Jesus had died on the cross and it seemed that evil and violence had won, but he was raised to life again 3 days later – Rome, evil, violence had no power of him – In Jesus, God himself had defeated them with self -sacrificial love.
Without that first Easter morning, his followers would have concluded with shame and sorrow that Jesus was just another failed Messiah and the movement would have disappeared and we wouldn’t be here today. But this wasn’t simply a happy ending to the story – rather is was a glorious beginning. The darkest and strongest power in the world; death itself had been defeated and a new power had been unleashed on the world; Hope had been unleashed on the world The Jews had always believed that God would act at the end of time to put everything right and a new age would come. The first Christians said that in Jesus’ life and in his death and resurrection, that new age, the new creation, the kingdom of God had already begun. It had begun not fully, but in part; to be completed sometime in the future when Jesus returns and as he promises, ‘to make all things new.’ And it’s so clear from the NT, that Jesus followers understood that because of this, they had a new kind of task. It’s as if the great jailor had been overpowered and now someone had to open the prison doors. Forgiveness was assured for all who turn to God, death and evil had been defeated.
And this had to be announced and lived out world wide – and as followers of Jesus today, that’s our task too. Some Christians seem to think that because Jesus died for us and rose again, salvation is ours so it doesn’t matter what we do now – The first part is absolutely true and the second part couldn’t be more wrong
How we live, really does matter…..
The revolution which began at Easter means that all followers of Jesus have a vocation; It means we need to get up and go wherever Jesus leads, because his call to us, is to work with him to see that future reality come alive in the world today. Working to draw people back to God, working to challenge all the injustice and exploitation, all the suffering and hatred we see all around us in the world. These things are ultimately defeated enemies, trying to exert the last bits of power they have – because their end is certain
But it’s not something we just sit and wait for; it’s something we throw ourselves into right now.
Do you see the difference this makes to us; the church? It means we are people of hope because we’re the agents of God’s new world breaking into this broken world here and now. What a great adventure, what a vision to live by – what a high and yet humble calling we have as God’s church here on earth, here in this valley, right now! And the only way to live that out is to follow Jesus – to be in the language of the Bible, a disciple. This means we are his apprentices, learning from him and copying the kind of things he does. Living out, however imperfectly, the perfect life he lived on our Frontlines each and every day. That term frontline is so important – frontlines are the places, the relationships we find ourselves in, called to bring that Easter hope into those situations and to the people we know.
This a world-wide movement, launched that first Easter – and we are part of it.
It’s not a movement we’re just part of as individuals – following Jesus means being part of a community, a family – we know it as the church – and let me encourage you today to think of the church not as an institution, but as a family, a community which has a vocation in the world.
The last 6 months or so, we’ve not only been thinking about our frontlines, but about how we can grow as Jesus’ followers in the world today. About How we can learn to live in 3 dimensions – up to God, in to one another and out to the world and how important relationships are in all this. This is why we’re encouraging people to join Home Groups and Life Groups; small groups designed to bring us closer to God, to each other and so better able to reach out into the world – agents of God’s revolution which began that first Easter.
All this is going to be big thing for us in the year ahead as is the possibility of us developing a rhythm of life which works for us. Can we help people find space for work, for rest and recreation, space for God and space for making a difference to others. This summer’s festival of faith will give us an opportunity to start exploring this – if we really are Easter people, people of hope, living in a new and distinct way – how can we do that in the time poor and pressured world we live in? – that just has to be the big question we try to answer together as we go forward
So, can you see - Easter isn’t about escaping this world, it’s about engaging with God’s revolutionary work in it. Easter isn’t just about Jesus, God himself dying so our own sins are forgiven so we can be with him forever (though we believe we will be!), it’s about responding to that truth by joining in with God’s reconciling work in the world, on our frontlines, in our families, communities, in our church. This is so much more than just a social movement, looking to better society – it’s working with the creator towards a future where human beings live close to God, in harmony with each other and all creation. We are set free, forgiven, rescued from evil and the power of death so we can be who we were meant to be – Gods image bearers in the world. We are Easter people! We are resurrection people, people of God’s revolution and his new creation. Easter gives us a vocation and sets us free to bring God’s hope into the world, together as a church but in our daily lives too.
Alleluia Christ is risen – so may we, all those we know and love, may the world itself; be forever changed.