Saturday, April 07, 2012

It's Friday - but Sunday's a-comin!



Today is a day for rejoicing!

Today is a day when we hold up the resurrection of Jesus in faith!

And today isn’t a day that’s just appeared from nowhere, out of the blue! But it’s a day that ends a journey and begins a new one.

When Mary Magdalene and the other women got to the tomb early that eternally significant morning, they had been on a journey.

They’d been alongside Jesus, had heard his teaching about the kingdom of God, had seen his miraculous deeds of power and healing, they’d supported and served him in his ministry, had witnessed the horrors of seeing him arrested, abused, condemned and finally crucified. They’d seen his dead body placed in a tomb and a huge stone rolled across the entrance. And on that morning they went once more to anoint the body of their Lord. What sorrow and anguish they must have been feeling that day.

But what they found when they arrived was far from what they expected.

They were thinking of practicalities – who was going to move that great stone for them? But when they got there they found that it had already been moved, and as they entered the tomb instead of finding the body of Jesus, they found a young man dressed in white sitting there.

Matthew, in his gospel account, tells us even more – he tells us that “suddenly there had been a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow.”

Heaven that had seemed so eerily silent and distant when Jesus hung on the cross, was now in action!

But these women had no idea that they were going to be faced with heavenly beings, much less that they were about to encounter a risen and living Jesus! They were alarmed, what questions must have been running through their minds? But the angel reassured them, “Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” And he sent them to tell the others.

When all these things happened they didn’t know – none of them knew – that this was God’s plan all along. They hadn’t understood the direct and indirect things Jesus had told them would happen before he died. They didn’t understand and so the events of that morning were the most alarming, and amazing, surprise to them. Jesus was alive – it hadn’t all come to a crushing end when the Son of God was nailed to that cross – what had come to an end when he was nailed to that cross was the power of darkness and death, as they died, went down to the eternal pit with him. They didn’t know that it was Friday – but Sunday was coming!

And what was raised with the Son of God was a new life and a new way and a new light! Because the God who had clothed himself with humanity had given humanity a new beginning, and one that would stretch right through physical death and on into eternal life with him. A life that would be full of all the best of what God had created and a life that would be without the pain of the old – “no more mourning, or crying, or death, or pain.” But more than just the future hope was a breaking into our now, because the kingdom of God was breaking through – a foretaste of heaven, on earth! As Jesus had been teaching, and demonstrating, all along – the kingdom of heaven is now within our grasp, close at hand, and accessed through prayer, through him, just by faith!

That was their journey! Ours has been a little different.

We too have spent the last week remembering and reflecting on that journey – from Jesus’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem surrounded by praising people shouting out “Hosanna” (Save us now), to the last supper when he instituted the holy meal of bread and wine that they and we would share to remember him until he comes again. To his betrayal and arrest and crucifixion. We’ve reflected on his suffering on that cross so that we might have the darkness within us defeated, on that place that won us forgiveness as he took all our sin, our godlessness, our wrongs, on himself.

BUT even as we’ve done that, we’ve known that Sunday was coming!

We’ve known what those first disciples didn’t know – “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a-comin’”

On Thursday we shared a special team service recalling that ‘last supper’ and recalled how Jesus’ washed their feet as a demonstration of his loving service. I had the privilege of washing those who came forward as a sign of that service Jesus had first shown and it was humbling and moving – but even then there was that little well of excitement in my gut because I knew Sunday was coming! You know that feeling you had as a child on Christmas Eve – that growing excitement – it felt a bit like that!

On Friday we remembered the horrors of the crucifixion – we walked from the church to the chapel behind the cross, remembering all that Jesus had suffered for us – and that was a journey of sadness. We all walked silently, wrapped up in our own reflections. I was remembering what someone had said to me a few days earlier about how they found it really difficult to make so public an example of faith in those Good Friday walks of witness – how it made them cringe. But as I walked I thought about that – how that feels in our present age – and if there was any embarrassment in that demonstration of being with Jesus, or any feeling of shame, then it just lead me to think about the shame Jesus endured for me – falsely accused, whipped, spat on, beaten, mocked, and executed. And I thought of Peter who did run away when it all kicked off – unable to admit that he was one of them – one of those Jesus followers. But later the risen Jesus would gently restore him and re-commission him for service. But even as I took part in that service of reflection on Jesus’ suffering, I had that little well of excitement in my gut – it was Friday, but Sunday’s a-comin!

And today is Sunday! And I will rejoice because Jesus is alive! Because the kingdom of heaven has broken into our today, because I have access to that kingdom both in the future, and now. Because I have access to the God of love through prayer, and that was won for me by Christ. Because there is a wonderful life to come and because he transforms this one every time the kingdom breaks through when he heals and saves and forgives, and when he inspires faith and mercy and peace and love and service and hope and purpose and community.

We still know all too well that the last shadows cast by the darkness Jesus came to defeat, still overshadow us at times. I will rejoice today that Jesus is alive and his kingdom is close at hand, even though when I leave here today I will go and share communion with J in hospital. And when I leave the hospital I’ll go to my mum and dad’s and feel the pain of watching my dad endure what cancer, and its treatment, does. But I will still rejoice that Jesus has bought us, through his broken and risen body, a new life, and I’ll pray for the signs of that new life to be evident here and now – in my life, in J’s, in my dad’s and in yours.

It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming! We live in the light of that Sunday every day, because he is alive!

And I pray that whatever remnants of Friday overshadow you, whatever storms are evident in your life, whatever you battle with or whatever gives you pain, that you will also be able to rejoice today, because Jesus is alive, his kingdom is close at hand, hope is real. We may sometimes rejoice through tears, it may sometimes still feel like Good Friday – but Sunday’s a-comin! Hallelujah!



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