them what Jesus had said. The wonderful thing here is that if someone in the first century had wanted to invent a story about people seeing the risen Jesus, they certainly would not have dreamed about giving the star part to a woman, let alone Mary Magdalene! (From Tom Wright, ‘John for Everyone’ (Part 2) SPCK 2002, p.146)

But there it is, a true story, but one where the ending has not yet been written because the end of the story is up to you. You are standing there with the others at the empty tomb, what do you do, how do you respond? Perhaps you were too busy thinking about lunch or wishing that you had not eaten so much chocolate already this morning, but don’t worry about that now, the risen Jesus is standing before you, as He spoke to Mary, He speaks to you. Listen as He calls you by your name… Let us respond to him now, let us pray:

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed that you have risen from the dead and that you would call my name. I feel so totally unworthy and unclean to even be near you, and yet I know that it was because of this, because of my sin that You chose to die. Lord, to say ‘thank you’ seems wholly inadequate, but I say it anyway, with all of my heart, “THANK YOU”. Help me off my knees Lord, help me to follow you, help me to love you, not just now this moment, but for always… Amen.

April 7, 2012

Joseph & Nicodemus

Good Friday - the shadow of the cross

Kilmalooda Easter Vigil, 7/4/12. John 19:38-42

Not long after I became a follower of Jesus, at the age of nineteen, my Mother gave me a small golden cross on a necklace as a present. I wore it every day, as a constant reminder to myself of what Jesus had done on the cross. One day at college, a fellow student noticed me wearing it and he asked me, ‘I see you are wearing a cross, does that mean you are a Christian?’ A perfectly normal question, but it suddenly dawned on me that I had told very few people about my becoming a follower of Jesus and for a brief moment I was faced with a choice; do I keep my faith a secret (in which case it would all be a sham) or am I willing to stand up and be counted as a believer in Christ? Thankfully, by the grace of God I found my voice and was able to reply, ‘Yes, I wear this cross because I am a Christian.’ It is not always easy to admit to being a follower of Jesus, as I have experienced many times since (and not always successfully) and no doubt many of you have also.

In our reading for this evening, two disciples of Jesus who had previously been afraid to show their allegiance to Him, come out from their hiding place and show, finally, that their faith really is genuine. Joseph of Arimathea, a respected leader in the Jewish council and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and also a member of the Jewish council come and bury Jesus’ body.

Joseph approaches Pilate and asks permission to take the Lord’s body away from the cross, and when the permission is given, he takes away the body. Nicodemus brings about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes and together they wrap Jesus body in the spices and in linen cloths and they place it in ‘a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid'(41). In Matthew’s gospel we learn that this tomb belonged to Joseph and that he had recently cut it out of the rock (Matt.27:60). It was then in this new tomb, in which no one had ever previously been laid that they left Jesus’ body.

What must have been going through Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ minds at this point? I suppose we can hardly imagine what they felt. But now, when all the other disciples have scattered and fled, the two followers of Jesus that will stand up are the ones that previously were too afraid to do so. Something has happened, something has changed these two men, turning them from cowards to bravehearts. They no longer care what other people think about them, their lives are in danger for what they are doing, but that no longer matters, Jesus comes first, giving Him a proper and honorable burial is what matters now, and that is what they do.

One of the things about Jesus is that there is no sitting on the fence; either we are for Him or we are against Him (Matt 12:30). There is no cosy middle ground where we can pick and choose, where we can walk with Jesus when we need Him to help us and abandon Him when everything is going well once more. He wants all of us all the time!

I pray that all of us this now this Easter would see things as they are more clearly. Even if only for a moment would we shut out all the distractions of our busy lives and let ourselves be carried in our minds and in our spirits to the foot of the empty cross? Let us look at the hard, rough and cracked wood, the dry, dusty soil splattered in blood and ask ourselves, ‘What does this mean to me?’ Would it not change your life forever if someone died for you like that, and how much more so if it was God’s own Son who died for you like that? Guess what, it’s really true, He did it, He really did, and He did it for you … Amen.

April 24, 2011

From despair to joy, grief to hope, darkness to light, death to life.

Early bird ...

