Sunday 18th April 2021.
Welcome to Elmwood Congregation Sunday Worship. Thank you for joining us. Our message this morning is by Mr George Jones. George is an Elder in Local Leadership at Abbey Hill URC.
Call to Worship: Claudette
Hymn: Rejoice the Lord is King
Opening Prayer: Written by Maureen-read by Claudette
The Lord’s Prayer - Claudette
Hymn: What Would I have done
Good News, Inspiration, Birthdays, Anniversaries and how God has blessed us.
Hymn: O the Glory of Your Presence
Preface and bible readings: Acts 3:12-19 & Luke 24:36b-48 -
Hymn: Our God Reigns
Message THE DEATH OF JESUS, THE RISING OF CHRIST - Mr George Jones
Readings: Luke 24:36b-48 - Jesus, fully alive and well, appears to the disciples.
Do you enjoy ghost stories I wonder? I used to know some people who lived in a house which was over 130 years old, and had once been a school, and the tale was told that from time to time you could hear children crying up in the loft where the dormitories had been. But none of the people living there, ever heard a thing. I have never seen a ghost myself, although my mother always claimed she had, during the second world war apparently, whilst she was hanging about a cemetery for some reason I never quite got to the bottom of. My mother had a highly creative imagination, so I was always a bit suspicious about it!
More credible is the story Judith, my partner was telling me this week. Apparently, when she was training to be a nurse at the old Coventry & Warwick Hospital, one evening she saw someone at the end of a corridor in an old nursing uniform. She was told this was a ghost regularly walking the site. Just a little while later, a doctor who was an infrequent visitor arrived, asking where the fancy dress party was as he had seen the same woman!
I do enjoy a good ghost story, particularly at the theatre, and I am always interested to meet people who have seen ghosts. Most people I know are more likely to have heard some ghostly happening, like the crying children or a train where no train runs, rather than to have seen a ghost.
Since most of us do not see ghosts, it's difficult to know whether or not to believe in them. There are many well-attested accounts of the appearance of ghosts, and a few photographs to support those accounts, but unless you see one for yourself, you're perhaps left not knowing quite what to believe.
It seems that, not surprisingly, the first thought to spring to mind when his friends saw Jesus on that first Easter Sunday, was that he was a ghost. But Jesus was at pains to point out that his appearance was not a ghostly one.
He invited the disciples to touch him. You cannot touch a ghost; your hand would go straight through since a ghost has no substance apparently. Notice how confidently I talk about this, even though I have absolutely no evidence to support my belief!
This was not the case with Jesus. He was flesh and blood, and he did have substance. Perhaps that was why Thomas in another incident said, "Unless I touch him for myself, I shan't believe."
The disciples of course, were still terrified. So, Jesus, ever practical, gave them something mundane and homely to do. He sent them off to cook a piece of fish both to settle them down and to prove that he was real, for ghosts have no need of food. And when they had eaten together and were feeling a little surer of themselves and of Jesus, he immediately began to teach them. He opened the Scriptures to them in a new sort of way, just as he had opened the Scriptures to those on the way to Emmaus.
It all sounds very normal and just the sort of thing that Jesus did during his life, but there are several hints that it was far from normal.
He may not have been a ghost, but somehow or other he appeared in the room even though the doors were locked. Normal human beings in this life and in this dimension do not walk through locked doors.
And Jesus was fit and well. On the Friday, his injuries had been so horrific that he'd died from them. Now on the Sunday, only two days later, although he may have had scars from the wounds, clearly there was no bleeding, no discomfort, and no pain. Jesus was upright and walking normally and naturally and was as fit and healthy as anyone in the room. Indeed, he'd just walked seven miles to Emmaus and presumably back again - not a journey to be undertaken by the unfit.
And there seems to have been something different about the way in which he taught the disciples. It appears from the other side of death, Jesus himself had gained tremendous new insight into the Scriptures and how they had been fulfilled in his own case. It had slotted into place for him, and he was able to clearly explain all this to his friends.
Previously, although he spoke a great deal in parables and stories, much of his teaching was quite obscure and had to be explained to the disciples afterwards. We are told again and again in the gospels that their minds were dull or that they were blind or that they couldn't understand.
That was not so for the disciples in today's account, neither was it so for the disciples on the road to Emmaus which immediately precedes this account in Luke's gospel. In both episodes, the disciples immediately grasped what he was telling them, and they were filled with fervour and excitement and enthusiasm. It was as though now they understood with the heart rather than simply with the mind or the intellect.
So the Jesus who appeared in the upper room on Easter Sunday evening was not the same as the Jesus who died on Good Friday afternoon. Or rather, he was the same, yet he was quite different. It was certainly Jesus who died, Jesus the son of Mary and Joseph, and who somehow or other passed through death and was seen alive on the other side of death. But this post-death, post-Easter Jesus was different. He was Jesus the Christ, the Saviour, the Messiah.
The resurrection of Jesus is a huge stumbling block for many people, including many Christians. At 2,000 years distance we shall never now know exactly what happened. All we can do is examine the different accounts of the evidence and reach the most likely conclusion. But we can be absolutely certain that something happened, and that it was something momentous, something previously utterly unknown.
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. The disciples, who for the previous three years had a kind of belief in Jesus and kind of understood what he was about, now knew.
They understood in a completely different way at a completely different level. They knew in the centre of their being that Jesus was Lord.
And it is the same today. When they meet with the risen Christ, those who have spent the whole of their lives kind of believing and kind of understanding suddenly know at a totally different level and in a totally different way that Jesus is Lord. And like the disciples, that new kind of knowing in the centre of being changes everything.
And just as many people are unable to believe in ghosts until or unless they meet one for themselves, so it's impossible to know the risen Christ at the centre of your being until you meet him for yourself. No amount of reading the Bible or doing good deeds or even attending church and saying prayers will give an experience of the risen Christ unless and until you meet him for yourself.
But once that happens, it changes everything. Once you know at the centre of your being that Jesus is real and it's possible to communicate with him and actually hear him, life is utterly transformed. There is a deep, inner happiness, the peace which passes understanding. There's a very real source of strength and power. And life becomes eternal life, experienced here and now.
That is what's on offer to Easter people, to those who meet with the resurrected Lord. And compared with that, the actual mechanics of resurrection suddenly become much less important; for you find out for yourself that the risen Christ is no ghost but a Holy Spirit which dwells within you.
And there's nothing more important than that.
Hymn: Jesus Christ is Waiting
Prayers of Healing/Intercession: Written by Maureen- Read by Claudette
Hymn: In Christ Alone