Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 1 April 2018 Easter Sunday with Holy Communion.

We pray:  Holy God, risen Lord, on the day we pray for your blessing as we hear your word to us – grant us ears to hear, hearts to be open and minds to seek your way for us.  In Jesus name. Amen

What a day it is!  Daylight saving ends, April Fool’s day – and Easter Sunday!  The last day that we had April Fools and Easter on the same day was in 1956 and the next time 2029.
I am guessing that the irony of this might well be spoken of from pulpits around the country and the world.  A sigh of relief at a natural ‘in’ to the sermon, you might say. You can use the story of the disbelieving Thomas, fed up with being caught by the jokesters and refusing to believe until it can be proven.  Of the doubting men who were his disciples – surely it can’t be true, of the women convinced but not convincing.
But as you start walking around this and other thoughts:
of the foolishness of an empty grave,
or the obvious hoax of a man supposedly beating death (and the laws of nature),
of God’s April fool’s joke actually being true,
you begin to wonder if there is actually another layer we need to think about.  You begin to wonder if the story of the resurrection is not actually the source of the foolishness of God – that it is instead the events of Good Friday.
Our disbelief, our shock that Jesus was subject to human pain and suffering, vulnerable to the whim of earthly vengeance and frustrated priests and rulers - surely this must be the hoax. God’s son, come to earth, weak and helpless in the cradle and on the cross.
Paul has some thoughts on this – when he first met Jesus it was on the road – we remember that story of the blinding light and the thunderous voice saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
Could it be that Paul (as he became) was more astounded by the foolishness of the thought that God could identify with persecution than the appearance of the resurrected Christ? That he had to turn his thinking completely upside down and realise that every time he threw people into prison, he was not just incarcerating those he considered fools but he was actually wounding God. 
That this God he thought he knew as cloaked in splendour, filled with heavenly light and powerful beyond comprehension was in fact one who knew what it was like to be subjected to complete humiliation, naked and bleeding on a cross. 
Paul writes to the church in Corinth about the foolishness of the cross and that it is in this foolishness that we find our hope.  That is where the joke lies, he says.  In the end, says Paul, ‘…we proclaim Christ crucified – a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.’[1]
The fundamental marker of Jesus identity lies in the events of Good Friday and is lived out through the miracle of resurrection.  Easter Sunday is the day of celebration of God with us, of hope reborn and salvation newly born in us through the humiliating events of Good Friday. 
We are an Easter people and ours is an Easter faith!

I would share the words of Joy Cowley – her poem ‘Good Friday’[2]

We do not call it Bad Friday
although, for the one who lived and died
the torture of that day
there would have been nothing good about it.
It was death by dishonour,
death by a pain so severe
that it filled all the spaced of thinking,
wrenching forth the cry,
“My God!  My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

This One, this Christ who used nature
to describe eternal truths,
who spoke of the cycle of the seasons
with images of grains of wheat,
fields, lilies, sparrows, grapes, figs,
fishes, sheep and flowing water,
this One was too steeped in agony
to remember that even the rarest flower
must die to produce a seeding.

But we who bear the gift
of his life and death and life,
call it Good Friday
and carry with us
the knowledge that in him,
all our crucifixions
are but our resurrections unborn.

We take a moments of silence and then we will come to the table that Jesus invites us to, in all our Good Friday and Easter Sunday experiences, for it is here that, in unity, we bear witness to the truth of the crucified and risen Lord.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

With thanks to Wesley Hill  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/march-web-only/easter-april-fools-divine-prank.html 

[1] 1 Corinthians 1: 23
[2] Good Friday  from ‘Psalms Down Under by Joy Cowley, p. 69