Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18.
There have been many cases where extremely gifted sportspeople have retired to only make a comeback later. Boxing is one that certainly comes to mind and when we see it, one of the first things many consider is that it’s from the lure of one last big payday and that may be right in some sense but I’m sure that for most, it is that sense of loss and maybe even belonging when something they have dedicated their life to comes to an end.
James Hird, one of the finest players to grace the football field who is now the current coach of Essendon, several years ago while still playing and after having received steel plates in his head from a serious injury was asked by a commentator “You have won a Brownlow medal, won premiership’s and captioned your side. There’s nothing in football you haven’t done and nothing left to prove. You have four young children, you’re a smart man-you have a degree in civil engineering and have many flourishing investments and your doctor has warned that should you play on you risk grave irreversible damage”. His response, “yes-but I’m a football player, that’s what I do-that’s what I am” and in one of his last games he swapped his guernsey/footy jumper with an equality respected footballer of great ability and great courage in Glen Archer from the North Melbourne Kangaroos. The next day Glenn after noticing his wife in the laundry and putting his footy gear in the wash, with some urgency said “don’t ever wash that guernsey”. To which came her obvious question of a puzzled why? Only to hear, “Because that jumper has the blood and sweat of James Hird on it”.
Today the stain of our sin has been washed from us through the work, sweat and blood of Jesus Christ. His work, sweat and blood that has set us free, yet his work, his saving sweat and blood that cannot be removed from us by (Romans 8:38) “neither by death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
A person told me that his friend having lost a young child was in mourning and when visited by his pastor was so stricken that he could not get out of bed. After the pastor arrived and was ushered into the bedroom he simply took off his shoes, laid down next to him and they wept together without a word spoken. Sometimes what’s best said is to say nothing. When trying to write the Good Friday address I felt like I had nothing to offer and had a constant, almost overpowering feeling to just turn up, announce and hear the Word of God and say nothing. Not out of disrespect, but out of respect because when we stand at the foot of the cross we see we have nothing, not one thing other than sin and at best we go on just to trying to put one foot in front of the other.
In today’s Gospel verse 19 the disciples had assembled together in fear, and the risen Lord Jesus “came and stood in their midst and said “peace be with you”.
Peace be with you. This is the peace we offer each other every week in our liturgy when we say “peace be with you, and also with you”. This is not just said for the fun of it. This is the peace that Christ has brought to us in his resurrection. The peace that overturns our fears. A living unjudging peace, a peace that says you too are alive again, free from the fear of sin and free from deaths consequences. A peace that finally allows us to truly rejoice. To rejoice in our Lord and to rejoice for every second of the life we are given this side of heaven. It’s the peace of the Lord that makes things look different. It’s the peace of the Lord that make things different and instead of wandering and ambling along placing one foot in front of the other, we now walk with purpose and in the sureness as expressed by our brother in Christ St. Paul in today’s reading from Corinthians. Paul, a fierce opponent of Christians until he met Jesus Christ for himself. A meeting that changed his whole being from persecutor to being persecuted and was a loyal soldier to the end who amidst the constant storm of opposition against him, the clamour of his enemies and the desertion of his friends would look back to what happened on the cross and be given new enthusiasm and zeal to press on and tread the blood-stained path that Christ had trodden before him to spread the knowledge of the Saviour crucified and the saviour risen.
When leaving the sem. a lecturing pastor said to us “as pastors and Christian’s you are not asked to go looking to suffer persecution and death, but if it finds you and you are ‘ásked’ to be a martyr, you face it in Christ”.
Every person who walks this earth will at some time and at some level face persecution. And all will face death. That’s just how it is.
But in Christ what may happen is not what we dwell on; we dwell on what he has done. What has happened? That he has brought us forgiveness, has brought us eternal life, has brought us freedom and has brought us life here today, on this earth.
His love that cannot be taken from us by neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.
His love for us and joy of life he has given that cannot be taken from us by neither those who ridicule us, nor those who turn from us and treat us unfairly, nor the knowledge of our own sin, nor our self- loathing. For we are now free.
Free to cry and free to mourn, and free to live. Free to build up those who look to bring us down and free to love those who love us not. Free to climb the highest mountains or free to rest at the bottom.
“Born down in a dead man’s town the first kick I took was when I hit the ground, (and) you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much till you spend half your life just covering up”. The opening lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA”. A protest song about his country that he doesn’t much sing anymore since the tragedy of September 11 and instead wrote a song called the rising.
A song with biblical overturns directed towards his country, a song of rebuilding and a song of hope
“I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me….
There’s holy pictures of our children
dancing in a sky filled with light.
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me.
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight”.
Pain upon pain yet that brings hope.
A young boy who at age four or five in the middle of the night was more than once woken by his loving mum and told to run the two miles through the wheat crops to the neighbor’s house for safety. In some ways that boy, now a man is still running through the paddocks. But now he does not run along with only the light from the moon to guide him, but in and under the light of Christ.
Our pain upon Christ’s pain, that has brought hope.
Our rising upon Christ’s rising, that has brought life.
On Good Friday looking up at Christ I had no words to offer. Today looking at the raised Christ and knowing that there is nothing more I can do other than what he’s done, I see that I have everything to offer.
In Christ your sins died on the cross and in his resurrection so too have you been raised up. Towards eternal life you have nothing to offer as it has been done and in that knowledge and in that freedom-today, tomorrow and the next you have everything to offer-so wether the moments you have remaining are many or few-live, truly live and bask in every moment this side of heaven in the sure knowledge of what awaits for you on the other side.