Why is it the bad news that we
remember? We say to one another, where were you when Kennedy was shot? When you
heard Diana had died? Where were you on 9/11? Bad news sticks. But today, on
Easter Day, how about a question about Good News.
Where were you when the wall came down,
the Berlin wall that divided East from West?
I was 17 when the it fell, ordinary
people tearing down the divide, and my Dad was so excited, that he decided we
had be part of it, so, packing our hammers we traveled to Berlin and joined in.
I had a chunk of the wall in my room for years afterwards.
And where were you the day Nelson Mandela
walked out of jail, after 27 years imprisonment, after countless lives had been
lost in the struggle to end apartheid?
I was in South Africa that year -
teaching in a school in one of the poor rural areas set aside for the black
population, and the sense of joy and hope from his release was electrifying.
Both of these great moments marked me
deeply - Good News moments when walls and barriers fell and freedom,
opportunity and new life poured into the world and into the lives of millions
of ordinary people.
Bad news sticks in our memory. Good news
And today we remember the greatest
transformation of all. We remember the ultimate in Good News. The greatest day
of freedom, opportunity and new life ever witnessed. The resurrection of Jesus
Christ marks the moment when the barrier between life and death, the wall
between heaven and earth, between this life and the next, came crashing down
for all time.
Death, violence, hatred, evil., these
powers that hold the world enslaved, have been defeated. Life, peace, love and
goodness, are now in charge.
Because 2,000 years ago a man whose heart
had stopped beating, and through whose veins blood had stopped flowing, sat up
and breathed again. And that doesn’t
happen. We know that dead people stay dead, and so did the first witnesses.
Dead people simply don’t come alive again - and
yet, that’s what the gospels tell us happened; that’s what those early
Christians witnessed; and that’s what Christians in every generation have
declared. It’s what 2 billion Christians, in every corner of
the world proclaim on Easter Day. One day, in a graveyard outside Jerusalem, a
man who had died, a man who came from God and was God, came alive again.
So what does that mean for our lives?
Not that all the suffering is over,
because it isn’t. But that the gates of heaven are thrown open, that the life
that is to come, is now flowing into this life.
Because Heaven isn’t a place somewhere
off beyond the clouds, the place that God lives, far away and distant. Heaven
is what things are like whenever they are the way that God wants them to be.
That’s true all the time and in every way in heaven ‘out
there’, but it’s true here too, whenever things are the way God
wants them to be.
Resurrection has flung wide the gates of
heaven, and God’s love, justice, freedom, grace, mercy, forgiveness and
presence are pouring out to us here on earth. Like a great wave of love, God’s
presence washes over His beautiful, battered world.
And that presence is available to you,
whatever is going in your life.
Whatever is dead in your life, whatever
you have buried away because it’s too painful to look at, that shameful thing
you did, the feelings you carry that are just too much for you - heaven is
reaching out to you saying - ‘Do not
be afraid, you’re forgiven, start again. I am with you.’
That burden you are carrying which is
breaking your back, in those moments when the hope of a better future has all
gone and you’re left with nothing to hold on to - Jesus is there for you saying
- I am alive, I have defeated even death, I can hold on to hope for you. Be
courageous. Let me walk with you.
And you, you who are grieving the death
of a loved one, or who are facing up to your own death - God’s arms are spread
wide. To you He says - The gates of heaven are open, there is a room
prepared in the heavenly home, and all are welcome to knock on the door. If you
knock, I will open it to you
And for those of you who are longing for
a deeper life, for something more than the same old, same old, and who yearn to
live with more meaning. To you the Holy Spirit says - There’s work to be
done. Partner with me and we’ll work together for a better world - for a world
that’s more like heaven.
And for all of us here this morning,
Easter Day says - there is a place prepared for you, when your time comes. All
we need to do is to knock on the door of God’s heart and to say, I believe (even if we have to add, ‘help my unbelief’ in the next sentence). This
life is not all there is. The Universe is much bigger than just the stuff that
we can touch and taste and see. After our life here, the resurrection opens a
way to a new life. Resurrection isn’t only for Jesus, he just did it first. Now
it’s available for us all. There is life to come, there is life after life.
I know the pain isn’t over. I know that
alongside the moments of great freedom and transformation, in the world, and in
our own lives, suffering continues. Of course I do. I know the suffering that many of you carry
in your lives.
But I know too that Easter means that
suffering and pain and death are not the end. That they will not have the final
word. They are real and the pain is real, yes, but resurrection is more real.
Love is more real. Forgiveness is more real. I know that life, abundant life
with God, is our ultimate and deepest reality.
I know that Jesus Christ has flung wide
the gates of heaven, and there is life after life.
I know that Jesus Christ has flung wide
the gates of heaven, and all God’s goodness is pouring out to us here today.
Jesus Christ is risen; Love has won.
Heaven is open.
This is the Good News. Say yes to it, and
let God transform you.