Sermon for Easter Sunday.  Text John 20:1-18

The disciples were devastated because their Master, their friend and their Lord had been taken away from them in the cruellest fashion imaginable. He had been beaten and flogged, paraded through a show-trial and sentenced to an agonising death on a cross and hung there between two criminals. It was overwhelming for Jesus’s friends to see and experience this. Some of them ran away and deserted Him, some of them stood by and watched in horror at all that was taking place. As darkness descended it must have seemed that the sun would never shine again, that the world was over, evil had won and that all hope had gone. What little scraps of hope there were was found in the fact that at least they had Jesus’s body, disfigured through suffering but safe now inside a tomb, guarded by soldiers and sealed behind a giant stone. At least Jesus’s friends could go to the tomb, they could weep there, they could try and whisper a few dry, cracked words of prayer…

In John’s gospel, of the women that went to the tomb at dawn on the Sunday morning, the focus is on Mary Magdalene. This Mary doesn’t appear at all in John’s gospel until she stands at the foot of the cross with the other Mary’s, but what an important role she has now. To her shock and dismay she discovers that upon reaching the tomb that the stone which had sealed the entrance had been rolled away. She runs back to tell Peter and John and says to them:

‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ (2b)

On top of everything else that has happened this seems a very cruel blow – they have even stolen the Lord’s body… Peter and John get up and run to the tomb, with the younger John getting there first. John pokes his head through the entrance, with there now being enough daylight to see in and he sees the linen body wrappings lying there. Peter now comes in and true to form there is no waiting or beating-about-the-bush, he just goes right in and he sees the wrappings also, specifically noticing that the separate piece that had been around Jesus’s head was rolled up and apart from the other cloths. What a curious situation this is – if someone had gone to the trouble of taking the body, why had they bothered to unwrap it and even more than that why had they unwrapped it so neatly? It seemed unreal and impossible but perhaps there was an explanation, one that seemed so far-fetched but yet it was the one that Jesus had told them about several times before and that they had seen with their own eyes when Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Yes it had happened, really it had. John, referring to himself as ‘the other disciple’ declares this as the moment of belief. (v.8) Of course John had believed before, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, sent from God, but this was a whole new depth of belief, a new level of faith and maturity and trust and commitment. It is a bit like that for many of us; we may have been churchgoers all of our lives, we have a certain level of faith, of trust and belief, but then one Sunday perhaps a line of a hymn, some words said in prayer or something that the visiting preacher said spoke to us in a way that we knew it was God speaking to us and it opened up for us a whole new level of belief, faith and commitment; suddenly Jesus was more real to us than ever before and we wanted Him to change us, to forgive us more deeply than we had ever wanted before and He became to us, from that moment on, the most important Person in our life and living for Him then became not only the most important thing in our life, it became the whole point, purpose and meaning of our lives…

So the disciples return to their homes, but Mary stays, weeping. Her Lord is gone, why is He not there? Mary goes to look into the tomb and see for herself and she sees two angels sitting at either end of the place where Jesus’s body had been. The angels ask her why she is weeping and through her tears, Mary says:

‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ (13b)

Perhaps she sensed someone standing behind her, because Mary turns around and the man standing there, whom she does not recognise, says to her:

‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ (15b)

Mary thinks the man is the gardener and so she asks him if he has carried the body away and if he has, may she have it back. The man says to her ‘Mary!’ and at that point she knows. She clings to Him and calls him Rabbi, or teacher. She holds on to Him because she is so overwhelmingly happy to see Him – in the shortest of moments her tears of grief, darkness and despair, have become tears of utter joy, light and hope. Jesus says to her:

‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ (v.17)

There was now going to be a new and deeper relationship with Jesus. Notice how he asks Mary to go to ‘my brothers’ and how he refers to God as ‘your Father’ and ‘your God’. All the barriers had come down. Jesus had risen from the dead – death itself had been ‘swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15:54). A new depth of friendship, a new level of intimacy with Jesus was now possible. Because of what He had done, God the Father was now very much ‘Father’ to all of Jesus’s followers too; they could now be children of God and know God in the same way that Jesus did during His time on earth. Everyone who knocked on the door was now welcome into the Father’s house.

