Easter Sunday


: Easter Sunday


Leading up to Easter we’d been focusing on the idea of ‘Listening to God’. Of course you can’t listen to someone who doesn’t exist or who is dead.koch3

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus is ALIVE! He’s not dead. God’s not dead; in fact through Jesus he has opened his heart and soul to us. He’s invited us to share life with him, up close and personal.

Of course Jesus was killed because people didn’t want to listen to him. People didn’t like what he was saying, they felt threatened, they were worried about losing their influence and control, they didn’t want to change, they liked the way things worked for them, they didn’t want another king because they were happy playing at being their own king.

And people are still trying to shut Jesus up today. They’re still trying to kill him, or at least kill his followers. Jesus is still seen as a threat. People don’t want to be told what to do. People what to be free, free to do what they want when they want; so who do you think you are to tell me what to do. People still seek to kill Jesus, to shut him up.

When Jesus was crucified people mocked him. No different today; if you stand with Jesus, you’ll be mocked; labelled irrelevant, out of touch with the latest research, or just plain stupid, labelled as robbing people of their freedom, after all who do you think you are to judge people.

Have you noticed in the media how as a general rule those who claim to have Christian values are mocked, or more and more attacked as bigots who are out of touch with reality? I might be wrong, but it seems to me that in many and varied ways Jesus is being told to shut up. His followers are being killed, quite literally, all over the world.

But guess what; you can’t shut him up, because Jesus is alive. He is alive and well. Not only alive and well, he’s still speaking, he’s still king, and he is bringing in his kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is near.

We’re not left with some good teaching; that’s one of the subtle ways of trying to shut Jesus up. He was a good teacher. No, Jesus IS a good teacher, but oh so much more. Jesus is still speaking.

Do you know what he is saying?

I love listening to him speak to me through the words he spoke to his disciples when he came into their locked room, where they were hiding because of fear. They’d been shut up.

Jesus comes in and says; “Peace be with you.” A traditional greeting at that time would have been ‘Shalom’. That’s the Hebrew word we translate as peace. The thought behind it was fullness of life with God. So it goes way beyond not having any conflict but a life that is rich and full. That’s Jesus’ words to us this morning; ‘Peace be with you’; I want you to have life, life lived to the full.

Jesus is saying; ‘I’m here to invite you into my life that together we might discover and enjoy Father’s love, that we might be living it. Living out this deep, rich, full relationship which brings out the best in us. Lives flowing in, with and under Father’s love as we become a living, breathing expression of that love. Jesus is inviting you to share this wonderful life with him. He has such great hopes and dreams to live with us.

Jesus is alive, you can’t shut him up.

You can chose to ignore him, but Jesus is speaking, Jesus is inviting you, inviting all people to share life with him in Father’s love. To share life with him growing a community that reflects Father’s love.

That’s why Jesus is inviting and not forcing us. Force, brute force, can make people do what you want, but it can never create a loving environment, let alone create a loving person.

People sought to use brute force to shut Jesus up; did they create a loving world through this force?

Jesus takes the brute force that was directed to get rid of him, and comes back, not with totally brutal force, but with amazing love. Jesus forgives. Jesus opens his heart and soul so that we might know without a shadow of a doubt that we are loved. Jesus offers life; life in all his fullness. Life lived from the core of who we are; Father’s child, chosen and marked by his love the delight of his life.

You can choose to ignore Jesus and go on doing things your own way. You can choose not to listen and live by sanctified reason. You can choose to treat Jesus as a figurehead, but of no real influence in the way you live. You can choose to ignore Jesus, because he loves you too much to use brute force just to get his own way.

Jesus is speaking; not to condemn you, but to love you. Jesus is speaking, inviting you into life where you live secure in the new identity he has won for you through his death on the cross.

Jesus is speaking so that we might be able to grow and mature in this new identity we have been given. That identity results in a living expression of God’s very nature; that’s why we live love. In Jesus, it’s who you are; did you hear that? In Jesus you are, not might be or could be if you try really hard. No, in Jesus you are Father’s child, chosen and marked by his love, the delight of his life. That’s who you are.

