18 January 2020
Anzac day is a day of sadness and remembering. We honour those who gave their lives and their courage and bravery. It is also a day of peace. We need reminding that peace is an active process, never to be taken for granted - just look at Iraq today- and that all of us are capable of terrible deeds. It is not a time for glorifying war - those days are long past
We see the picture of the war graves in faroff lands. Rows of white crosses, marking the graves of those who died, orderly in death after the chaos of war. Friend and enemy both with those white crosses. Some tended by those who were our enemies.
I wonder how many see those crosses? Really see? For some they say death - the end - no future. But if Easter is real, if resurrection is real it changes our perspective on life. There is more, there is a future. There is also a possibility of peace which is real and lasting.
The church has two stories to tell today, both are about the risen Jesus.
Thomas and that frightened group of disciples were in hiding. Jesus came to them, this embryo church, and Thomas asks the question. Maybe they all had wondered. Thomas didn't say they hadn't seen anything, he didn't even spell out what he didn't believe. What he wanted to know is this the real Jesus? He wasn't interested in a sanitised shiny clean God Jesus. He wanted to know if he was scarred. If this appearance had any connection with the blood and sweat of the real world.
He was met with the greeting, "Peace be with you," This peace was alive and breathing, the wounds were there which showed the journey through violence and Thomas was overcome, "My Lord and my God"
The reality of a brand new happening was slowly realised in stunned silence, in slow recognition and ecstatic joy. There is more than we know.
There is power in this story. In the week before Easter I had the great privilege of telling the Easter story to the group of young people on a course in this church during the week. Most had never heard the story before and as I told it I could sense the silence as they stopped moving round and became drawn into it. They listened intently. We often take for granted that people know about the risen Christ - most around us know nothing and it is our task to tell that story. How? Listen to the response in Acts
Here we find the Peace was not merely an absence of war, but a new way of living. The new community, Scripture says:
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Barbara Bundick [and I use a big chunk of her thoughts] writes the following
"A lot of thought has gone into understanding the picture of the early church that the author of Acts portrays. Often arguments about economic theory as to the merits of socialism, communism or captialism are brought up as a result of this.
The key does not lie in economic theory, but in the simple words, "great grace was upon them all." The early church was a community where everyone lived in the light of resurrection, the risen Christ was in their midst, in a world of fellowship and great grace.
The proof of our salvation does not lie in our own personal piety, but in the holiness of our fellowship, our community. This goes against our individualist understanding of our salvation. If people look at our church and say, "Great grace is upon them," we'll know we're on the right track.
Let's get rid of the idea that the early church was perfect because the people who were in it were perfect. Don't think that we human beings can somehow repent ourselves free of sin. We do far more damage to ourselves and others through perfectionism than through any other form of holy terrorism. We are flawed people. It comes with the territory.. We gossip about each other. We worry about things.
We can either humbly live with ourselves, fallible as we are, or we can lie to ourselves about it. The greatest spiritual temptation is to lie, and the more we lie, the more we trip over the reality of our lies. Every so often someone goes to start a new church - the one which is perfect as the others are not. Its people are going to avoid all the sins of whatever they are leaving. They are in fact assuming that their people are somehow less sinful than everyone else. The fallibility of human beings has been the downfall of every utopian community ever founded. The communities that survive the longest are the ones that expect people to be fallible. The ones that fail most quickly are the ones that assume humans can make themselves perfect.
In a world of imperfect human beings, we are asked to do the best with what we've got faults and all. And the good news is that Jesus takes us on as we are. Yes we are changed slowly but our perfection lies in Christ and not in ourselves.
Jesus did not come urging us to think about him or feel deeply about him, when he called disciples he didn't come seeking our disembodied spirits but asked us to join his way, a concrete reality of living with and among other people.
If all of us in this congregation live in complete confidence of resurrection light, then all of us in this parish will enjoy each other more, warts and all. We would love each other, sacrifice for each other, enjoy each other -- which, to a certain extent we already do. We may not be as obviously grace-filled as the early church, but as congregations go, we do show God's love in some measure.
Today and during the following weeks we will be talking about who we are as church and seeking what God is calling us to do and be in this city.
If we are a community of the resurrection we will be passionate in our caring and have tensions and stresses. We can risk honesty and find resolution. Closeness itself gives the opportunity to have the rough spots knocked off and true unity to happen. [peace]. This is a picture of peace not just for the church but for the world.
The church is a community which demonstrates by its actions and living what the risen Christ means to the world. If we walk in the light of resurrection, great grace will surely be upon us. and we see each other with fresh and loving eyes, and it is enough. "
That is real life, and real unity and it is only by God's grace, not by our own goodness, that we are the living breathing evidence that God has not abandoned the world. We are a people being remade to share God's love.
the reading from Acts goes on
And so it was that Joseph whom the apostles called Barnabas, the encourager, sold a field he owned brought the money and handed it over to the apostles - now why should he do that?
Its been done for 2000 years, its been done ever since and is being done here today. The opposite of war - open communities, gathered by Christ who worship together, who share with one another, who respect and trust one another and where no one is in need.
When we see the white crosses and remember the pain, the deaths we also see with new eyes that those crosses are empty. For Jesus still goes before us and lives and there is a new beginning an active peace, which overcomes even death. And we, the church are the sign of that newness
Remind us O God that "Church isn't our hard work, or earnest effort, our long range planning or heavy duty giving. Church is your gift, a visitation, an intrusion of the Living Christ standing among us.
May the risen Christ break into our locked rooms, that we can receive peace, the Holy Spirit, mission and forgiveness and continue to make us his church." Willemon
Breath on us breath of God and fill us with new life.
Sermonshop Note #3892 from BARBARA BUNDICK
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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