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Sermon for after Easter

Sermon for Easter Morning The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

It’s not about us…

The reading from Acts comes from a passage where we’ve just heard that there is peace and growth in the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria.  (Acts 9 v 31)

Peter is going around and has just healed a man, Aeneas, who has been bedridden for 8 years in a place called Lydda.

When the people who lived there, and in Sharon nearby, saw the healed man they ‘turned to the Lord’.

The people in Joppa, which is close to Lydda, hear of this and when Tabitha gets ill and dies, they understandably call for Peter to come, which he does.

Peter’s actions and words are very similar to those of Christ when he raised Jairus’ daughter, sending people out of the room, and speaking to the dead person.

Jesus said ‘Talitha koum’, ‘little girl get up’, Peter says Tabitha, get up.   It’s clear that the disciples are continuing to do and say what they saw and heard Jesus do.  And the outcomes are no less startling.

Just as when Aeneas was healed and many believed, so the same thing happened here when Tabitha/Dorcas was healed, many people believed in the Lord.

These incidents show to us that although the growth of Christianity tales place through human instruments, in this case Peter, on a deeper level it is no less than the work of the Holy Spirit, which Christ gives to all believers and is the power behind any growth.

It is by the divine power of the Spirit that Peter was able to perform such miracles.

Today, the church and any growth that takes place through a variety of human instruments, and how these people speak and act, but it is the power of God through the Holy Spirit who is at work when others are attracted to Christ.  That is the Spirit that Christ pours out on all His disciples, then and now. 

It’s not about who we are, but who Christ is and why it’s was so infuriating for the Jews that Jesus would not say plainly who he was for them.

Interesting that John says it was winter.  A time of coldness, a time of frozen hearts of those who would not hear Him, and a time of darkness.

And their desire to understand if Jesus is the Messiah is hardly so they can bow down and worship Him, they wanted grounds to accuse Him of sedition and proclaiming Himself king. 

They wanted a reason to get rid of him.

Not very subtle and Jesus sees right through it.

What Jesus offers, and what Peter demonstrates is a new and different life in Christ.  It’s not about who we are or who we claim to be and our worldly power and might.  It’s about new life.

New births are generally a time of celebration and they can become a positive distraction from the mundane and the everyday.

The Royal baby, Archie, was certainly celebrated in the press, and as some cartoonists picked up, a welcome distraction from other things that were making the news this week for the politicians.

As families we celebrate new births. 

We had fledgling Great Tits fledge from our birdbox yesterday and were able to catch them fly for the first time, a distraction which we spend quite some time on yesterday afternoon.

But the new birth that Jesus offers is not just a distraction from what’s happening now, nor is it something for just in the future, it’s a new way of being, filled with the Spirit, which He offers in the here and now to all who hear the voice of the Jesus the Good Shepherd,

For Jesus, shepherding was not about becoming a shepherd king, a warlord type person, which is what some wanted, it was about being a true and noble, the perfect shepherd.

He came as a shepherd who cared for the weak, lost and for those in need, those on the margins of society - and those at the very centre of society who were equally lost and in need.  The Jews who came to question Him.  All who were in the darkness that surrounded them.  The lost sheep of the night.

He came to call with truth those who would hear Him.  The words of the religious leaders who were trying to trap Him did not ring true to the people or with the authority which compelled them to follow.  The sheep stealers, of which there are many today which lure people away from the truth of Jesus, people and things.

In some ways like many of those who were in the Temple to celebrate the Feast of the Dedication.  Sincere but not quite right.

Hanukkah the Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. 

As the Good shepherd who spoke with truth and authority he was misunderstood.  Jesus was the Light which had come in the darkness, and which the darkness could never overcome.  John doesn’t waste words.  He wants us to understand that in the winter and dark times of our lives, Jesus the light of the world comes to us all to offer not just light but new life itself.

To all those people Jesus wanted to offer them a greater life, something more than the existence that they had.  To an inner freedom that helps them grow in love and maturity.  Not some distraction to make them forget their current circumstances.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd knows us by name, which means He knows us as we are, our strengths and our weaknesses and all points in between.  He calls us by name out of darkness to light.

He cannot leave us where we are because ultimately we are His.

And He wants to give us all eternal life.  Life in all its abundance, not just some distraction from the things of today.

He came to give His life, to give us life as He removed all the blocks which stopped us having a relationship with the Father, being in communion with Him and each other.  It’s not about us but about Christ and our eternal relationship with Him.

Death no longer has the last word in this scenario.

Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 said:

Death is not extinguishing the light, but merely putting put the lamp because the dawn has come.

Jesus, the Good shepherd, leads and invites us into this cycle of life.