Now, together with Jesus, your life is a wonderful voyage of discovery, as you grow and mature in this relationship. In Jesus you now have the wonderful freedom to share life with him as together you grow in discovering this wonderful new identity that you have.

Have you ever noticed that people don’t live free when they are left simply to go off and do whatever they want when they want? I soon discover that I’ve become a slave to something or someone. I become a slave to my desire to be praised; hearing people say what a person of worth I am. Slaves aren’t free.

Knowing who you are creates freedom. And the freedom we have in Jesus not only creates freedom for me but for every other person in his kingdom. I don’t discover my worth in competition to you, rather I live out my identity lifting you up to be all that God has created you to be, celebrating life with you.

Jesus is alive and well; speaking life. Speaking life into all who will listen, so that they might discover their new identity in Father, and live free being true to who they are.

Jesus is inviting you to be part of his life, to share living with him. If you can’t hear him, just ask him to remove the curtain, because you want to hear. Just ask, and listen, he’s speaking.

Jesus is inviting you to share life with him, but he won’t force himself on you, he’s waiting for your response. For Jesus is out to create genuine love, and he knows loved people love, and that when people are loved well they’ll love well.

Jesus is inviting you in; I’d encourage you to invite him in. To invite Jesus into your life, your home life, your work life, your leisure life, your sex life, your economics, and even your politics. Daily invite him in because you accept his invitation to love you in every area of life, so you can be living loved, and not just reacting.

Jesus is speaking, he’s alive. Daily make time to chat and talk about life with him. That’s how you invite him in. Invite Jesus to send the Spirit and to lead you into all areas of life that you might be growing, discovering the fullness of life that come when you live loved; loved by Jesus, loved personally each day through the Spirit being there to share life with you.

Jesus is speaking, he’s alive. Invite him in and listen; enjoy the relationship and be all that he has dreamed possible. Go and live loved.

Pastor Tim Koch.

Easter Sunday Sermon 1st April 2018

Matthew 28:1-10

Dear Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we do not fear, but trust in the words of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Hands up all those who have ever felt an earthquake? Our brothers and sisters in New Zealand are all too familiar with feeling the earth shake beneath their feet.

I’m sure they would tell us that this can be terrifying, because there is nothing firm, nothing staying still and secure for you to stand on. The best approach is to get to a place that at least might offer at least some protection from falling objects, or to keep you safe from the walls toppling down on top of you.

But there’s another type of earthquake that most of us have felt, or will one day feel. This is where our life gets very shaky. The things that we have trusted as firm and secure have suddenly become very insecure. For example, you may have had a good job, secure investments, and a great house to live in. But how did, or would you feel, if you lost your job, all your hard earned investments or your house was lost?

Or, perhaps it’s not property, but you may have had good health. You do everything right, you look after yourself, eat and drink the right things, but then your health fails. Your strong legs, hands, or heart become very shaky and you feel you will never be the same again and you grieve for lost opportunities.

Maybe you lose friends or family. You may have had a good spouse that was taken away by tragedy, or through bitter and gut wrenching divorce. You may have lost siblings or close friends that you think you will never be able to replace.

Whatever it is, we have either faced it or will one day face it. We will be faced with times of upheaval, turmoil and our future will look very shaky. The things we had previously put our faith in, or relied upon, are snatched like a rug from under our feet, and we grasp at anything that promises even a glimpse of security.

Now imagine you are Mary Magdalene or the other Mary. Your world has been tossed up, shaken and torn. The man, who promised so much, had been gruesomely killed and laid to rest in a tomb. This man had performed miracles, he had stood up to teach those in authority how to live according to God’s Word, and he had even raised people from the dead. Yet, when he died without a whimper, your hopes and dreams are shattered. Where is your hope now?

As you try to cope with the emotional earthquakes over the past few days, you go to the tomb to see it once more. On your way, you experience a physical earthquake.

