Sunday, 12 April 2015

Still risen!

Matthew 28:16-20
The Commissioning of the Disciples
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the name of the Father,the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

For the last few weeks we've been preparing ourselves for Easter.
Throughout Lent -  in our daily reflections, in our midweek services and in our weekly study groups.
Through Holy Week -  following Jesus journey toward the cross, gathering with the disciples in the upper room and, on Good Friday, watching the shadows lengthen as we reflected on Jesus death.
And then, last Sunday, Easter Day, we reclaimed the Alleluias and celebrated Jesus' resurrection.
We crept to the tomb with the women, spices in hand, and rejoiced to see the stone rolled away.
And we discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb but was going, ahead of his disciples, to Galilee.
Already ahead of us.
At large in the world today.
So that was last Sunday.
High energy after our measured pace through Lent.
An exhausting pinnacle of faith.
So,what's next?
Now that we've had a week to recover,what now?
Last week, we read of the women being told by the angel at the tomb to hurry and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen.
They went with great fear and joy.
As they rushed off to do as the angel said, Jesus met the women in the garden and he told them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where he would meet them.
And this week's reading, tells of that reunion in Galilee.
Clearly the women did as Jesus told them - they spread the news and the disciples followed the Risen Christ to Galilee.
They met Jesus on the mountain.
And, we're told, the disciples worshiped Jesus - but some doubted.
It was a time for mixed emotions.
The women leave the garden, witnesses to the resurrection, in fear and joy.
The disciples meet Jesus in Galilee, on the mountain top and worship him - but some doubted.
Mixed emotions everywhere.
But Jesus commissions them all the same - to go and make disciples.
Jesus, having been betrayed, denied, abandoned by these same disciples, some of whom still doubt, yet commissions them to go and make disciples of all nations.
That has to be good news for us.
Good news and scary news.
Our doubts do not prevent us being commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples.
Jesus, knowing that we too will betray him, deny him, doubt him, entrusts us with sharing the good news today.
Entrusts us to go and make disciples in our everyday.
And that is the what now of Easter.
It's moving from the tomb, leaving the sanctuary, knowing that Jesus has gone ahead of us into our everyday - and waits on us to take up his commission to make disciples.
By living as Resurrection people.
By living as people who know that love is stronger than death.
By sharing that love in our everyday, with family, with friends, with neighbours and colleagues.
Even when we doubt.
And, in our sharing, being open enough to see that God continues to reveal Jesus risen among us - in the unlikeliest places.
It never fails to amaze - and to humble me - how often, when I think I'm faithfully sharing the gospel, that God reveals something new - those I imagine I'm teaching, or to whom I'm witnessing become my teachers in the lessons of God.
Perhaps that's just a part of Jesus command to " go to all nations". To do so requires an openness, openness, not just to what we have to share but to what we can learn from others.
I recently shared a story of my time working in shipyard chaplaincy.
(In fact it's a story included in a book that was released this week: There's a Woman in the Pulpit- stories from women in ministry in different parts of the world)
The point of the story is not to tell of my faithfulness in sharing the gospel in an inhospitable Lower Clyde shipyard, but to share how much I learned from the platers, the caulkers, the burners and the carpenters with whom I huddled round a brazier fire of a morning, drinking tea from filthy mugs.
On a couple of occasions, I got to bless a ship before she was launched - and this was what I wrote about the experience:
"And so, another liturgy was written on the hoof, informed by the need to minimise the time the ship waited on the well greased stocks, and another ministry of privilege was exercised and all manner of things was taught to a fledgling chaplain by men with calloused hands and choice phrases and hearts of gold all wrapped up in wisdom and grace."

That great Commission, to go to all nations and make disciples, is not simply about us taking what we have and passing it on to others.
It is about us being open to all the facets of the gospel that God reveals to us in others, even and especially, those to whom we think we are called to  minister.
Christ continues to go ahead of us and to meet us on the way, asking us to be open to his risen presence in all whom we encounter.

Easter is not the end of the journey.
It is just the beginning.
And, even in our weariness, even with our doubts, the Risen Christ entrusts us with being and with making disciples.
And that's the work, not of a moment, but of a lifetime.
Here is a reflection I wrote last Easter about the lasting effects of the Resurrection:

It trickles in slowly
Just like the soft light of dawn
It's not the sudden trumpet fanfare
that we have made it
but a slow, gentle unfurling.
As Easter creeps forward
its touch slowly awakening
all in its path
the effect is gradual
long lasting.
Even when the dawn of Easter
provoking excitement
it is the calm that is left in its wake
that remains
the warmth and the joy
that continue to infuse
and change lives.
And it is the soft memory
of eternal promises
that persists
even when night has come again.
Easter - not an all at once
life changing moment
But a slowly dawning
gift for eternity
a treasure
with layers
upon layers 
of wrapping
to be gently unveiled
and savoured
in the fullness of time.

Christ is still risen.
He is risen indeed.

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