The Rector

   THE RECTOR

The gospel stories of Easter, though familiar to us are always a pleasure to hear again. Be it Mary Magdalene in the garden, the women at the tomb, the disciples in the upper room or two of them on the road to Emmaus, each story conveys with excitement something of the mysterious hope to which we are called. This is not immediately the case with Acts 10.34-43 which is the mandatory epistle, or new Testament reading  for Easter Sunday morning. This describes Peter preaching to a large crowd in Jerusalem, reiterating what has  happened to Jesus, proclaiming the Resurrection and its significance for all lives henceforward. Peter doesn’t pull his punches. He is quite clear that those who called for Jesus’ death are responsible but that even for them forgiveness and new life is possible. It’s a difficult text not least for the fact that it doesn’t allow us to wallow in the resurrection as we might think we should be allowed to do at least on Easter Day and the days following. But no, Peter is quite clear. He, his fellow apostles and all followers of the Way are witnesses, chosen  and sent to share the good news and to do so without excuse or delay.   

The last time I encountered a street preacher was in Derby earlier in the year. He was an angry man and he urged passers-by to get down on their knees and repent. Nobody stopped to listen and most hurried on with an embarassed smirk which no doubt fuelled the fire of his anger. Proclamation in the market place or public highway was, until the 20thC, an effective means of broadcasting news. It has long since had its day but I was struck by the fact that this manic street preacher had nothing positive to tell. Peter on the other hand told a story of redemption and hope and he did so from a position of vulnerability for at the Last Supper Jesus had said to his disciples You did not choose me , I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit (John 15.16).  Those words must have been etched in Peter’s mind for in speaking to the crowd he stressed that he and his fellow apostles were chosen witnesses, commanded to preach good news. As he said so perhaps he wondered whether the crowd would take seriously these rustic fishermen from Galilee, at the same time being confident, not in his own talents, but in the faithfulness of Christ who sent him.

None of us of course are Apostles or primary witnesses to the Resurrection.  That foundational event of our faith  happened  a long time ago. And yet, as baptised people we belong to the community that was established in the Resurrection.  By virtue of baptism we have been grafted into that body and therefore its calling of witnessing to  Christ crucified and risen is our calling both collectively and individually.  That doesn’t mean that we are required  to yell at people on  street corners, or to obtain a degree in theology and argue with compelling authority for every minute article of the creed. Neither does it mean becoming excessively self-conscious in the faith and disguising the reality of our lives behind pious  platitudes which don’t convince anyone. Far from it, for fulfilling this particular calling is primarily God’s work rather than ours. But we become God’s co-workers when we realise that we are icons of hope and joy, that each of us is a living sermon, good news in flesh and blood, and that our very lives are an invitation to others to share in the greatest of life-giving mysteries.  By the Spirit of God we are endowed with power in the best sense of that word. The challenge of faith is to cultivate  awareness of this power so that we use it in the service of Christ and his Kingdom. 

Easter Day saw a terrible tragedy unfold as hundreds of people, some celebrating the Resurrection, were killed in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. It was yet another reminder of the powers of darkness which stalk this world. In the face of this and many other acts and circumstances of evil we must ever remind ourselves that Christ is triumphant over such things and that the future belongs to him and not to any forces of evil.  Moreover, seeds of that future have been sown in us. Its power is at work among us and we must let it live and grow, cultivating by the grace of God, gifts of compassion and humanity with thanksgiving in our hearts.   Christ is risen!  and though there is much in the world that seeks to

Charles Booth


 


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View from the Rectory - December/January 2018/19
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