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The way the Resurrection lies

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter


What reasons do people have to tell lies?


You might lie to protect yourself or you might lie to gain something.


Of course, it’s right to lie to the Nazi police if you’re hiding Anne Frank in your house. In that sort of circumstance, you need to be quite clear that you are protecting someone from Evil. If you’re lying to protect your reputation or from receiving punishment for doing something wrong, then this is clearly an offence.


What might you gain from lying? By and large, people lie in order to gain something of value to them. You might lie to gain riches, or to gain power over someone, or to gain fame. Fame, of course, is nothing if it doesn’t come with either riches or power attached.


So then. Are the Disciples lying when they say that they have seen Our Lord? Is St Paul lying when he says that he has seen Jesus?


[PAUSE]


Many people would say that the New Testament is based on the lies of the Disciples. If that’s true, then what do the Disciples hope to gain? What would they hope to achieve? Most of them carry their belief in the Resurrection of Our Lord to pretty horrible deaths. St Paul, for example, loses his reputation, his powerful position among the Pharisees in the Synagogue, his stability, his health, his freedom, and finally his head. If he’s telling lies, then they are very costly indeed!


Surely, the most likely circumstance is that St Paul is telling the truth. If he’s right then we should hear what he says.


For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.


We have here St Paul testifying to the fact that more than five hundred people have seen Jesus alive after the crucifixion, and he includes himself in that.


[PAUSE]


We have to be quite clear with ourselves. The New Testament is written to testify of an historical fact, not a myth, nor a fable nor nice bedtime story. If we were given access to the TARDIS then we can expect to be among those who see Jesus alive following His death.


Of course the world will doubt us. In general, people do not rise from the dead. This is why we fear death. Yet we have eyewitness statements that see this happening which is why this is a unique account. We don’t have to apologise for this. The facts are clear: Christ has risen indeed. By “indeed”, again, we hear a statement of fact. This is no ghost, nor hallucination, nor dream, nor spiritual revelation. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead in His body. We have handled Him, touched Him and embraced Him. Try putting your arms around an idea!


But we do live in an increasingly sceptical society. This is only natural since the Resurrection is two millennia distant in Time. The fact is that the effects of this Resurrection are still here today. As Jesus tells us, He has come to bring a sword that will divide people. People will either believe in His bodily resurrection from the dead or they won’t. This is what separates the Church out in Society. If we believe in the Resurrection then we do have to come out from living a life that denies it.


Too often, the sword of Jesus’ words divides our very selves as we say one thing and do another. The Resurrection of Jesus calls us out of our unbelief into the New Jerusalem. This division comes about when we live a lie rather than the truth. The monk is always a monk. He is not sometimes a monk and sometimes not depending on whether he is walking in the cloister or down the high street. The Christian is always a Christian, not someone who says she believes in the Resurrection and then lives her life as if there is no resurrection from the dead for her. If there is no resurrection, then St Paul has given up everything for nothing and so have we.


Jesus is the way resurrection lies. Blessed are all those who commit themselves to this fact.

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