Easter Sunday Year A (2) 2008

A Church for different kinds of believers

Sermons year A

There are probably three kinds of people here today:

- those who are like the ‘beloved disciple’, who saw the empty tomb and the grave clothes, and immediately believed that Christ had risen;

- those who are like Mary Magdalene, who need to experience being called by name by the risen Christ, before they will believe he is not dead but alive;

- those who are like Peter and the other disciples:   their reaction seems to have been more uncertain at first, and they needed convincing that Jesus was alive.

So what was it that convinced the disciples that Jesus had risen?  

              - no body was ever found.    Was it stolen?   but if it had, those who had stolen it would surely have produced it, to show that Jesus was truly dead.   There had been soldiers guarding the tomb, moreover.

              - there were several appearances of the risen Christ to the disciples – including to ‘500 of the brethren’, as St. Paul puts it.

              - the risen Christ came to the disciples in various ways and at various times:   in a room when the doors were locked; on the road to Emmaus; on the shores of Lake Galilee.

              - the disciples were turned from being frightened and downcast to confident proclaimers of the gospel – by being convinced that Christ had risen.

A Church needs all the three kinds of people listed above:

1.            those who believe without questioning, and who are ready to take everything on trust;

2.            those who respond most to the feeling of being loved by God, known personally to him, called by

              their name by him;

3.            those who search more deeply for the answers .. who aren’t persuaded by glib or simplistic

              statements, who want to know that their faith can be squared with their experience of life and their

              understanding of the world around them.

It is interesting to see, when we consider the beloved disciple (who may have been John), Mary Magdalene, and the other disciples, that all these three kinds of people were present in the Early Church.   Remember also that it took the church quite a long time to realise the full implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection.   Initially, the apostles began by preaching which was based on their conviction that he had risen; that he had sent the Holy Spirit; that God forgave the sins of all those who turned to him; and that the kingdom of God was open to all, not just the people of Israel.   Only later did the church understand fully that Christ’s death and resurrection also atoned for the sin of the world, that he died for us and for all people.

So even if you don’t feel that you are very far along the Christian road; even if you feel like the man who said “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”; even if you are like doubting Thomas and want the evidence – don’t feel disheartened.   Allow the joy, the hope, the new life which we celebrate today to resonate within you; to remind you that death is not the end, and that – as St. John said – “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life”   Amen.  

Christopher Harrison