Sermon, 14 April 2024, Easter III – Ros Miskin

May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Despite all the horrors of our world, with its wars, malpractice, and onslaught on the climate, I believe that when we look at the manifestations of nature that surround us, such as the spring flowers or a glorious sunrise, we can still say that creation is God’s ‘Yes’.  I would describe today’s battle to preserve and improve the climate as a battle to preserve God’s ‘Yes’.

That being so, what is the ‘No’?  The ‘No’ is the Devil’s attempt to destroy our planet and with it will come the downfall of humanity.  When you consider the beauty of nature and the miracle of new life born into the world that is a terrible prospect.  So we continue to strive for peace and to swim against the tide of adverse climate change.

What can give us the will to carry on in our pushback against the ‘No’?  To attempt to answer that question I will look at what the ‘No’ leaves us with and how that may be overcome.

What it leaves us with is nothingness.  Nothingness is a void in which nothing exists.  It is emptiness.  We can describe it as darkness in contrast to the light of God’s presence.  It is, to put it bluntly, where the Devil wants us to be.  We know, though, from the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that ultimately the light overcomes the darkness, and there our hope lies.

To see why this should be so, let us in the light of today’s Gospel reading, look at that story.  At the beginning of Luke’s narrative, he writes that Jesus’s disciples are talking about what has just occurred.  What has occurred is that the body of Jesus had been taken by the good and righteous man, Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in a linen cloth and ‘laid in a rock-hewn tomb where no-one had ever been laid’.  On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee arrived at the tomb with spices and ointments that they had prepared and they were perplexed to find that the tomb was empty.

At this point, emptiness has been defeated twice over.  The body of Jesus, that was emptied of life on the Cross was then laid in a tomb which is then emptied by the Resurrection.  Jesus then appears to his disciples as they walk to the village of Emmaus, although they do not recognise him until he blesses the bread at supper with them.  Jesus then vanishes from their sight, but the empty space left by his disappearance is again filled when he reappears to his disciples in the opening passage of today’s Gospel reading.  Another triumph of presence over absence and light over darkness as the life of Jesus is, and the opening passage of the Gospel of John gives this to us, the light of all people.

The disciples, though, take some persuading of this triumph, even when Jesus has shown them his hands and feet, inviting them to touch them.  In spite of this reassurance, they are still in a mixture of joy and disbelief and so, perhaps to again reassure them of his presence, he asks them to feed him which they duly do, offering him a piece of boiled fish.  Sensing this continuing uncertainty Jesus reminds them of the Scriptures where it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  We know that what will follow on from this will be the Ascension of Jesus to heaven and that the disciples will return to Jerusalem in great joy, continually in the Temple, blessing God.

Here, in the Ascension, is the final resounding triumph over the ‘No’ so beloved by the Devil.

We, like the disciples, are called upon to open our minds to this promise of Scripture.  If we do this, then our attempts to protect and preserve our world and encourage the prosperity of all, are given the hope they need because we have the vision of the glory to come which cannot be eradicated by destructive forces dragging us down into a dark void where nothing dwells.  On the contrary, we can joyfully affirm that ‘hope springs eternal’.

 

AMEN

 

 

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