Sermon for Easter 2018
It is to the gospel of John which we turn for the Easter proclamation this year, or should we perhaps say the Easter unveiling.
A few weeks ago, just after Christmas, we had a run of John’s gospel but in reverse order and you may remember I commented on this and on how important it was to see John’s account very differently than the other gospels, especially Luke and Matthew.
John as we know does not have a birth narrative, and starts very differently seeing Jesus as a cosmic character, the one through who the creative word of God spoke. Life was found in him and without him not anything has come into being. The Word became flesh in Jesus and we have seen his glory full of grace and truth.
Having started his gospel stating the case, we are then taken on a journey of guesses puzzles and concealment.
We the reader know who this person of Jesus is, but time and time again the characters of the gospel do not seem to recognize what we already know.
John takes us through seven signs as he calls them, signs of God’s activity in Christ, starting with the wine at Cana and ending with the moment Jesus is raised on the cross… John’s seventh and completing sign… when I am lifted up I will draw the whole world to myself.
Time and time again in John we are told in Joh that the hour has not yet come… but as the cross looms on the horizon it is declared by Jesus “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
The business of concealment and gradual realization on the part of the characters in the story, comes to a dramatic racy conclusion in today’s gospel reading, when John masterly takes three “seeings” before the truth of the matter finally dawns.
Three different word in Greek for seeing are used, each one intended to unpick the idea that seeing what has happened here means more than just a casual notice, or even a closer look…. Until the penny drops and literally seeing becomes believing.
As we read this we are also invited to ask ourselves how indeed do we see Jesus, how deep does our seeing actually go?
John began his unveiling, quite literally by giving us the full image as clear as you like… In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God……The Light shines on in the dark and all that was brought into being is filled with this light and life.
Now as his gospel ends, and Easter has dawned it is for us to see that life even in ourselves. The life of God indeed even in us… don’t forget he has already told us nothing has come into being without this life this Word being active… and that also means even us.
Easter for John then becomes much more than Jesus being raised from the dead…. It becomes the moment that believers can see for themselves the promise of this life. That moment when we “see and believe.”
This search and realization of this “Life” is often described as a life of Faith. The Christian Church also describes this discovery as a journey or even a pilgrimage.
Other gospels describe this journey as one of loosing and finding… Loosing your life for my sake and finding it again, were words we heard recently as Jesus prepared his disciples for the journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
Most Christians, it seems to me, would describe moments of loosing in order to find, and this may even be described as dying in order to live.
Baptism for the Christian literally maps this process out as we are buried with Christ in Baptism so that we may live with Christ in our world.
Who would ever say this was easy…. I wouldn’t.
Barbara Brown Taylor has wonderfully written,
“I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was” She had experienced huge setbacks and challenges which some might have described or experiences as failure……she speaks about how exhausting it had been to try to be good and realised that her human wholeness was actually more useful to God.. .
“Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human is saving my life now. This is not the same as the job of being human, which came with my birth certificate. To become fully human is something extra, a conscious choice that not everyone makes.”
Jesus asks Mary why she is weeping. She herself has not yet realized what we know Peter and the other disciple has seen.
She appears to speak with Jesus without realizing who he is… thinking him to be a stranger…
But for Mary and perhaps for us that moment of realization who it is that stands before us comes when we hear our own name … Mary, Neil, John, Margaret etc being used as he calls us to fully recognize who it is that invite us to share his life, the life of the Easter gospel.
Mary too is then able to say “I have seen the Lord”
And we are brought back to the opening words of the gospel and see that life surging, in even us.