Easter Sunday 2022

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Jesus is stood at a grave it’s a strange place really to find God standing stood in everyday common grave just like everybody else is a huge stone rolled in front of the opening which speaks to the finality the the fact that people who are dead stay dead he may be strange that he’s also the grave of a friend also at the grave of someone that he loves shouldn’t friendship with God come with some kind of privileges shouldn’t one of those privileges be you don’t have to die and yet Jesus is stood at the grave of his friend lazarus and perhaps even stranger when Jesus first hears that lazarus is sick he waits three days before leaving waits three days to make a journey to bethany and when he does make that journey he walks at the slow measured pace of every human being about three miles per hour per hour just pressing each foot into the dirt step after step if lazarus is his friend and if he’s got shouldn’t he have got there quicker and then Jesus does what every single one of us has done or will do at some point he stands in front of a tomb with the stone rolled in front of the whole speaking to the finality of that moment and he does what many of us will do he weeps he cries tears as he thinks perhaps about every death of every person being God maybe he has that perspective there’s every death from abel all the way through to the person that died just the day before and he he processes those things and then something changes some change it moves from weeping to a phrase which in the greek language literally means snorts with anger I’m not talking about the snort some of you guys give when you laugh I’ve heard some of you you know that that’s that’s your thing that’s fine but I’m talking about that sense of like a ball and it’s rage some kind of injustice this isn’t the way things are supposed to be there is an anger there that is present and then he does something even more unusual he turns to the mourners to the people that are still in tears and he says move the stone away and they look at him and say Jesus this is no time for a visitation he’s been dead for four days now there will be a stink don’t do this and Jesus in his Jesus like way insists no we are doing this and finally after some persuasion they roll the stone away and then perhaps the most unusual part Jesus says in a loud voice lazarus come forward and he does the greek word anastasis simply means to stand up for the one that is lying down for them to stand up and to come back to life and lazarus does this is resurrection this is this moment that is unexpected this moment of new life right before that coming my name is alex by the way I’m one of the pastors here welcome if you’re visiting it’s great to have you here right before this conversation right before this moment Jesus has had a conversation with martha the sister of the dead man lazarus and it’s looked something like this he’s made this statement I am the resurrection and the life the one who believes in me will live even though they die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die do you believe this it seems like this whole conversation belongs after resurrection right it doesn’t seem like a fair question to pose before the events have happened do you believe in resurrection no I actually believe that my loved one like every other loved one will stay dead because that’s what I’ve grown to expect do you believe this one statement that Jesus makes I am the resurrection and the life one question that he asks do you believe this it’s maybe a question that splits the room a little bit right for some of us we would say yes with a butt well we would say yes on my good days perhaps if I could give be given space to be honest I believe in resurrection but there’s other days where I have my doubts there’s maybe some tension for us in that I knew that I believed in resurrection oh when I first did this very strange thing I prayed for my cat to come back to life um I was like 19 years old at the time so I don’t know if that’s like you know you’re expecting a child to be doing this no and again that could be good or bad right I I prayed for my cat and what made it worse was I think I was the one that ran it over so there was serious heartbreak some serious trouble trust me this is a resurrection sunday service we are going somewhere with this this is an appropriate story and as I sat there with this dead cat I had this moment where where just I said God like would you bring my cat back to life I I miss this thing I miss this animal it’s got my affection got my heart I have a love-hate relationship with my cats now I’m not sure that I would do it again in this so in similar circumstances but but I prayed for this cat and in this incredible moment the cat the cat did not come back to life just for some of you I’ll just be wondering I was left with these existential questions I was left with this

there’s my cat

there’s my prayer hands got a little lust for the powerpoint did I do something wrong did I not say the right words is this not important to you God do you not like cats