The guards at the tomb also feel the earthquake. Along with the shaking of the ground, they see an angel of the Lord in shining white who rolled back the stone in front of the tomb. Most appropriately, they did the only logical thing when faced with such strange sights – they shook like an earthquake themselves and fell over as if they were dead.

It’s strange that St Matthew alone focuses so much on earthquakes and shakings. There are several times in his gospel account where he points out a violent shaking. For example, when Jesus died, the earth shook and rocks split. The guards around Jesus saw the shaking and bore witness that Jesus is the Son of God. When Jesus rose from dead, the earth shook once more and the guards witnessed it again.

Matthew is trying to tell us something.
He is trying to point back to other times when the earth shook. As we look in the bible, we see that when the Israelites were around Mt Sinai, the earth shook. God sat on Mt Sinai and the ground shook. Perhaps Matthew is pointing to the fact that when the earth shook at these times, God was present on earth? These were times when God acted. These were times when God sent his judgement.

God was in action at the time of Jesus’ death and at the time of his resurrection.

Yet earthquakes bring fear. Where is our security when everything has changed, moved all around and been taken away from us? As the two Mary’s walked toward the tomb and felt the earthquake, did they think, ‘Oh, it’s ok, God’s at work?’ No, in fact they were terrified. Their whole world had been turned upside down.

At the time when they thought God was absent and defeated, the angel said those wonderful words; ‘Do not be afraid.’ Later, when they hurried from the tomb with mixed feelings of fear and joy, how did Jesus himself greet them? ‘Do not be afraid.’

Why shouldn’t they be afraid? Why shouldn’t we be afraid?
Because God is at work. In the midst of turmoil and upheaval, God is at work. As Jesus is raised from the death, God’s judgement has been carried out. Our wicked foe has been defeated. Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. Death has been defeated.Yeah, yeah, so what! We’ve heard this a hundred times before.

Every year, and even a few times during the year, we hear those words. We hear Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. We hear death has been defeated. But what has that got to do with my struggles at work, my struggles at home, my fading health and my loss of friends and family? Everything!!

It’s when the physical, emotional and mental earthquakes surround us and we feel like we are on shaky ground, the words the angel and Jesus spoke to the women are the most welcome and reassuring words we want to hear: Do not be afraid. Why? Because what’s the worst that can happen? We could die. Well, in this case, do not be afraid! Death is defeated and life is victorious.

Since we are joined to the body of Christ through baptism, we have already risen. Jesus has already died our death for us. He carried our shame, guilt and punishment for our wrongs to the grave with him. He entered that great devouring mouth called death. But instead of being swallowed by that gaping and hideous mouth, he devoured death itself. Death now has no teeth. Previously our picture of death was this huge mouth full of rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth, waiting to gobble us up. Instead, the mouth is no more harmful than a newborn baby with those massaging soft gums.

Now, since he has risen to new life, we too have risen with him. Through Christ and his resurrection, we have already crossed over that dark chasm and now live in the light of eternal life.

This is the reason we do not fear – because death has lost its sting. Because Christ lives, we live also.This helps us face our daily earthquakes. We discover that when we think we only have shaky ground, we instead have the most secure ground available. We have a secure ground that can never be shaken.

We have the secure ground of God’s precious Word: those wonderful words that come in the midst of our earthquakes. Words like ‘do not be afraid’ and ‘your sins are forgiven.’ Here in this church, we have a sanctuary from the world’s earthquakes. Here we gather in a sanctuary which provides peace, comfort, and forgiveness.

We have secure ground in Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Those wonderful words ‘He is risen’ reassure us that there is life after death. There is light after darkness. There is hope after hopelessness. There is security and peace even when all things are shaken about. Here as we celebrate his glorious resurrection, we receive that joy and hope in Christ. When our world seems to shake and quiver, remember those wonderful words of Jesus: ‘Do not be afraid.’ Take his Word for it. He has gone ahead of us to heaven. He waits to meet us there at the appointed time. There we will see him with our own eyes and he will greet us again with grace, joy and peace.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.