Easter Day

The former things shall not be remembered

********

Let us pray:
God ever-new,
you brought life out of death,
and hope from despair
when you raised our Lord from the grave.
May we always proclaim the victory of Jesus
in the world,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

*********************
Readings
Isaiah 65.17-25
Luke 24.1-12

  • Killer blasts in Moscow Metro
  • Decomposed body found at shops
  • Bank boss admits he took cash
  • Digger, Afghan wounded in explosion
  • 3 dead, 6 injured in DC shooting
  • Daylight bashing in city gardens

These were all news headlines in the last week. When we look at the world, it’s pretty much of a mess. The human race isn’t doing a great job.

  • We make technological advances, but we use this knowledge to build weapons.
  • We have an ever-increasing amount of information, but precious little wisdom.
  • We extend our influence over the earth, and put other living things at risk.

The world is in a state. Yet in our Old Testament reading today, the prophet Isaiah writes that God says this:

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.

‘For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.’

This doesn’t gel with the headlines, does it? Is Jerusalem a joy these days? It’s been the focus of huge difficulties lately, with Israel building new housing for Jews in the Arab district of East Jerusalem.

And all the indications are that Jerusalem will continue be a focus of deep hostilities for the foreseeable future.

Mind you, Jerusalem didn’t look too good back then either. These words about a ‘new heavens and a new earth’ were written about 500 BC. Jerusalem looked like a war zone. No wonder—that’s just what it had been just fifty or so years earlier.

The city walls had been torn down, the great temple of King Solomon was still in ruins. Yet Isaiah says, ‘I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.’

It appears that we’re still waiting for Isaiah’s words to be fulfilled.

Isaiah and the rest of the Old Testament prophets voiced great hopes for the world’s future. For example, they look for a time of universal peace: ‘The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.’

In other words, Isaiah looks for a time when people will no longer exploit each other. The strong will not devour the weak. It will no longer be a dog-eat-dog world. Is there any sign at all that these great hopes will be realised?

We may think there is no such sign. Cynicism is fashionable today. But Isaiah lived in a difficult time too, and he could hope.

Forty two years ago today, on 4 April 1968, a shot was fired that deprived the world of one of the great prophetic voices of the twentieth century. That voice belonged to the Rev’d Dr Martin Luther King. He lived in a difficult time too, a time within my memory, a time of struggle for civil rights for African American people. Listen to some words from one of his most famous speeches, ‘I have a dream’. Speaking to a crowd of 200 000 people, he says:

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

That was on 28 August 1963. Less than five short years later, he was killed.

Martin Luther King is gone, but his dream still lives today. His words are alive. But make no mistake: his words are rooted and grounded in his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.

His faith wasn’t just in the words of Jesus though. His faith wasn’t just in the example of Jesus. It was faith in Jesus’ words and example, sure; but underneath that, undergirding that, it was faith in a living and risen Lord who had conquered death and who had set him free.

Human sin has made the world a mess. But there is no need for cynicism. There is a sign that God’s dream of a new world will come into being: that sign is Jesus Christ, risen on the third day and victorious over death.

Like Martin Luther King, we need to have that faith and that hope deep down inside of us if it’s going to be real. I was reading during the week of a Christian who was at a Buddhist retreat.

As part of the retreat, he met privately with this Buddhist teacher. At this meeting, the teacher sat there before him smiling from ear to ear and rocking gleefully back and forth. Finally the teacher said: ‘I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the resurrection. I want to see your resurrection!’

What was he saying?

This Buddhist teacher was saying out loud what everyone else only thinks about us Christians:

You are a Christian. You are risen with Christ. Show me that this means everything to you—and I will believe.

That’s how people come to know that the resurrection. Not through historical argument. But by seeing if it affects how we live.

Martin Luther King passed that test. So did the disciples of Jesus. Their lives were dramatically turned upside down by their encounter with Christ. Many of them died horrible deaths. Peter was crucified upside-down. Paul was beheaded. Martin Luther King knew he was in danger day after day.

Very few of us if any will really suffer for our faith. But we can allow the resurrection of Jesus to begin its work in us. Isaiah could say,

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

Martin Luther King could say,

I have a dream today.

We can say, and we shall sing,

Christ the Lord is risen today:…
Love’s redeeming work is done;…
Lives again our glorious king…

Soar we now where Christ has led,
following our exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise:
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Alleluia!

Let’s remember that. And let’s say each and every day: Christ is risen indeed!

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One response to “Easter Day

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Easter Day « Getting There… 2 steps forward, 1 back -- Topsy.com

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