what if it were a dog I’ve got this suspicion Jesus is more of a dog person I don’t know I could be wrong on this it could be way off base but I had this moment where yes I believed in resurrection believed it enough to pray those words believed it enough to mean I believed it enough that somewhere in the tears that was somewhat humorous and yet also real believed that there might be a moment where God would bring my cat back to life and I believe in resurrection and I think most of you guys would say yes as well but there are some some times where we’re like I don’t know I doubt I’m uncertain and then for some of us in the room if we’re given space to be honest we might say I don’t know if I do I don’t know if I can it seems perhaps potentially to be impossible seems to be too much of an ask I have too much experience that people when they’re dead stay dead alice from alice in wonderland famously says something like this there is no use believing impossible things and the red queen replies to her in that moment oh you just need more practice and maybe you feel if you’re someone who holds resurrection to be something that you’re just not sure about maybe you feel that the church is just like the red queen we’re just like just try harder to believe this difficult thing we have this tension with these words and Jesus stands in front of martha this woman that has lost a brother and says I am the resurrection and the life do you believe this I in that situation would love to have asked Jesus from some further questions what do you mean Jesus by that why should I believe that what reason would I have for believing that there is this moment of resurrection when everything tells me that’s just not the normal case can I really believe in resurrection if you are someone that says I would say resurrection seems impossible I would totally sympathize with you but again with a butt what do you mean by impossible what do you mean by in possible I have this like persnickety nature is the word I would use I like words to be used correctly and of course being from a different country that gives me all sorts of problems living with you wonderful people when I first came over here my brother sent me this very nice message he just said how can you live with these people they drive in the park where you park in the driveway and they play football with their hands and I was like that’s a that’s a fair point and it took me ages to use the word football when I actually meant something completely different and it took me even longer to finally use the word sucker and allow that to come out of my mouth I have this thing that about words and it probably makes me insufferable to be around much of the time and when you were used the word impossible about resurrection I would have questions about whether that is the right word I reminds me of the famous enego montoya from princess bride when he says that word you keep using I do not think it means what you think it means or at least it may not be the right choice what do you mean by impossible improbable maybe unexpected definitely one of those perhaps is the right words but impossible certainly the first people that experienced Jesus resurrection to them it was unexpected just as it might have been to us I think we have this way of treating people in the first century we we think about them as being just a little bit backwards not perhaps as smart or sophisticated as us of course we might say they believed in resurrection back then this may be news to some of us but the dead stayed dead with the same monotony in the first century as they do today resurrection did not happen on every street corner it was as surprising then as it would be now but the first women to encounter this story of arisen Jesus were just as surprised as we might have been in mark chapter 16 verse one to three we read this when the sabbath was over mary magdalene mary the mother of james and salome brought spices the women slept in for the morning they the men got slept in for the morning they got a nice nap the women were the ones there first doing the work brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus body they don’t go to a resurrection they go to a funeral the jewish people would bring spices and put them on the body in the hope that it would stave off the deca the decomposing experience for just a little bit longer they are trying to hold on to something like normality this isn’t a resurrection they’re going to this is a funeral service very early on the first day of the week just after sunrise they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other who will roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb their minds are full of spices and stones that are in the way they are not thinking resurrection they’re thinking they continue to mourn this leader this rabbi who is dead they’re in a very similar place to the place I would suggest many of us would find ourselves in resurrection is at least unexpected but when they looked up they saw that the stone which was very large had been rolled away as they entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side and they were alarmed as you often are when you find a tomb to be empty when you expect it to be full of some kind of thing don’t be alarmed he said again strange phrase I would be alarmed you are looking for Jesus the nazarene who was crucified he has risen he is not here see the place where they laid him but go tell his disciples and peter he is going ahead of you into galilee there you will see him just as he told you they are greeted with the words he is risen what do they do with that what do you do with that experience what do you do with that encounter what do you do when you encounter something that you think to be impossible because again if you find resurrection to be difficult to be impossible perhaps I sympathize with you completely every single one of us know we have experiences where we see things where we say was that really true did my eyes deceive me I had a friend of a friend that was a pastor in a church in bel air where they did everything spectacularly because the church was full of movie stars and producers all these hollywood people and so at one point they hired this magician and in this last final act he took this glass orb ball and he levitated it off the