Perhaps that seems an impossible dream to you. You have patiently listened to the reading and all that has taken place in the service this morning but there is a barrier and you know it. But please listen to this, the stone in front of the tomb was seemingly an insurmountable barrier, not to mention the barrier of death itself and Jesus overcame them. Don’t you ever think that the barrier between you and God is an insurmountable one, God knows your life, He knows everything about you and everything you have ever done, but relax, He still loves you anyway and even more than that, He wants to forgive you and He wants to be your Heavenly Father and for you to know Him, love Him and know with every fibre of your being just how very very much He loves you, loves you so much that He gave His own Son to die for you in order that all the bad things you have ever done wrong would be forgiven. Imagine that, He did it all for you. Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, (thank you that I can call you that), I am so relieved that you know my life and everything that I have ever done and yet You love me anyway. I thought that you would just be angry with me, so I never really bothered to talk to you much before. But when I think of what you did for me through Jesus it blows me away that you would love me, even me that much. I don’t have much to give you Lord except to say that ‘I’m sorry’. I’m sorry for all the bad things that I have ever done and I ask you now to forgive me … Holy Spirit of God, I ask you to come into my heart, into the depths of my being and cleanse me, forgive me and change me. I thank you so much for Jesus, help me to walk in His way, in Your way now and for the rest of my life … Amen.

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Of great help in writing this sermon was Tom Wright’s Book, “John for Everyone” (Part 2), SPCK 2004. ISBN: 978-0-281-05520-3.

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April 21, 2011

In the quiet place

In the quiet place

Yesterday gave me an interesting and slightly uncomfortable insight into myself.  Those days before Easter Sunday, ‘Holy Week’ are perhaps the busiest days of the year; there is much to do in the way of visiting parishioners and preparing for the many services which take place.  It is hard to relax much during this season, though I have found that family time in the garden, whether it be kicking a ball around with my sons or just spending precious time with my better half in the late spring sunshine are great antidotes to the stress which inevitably builds up.

So I found myself at a clergy ‘Quiet afternoon’ yesterday, needing to be still, having to be quiet in the midst of the busiest week of the year.  I felt like a sailor trying to steer a ship in the middle of a storm and being asked to let go of the ropes (for a while) and sit down and do nothing.  ‘Preposterous’ my ego was telling me, ‘how could you do nothing at a time like this?’  It was very difficult at first to even sit still and my mind was swilrling with the maelstrom of all that still needs to be done, but slowly, gradually I averted my gaze away from the hectic busyness and focused for a brief but golden moment on what really matters and what it is all about.  Jesus.

This morning I remembered a song by Andy Park.  Perhaps I should listen to it more :-)

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness You are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait only for You
’Cause I want to know You more

I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing ownward, pushing every hindrance aside, out of my way
’Cause I want to know You more

April 4, 2010

Something about that foot

Detail from Stained Glass in the Church of the Ascension, Timoleague, Co. Cork
Nikon D70s, f4, 1/30 sec, ISO 200, 75mm equivalent

There’s something about that foot.  It was one of my first Sundays in Timoleague when I saw it.  The image seemed to jump out at me.  I even remember waking in the early hours of one morning with this image burning in my mind.  It’s the wound of course.  It is compelling, it says so much, it is so deep so clinically cut, so painful looking.  This is the bit that get’s me – it is my fault.  It is my fault that Christ had to be given those horrible wounds, more than that, that He willingly allowed those wounds in order to take the punishment that I deserve.  Such incredible love and amazing grace, what a Sacrifice, what a Saviour.  


Happy Easter.
March 30, 2010

Road behind and ahead

Nikon D70s, f25, 1 sec, ISO 200, 60mm equivalent
Holy Week is perhaps the busiest of the year.  There are lots of visits to be made to those in Nursing Homes and the Hospital and numerous housebound parishioners, most of which (I think) appreciate a visit in the days before Easter.  It is interesting how the run-up to Easter is done slightly differently in each parish.  I’m not the sort of person to say “We’ll do it my way”, I like to learn what has happened before and try to build on that (at least that’s in theory).  
I think back over the past five months since our arrival and I have learnt so much just simply by observing how things are done and have been done here.  My predecessor was (and is) a very gifted person and also a very thoughtful one.  He has left me really helpful notes on what was done before so now for example I can look at the Holy Week services from last year and not copy them but use them as a basis for this year also.  Over time things will change as we all learn and grow together on the Journey…  
For any that are interested in the photo, it was taken as I was driving (slowly and carefully) along the road past Kilmalooda church.  I had previously set up the camera the way I wanted it – an exposure of one second to give the blur and sense of movement and a polarising filter to enable the longer shutter speed.  Of course the result may look like a mistake but it is something akin to the image I had in my mind beforehand – like an impressionist painting.  
April 12, 2009

He is risen.

Sunrise, Co. Waterford 2005
Olympus C310, f3.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 50, 10mm

Alleluia! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!