stage it just floated for everyone to see and there were the gasps and the cheers and the oars and as it died down there was a slow clap from the back of the room and this voice said that was flipping amazing you should do that again I cleaned up the language just a little bit and the person at the back was mel gibson who had apparently had a little bit too much to drink and had come in to watch a children’s conjuring show and he too had been tricked by this illusion and my friend in this poor moment was stuck in this tension of what do I do do I say something about the language do I ask him to leave or do I do what he ended up doing which is to say if mel gibson wants you to do it again you should probably do it again it was just that good it was an illusion though it was a trick it wasn’t real and maybe we feel that way about resolute resurrection maybe we feel these women have been tricked he has risen what do we do with something that we think is impossible but again I would question whether impossible is the right word for what we’re talking about here I would suggest written into the dna of this universe is the possibility of resurrection and that if Jesus is who he says he is if he is God in human flesh then the resurrection is not just not impossible it’s not even improbable it’s actually probable it actually makes sense in the midst of a conversation uh Jesus has this incredible ability to make incredible tangents just to seemingly go off into a different story and say something all together different and in the midst of a conversation he throws this out to his disciples I tell you unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed but if it dies it produces many seeds unless a kernel of wheat a seed falls into the ground if it doesn’t fall if it doesn’t die it doesn’t do the thing that it is made to do but let’s stop and think for just a second about this experience from the point of view of the seed what happens to it it’s placed in the ground into a hole sound familiar and it is covered with dirt sound familiar and in that moment it seems from the seeds perspective that everything is done everything is over the story is finished but then something incredible begins to happen some big thing way up there does something where it speaks to this thing in the ground the ground begins to warm and something begins to take place some element of life sparks and the seed begins to grow and somewhere there is new life and it turns out the seed wasn’t actually buried the seed was just planted there is something in nature that suggests that resurrection is possible it seems lurking there in the dna of everything that we see around us it is the experience that we have this spring where things that you thought were dead and gone are actually alive and being prepared to shoot up from the ground the poet and bradstreet said this the spring is a lively emblem of the resurrection there is moment where this seed is buried but it’s actually planted and Jesus uses this phrase to talk about his own life his own future of death and then resurrection and let’s think about that story for a second from Jesus point of view there is this moment where he is dead he is buried in the ground sound familiar something covers over that and all his darkness and it seems like a burial but then just just like the seed some big thing up there starts to speak to this little thing down here and there’s this moment where life starts to connect again and suddenly it turns out that Jesus just like the seed he isn’t buried he’s merely planted there is something bigger here going on that is so and fixed in the dna of our universe I would suggest that resurrection is certainly not impossible it’s improbable for humans surprising always but it seems written into the code of everything we see around us the poet pablo naruto said this you can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming resurrection is the story of spring emerging when it’s least expected after a long winter when we’ve kind of given up hope that anything will be different suddenly new life begins to emerge and that is worth celebrating and I love that they are greeted with the words he is risen he’s not alive alive and risen are very different from each other if Jesus is alive as the son of God living on earth that’s not unusual it’s not unusual that God in human flesh should meet crucifixion and not die that’s not an unusual story at all that’s just like many of the other people that we meet that are gifted in ways that we are not it’s just like beethoven being able to write symphonies while deaf it’s just like superman being able to fly if you’ve met superman that is I haven’t but it’s just like superman being able to fly when we can’t it’s just like elon musk creating billion dollar companies when we can’t it’s just a special particular gift if he’s just alive that’s all it is it just affects him but if he’s risen that seems different if Jesus in human flesh took on all of our experiences if he met that last enemy death and defeated it well that changes the story for everybody Jesus wasn’t buried he was merely planted and he’s not alive he’s actually risen there’s a passage by a writer called frederick beekner that I will probably read at every easter service until I die because it just encapsulates everything I wish I could say resurrection says the worst thing isn’t the last thing about the world it’s the next to the last thing the last thing is the best thing it’s the power from on a high that comes down into the world that wells up from the rock bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring can you believe it the last best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints sometimes our hearts even yes you are terribly loved and forgiven yes you are healed all is well three women mary mary and siloam on that day when they expect nothing but a burial I met with the news he is risen and they are left to decide what does that mean what do I do with that now what’s next I have this particular dislike for endings that don’t make sense I like everything to be wrapped up in a way that I find to be healthy in a book I find it obnoxious when there’s something that just seems to be often and there’s something about this ending to mark’s gospel mark’s biography of Jesus life that just leaves me in this point of tension trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid and I have this moment where I say mark that’s where you’re going to leave it that’s where you’re going to leave the greatest story in this moment where they’re not going to say anything to anyone why stop here this doesn’t seem to be like the place to stop it reminds me going back to allison alice in wonderland the book ends oh I’ve had such a curious dream it’s like nothing that happened really mattered and I read mark’s ending I’m like that’s where we’re gonna leave the tension for a moment these women are caught in this point where they hold the greatest story ever told in their hands and they’re not going to say anything that’s going to be it that’s going to be the end the writer fleming rutledge says that the the gospel writers have this tension between dark and light day and night there was this idea that the bad things happen at night time Jesus is arrested at night he’s crucified ultimately in the dark there are all of these different ways that night bad things happen in the days where the good things happen and I would suggest for a moment these women are caught between day and night what does this story mean there’s this moment where resurrection has happened it is true but I don’t know if it’s true yet for them I don’t know if for them they can quite embrace this story I believe it may be a factual event but it means that it’s still missing something there’s no transformation for them and I guess that seems normal Jesus conversation with martha didn’t begin where we began it earlier there’s a part before it where Jesus asks for this your brother will rise again he asks her to say yes to this statement and martha answers how I think many of us would answer I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day have you ever said something like that I’ve been in a conversation that looks like something like that someone passes away and there’s this phrase oh yes it’ll be okay somewhere they’ve gone to a better place I’m sure it will all work out fine it’s not a specific belief about anything it’s just a hope that someday everything makes sense and that’s what martha at this moment can give that’s what she can say yes to yeah Jesus I hope someday it all works out but Jesus won’t let us stop there he seems to say martha I have more for you than this I am the resurrection and the life the one who believes in me will live even though they die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die do you believe this martha do you believe this there’s this moment where Jesus pushed his mother and I would suggest pushes us to go beyond just saying did the resurrection happen on an intellectual level or not is it a story that is true or not there’s this moment where Jesus wants more he wants to know that the resurrection is true for us ourselves that there’s something about it that is life-changing that we have taken hold of this story and allowed it to take hold of us too and there’s this moment where these women sit in that moment of tension for mary for mary and salome there’s this moment for martha where she sits in that tension what does this story mean is it just a story for easter sunday where we sing songs like christ the lord is risen again or is it a story for every day is it a story that we wrestle with intellectually did it happen or not or is it a story that changes everything it seems like Jesus is not willing to let us stop at that moment where we would just say oh it’s just a good story he wants us to capture the fact that this story can change everything in the world around us the writer tom wright says this the message of easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus christ and you are now invited to belong to it you are now invited to belong to in amongst our wrestling with did the resurrection happen in the midst of your struggles of is it possible or is impossible it seems like the more fundamental question is actually does resurrection do what it promises to do is it generally genuinely a thing that transforms will you believe this seems to be a better reading of Jesus question for martha I don’t know that really what he’s asking her is do you believe this I don’t know that he’s asking for intellectual assent I think he’s asking martha will you embrace this story as your story will you take this story in and allow it to be transformative for you does this story mean something more than just it was an event that happened long ago what I find captivating about easter is this God creates this story where he places everything he risks everything on his son Jesus and then in the moment that the story is created he does perhaps the oddest thing he entrusts this story to human beings like you and I for this moment of tension for just this split second the greatest story that will ever be told is held in the hands of three women who are too scared to tell anybody and won’t be believed even if they do there’s this moment where all of the potency of resurrection all of the possibilities that it creates are on the verge of being snuffed out because of fear there’s this moment where nobody will say anything and you’re left in this tension mark creates this tension we get to experience that first tension of what what happens now what does this mean does the story end here is this all it is and yet they do tell and they are believed and there’s this moment where the story beginning there with people that suddenly have not embraced it as an intellectual thing but have embraced it as this internal transformation suddenly the story springs from that moment and it goes out into the world around it and what we see is that wherever this story goes the story grows and I don’t mean grow in terms of change I simply mean grow in terms of the more it goes the more people it reaches and it pulls more and more people into this story and it transforms more and more lives at its heart resurrection is not about intellectual assent it’s not about the the details it’s about whether it’s transformative it’s about whether it changes you and I paul’s way of saying this I always miss the tv it’s gone suddenly it’s gone and I’m like wow where am I I have been crucified with christ and I no longer live but christ lives in me the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me

pope john paul ii said this we are easter people and hallelujah is our song as you wrestle with the idea of resurrection wherever you sit on that spectrum perhaps for you resurrection is a thing that you believe deeply and there are no doubts whatsoever perhaps you wrestle with the tension of sometimes I feel like I can pray for my dying pet and sometimes I just don’t feel that kind of belief and perhaps you walked in and said no I’m pretty convinced this thing seems impossible I would suggest that resurrection is all around us it’s written into spring it’s written into the caterpillar becoming a butterfly it’s written into so much of what we see the question isn’t is it impossible question is did it happen and if it did does it genuinely transform is it just a good story to sing about once a year on easter or is it a story that captures hold of our hearts that as we capture hold of it it captures hold of us and it changes us as we go the story of resurrection isn’t just a thing to be remembered it’s a thing to be lived let’s pray Jesus thank you for resurrection and resurrection sunday thank you in the midst of this world that seems to be centered so often around death and its finality thank you that you stood at a grave as a friend and wept thank you you felt this sense of anger and frustration you called to lazarus and he stood up

thank you that you lived our death

and gave us resurrection

Jesus as we sing keep transforming us amen

would you stand with us as we close

who else would rocks cry out to worship whose glory

this joy is mine

with a thousand hallelujah the glory the honor and the praise lord Jesus this song is forever yours

our redemption

whose resurrection means

we magnify

lord Jesus this song is forever yours a thousand hallelujah

sing praises out

now here

we will sing forever

now

hallelujah

lord Jesus

grace

praise for heroes

we magnify your name you alone deserve the glory the honorable praise lord Jesus this song is forever

thank you for joining us on resurrection sunday I want to give a huge shout out to the team that just worked so hard to do all the different aspects that go into making

three services happen they are we’re up early on friday for those of you that joined us on good friday this whole place was flipped and then was flipped back and and so they’re just such a great team to work with super thankful for that aaron glad your voice held up way to go you can now take a few days down and now it sounds like my voice is going she might be preaching next week as well who knows uh a couple of things if you’re visiting we’d love to invite you back to the first one is if you love to serve if you love to get your hands dirty we’re doing an event on the first of may the first mile initiative what we do is we come alongside the community and we don’t say what can we do for you we say something like how can we get involved with what is already happening if you would love to come serve with us or we would love to have you we had about 100 people out last year doing different things and again hoping to do something similar this year so come join us for that if you’re completely new to south we have a newcomers lunch next week 24th of april from 12 30 you can come and we’d love to get you lunch and have a conversation about how we can help you on your journey of faith and if you’re looking for a community easter isn’t the end of the journey for us we love here at south pentecost sunday this event in just a few weeks and it’s this reminder we are people of easter yes but we’re also people that are people of the spirit what we believe is that when we follow Jesus his spirit lives within us so on pentecost sunday we celebrate by doing baptisms and during this next series we’ll follow this journey as Jesus almost in real time following resurrection gathers his first followers as we talked about with mary mary and salome resurrection has happened it is a true event but it’s not yet true for them and we watch as Jesus engages with one of his disciples who’s stuck in his own failures another who’s wondering if he can ever believe again some women that are voiceless we look as he meets with disciples that are thinking about just going back to what they were doing before and maybe every single one of them speaks to some of our journey because don’t every one of us have moments we’re like I just don’t know if I can keep going I don’t know if my failures whether they preclude me from ever doing anything useful again maybe we just feel like giving up at times and this season we get to follow Jesus in this real time day by day experience with these first followers so come join us as we how the gospel changes everything for everybody have a great sunday I’m going to send us out with a benediction Jesus thank you that you are risen and one more time friends at our last service let’s say together he is risen I think you can do better than that I just think you can he is risen the way to go thank you Jesus that you are risen God I pray for each of us that the resurrection will be more than just a intellectual event God I pray we would take it away in our hearts that it would be transformative for us and that he would transform those around us may you go in peace with resurrection in your heart amen