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Sermon – Trinity 5

Trinity 5 – A prophet without honour

Sunday 4 July 2021

Readings: Ezekiel 2:1-5, Mark 6:1-13

On Tuesday of last week the Church celebrated the two Saints Peter and Paul together.

Bearing in mind that most Saints, even ones you have never previously heard of, get a day all to themselves it may look a bit odd that these two pillars of the church, have to share.

It looks even more odd when you realise how different they were in so many ways.  Peter was a ‘salt of the earth’ fisherman from Galilee, not very learned, often a bit impetuous.  Paul was more of a scholar, advanced in his studies of Judaism and an early persecutor of the church.  Even as apostles they did not always agree with one another.

But, despite their obvious differences in character and temperament, they did have something significant in common.  They both responded to the call of Jesus on their lives to make a difference in the world.  Peter was called by Jesus in person to leave his nets and become a fisher of men. Later he was called to be the Rock on which the church would be built. Paul was called spiritually by Jesus whilst he was on the road to Damascus, to stop being a persecutor of the church and he became its greatest evangelist.  

What I love about these two saints being celebrated together is that we are reminded that the church is not built on those who are like us and who agree with us in all things.  The church was never intended to be a club for the like-minded but is the place where the whole world is redeemed, and the whole world includes people who are different from us in all sorts of ways.

So, the sharing of this day by two great saints says loud and clear that the church can live with difference and diversity and even disagreement.  We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family and the Church is a new family.

This time of year, often called Petertide, is also about the calling to minister within and to the church.  Peter and Paul were both called and ‘ordained’ to their different ministries and most Dioceses in the Church of England ordain their deacons and priests at this time of year, and my Facebook and Twitter feed has been full of ordination photos and memories.  

Although this ordination season is a source of joy and excitement, and it is always a privilege to respond to God’s call on your life, and to see others do so, we are also reminded that ministry can be a costly business, even for Jesus.

Last week we heard that Jesus healed a woman merely by her touching his cloak and that he brought a 12 year old girl back from death. It is clear to all those around him that Jesus is a powerful miracle worker, a prophet of God and perhaps even more than that.

And then Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth – the place where he had grown up with his family, had been surrounded by friends and neighbours – in short the place where he had been known since being a young child.

When Jesus started preaching in the synagogue things seemed to be going well at first. We are told that the people who heard him were ‘astounded’ at both his words of wisdom and the deeds of power that he had been doing. And they wondered “Where did this man get all this?” The obvious implication being that such power and wisdom must come from a place above and beyond his humanity – that it comes from God.

But in the blink of an eye the astonishment of the people in the synagogue turned to doubt and to cynicism:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary – are not his brothers and sisters here with us?

The crowd allowed their knowledge of Jesus as a person – a person with a family and a history – someone they may well have seen scampering around the streets of Nazareth as a child – to destroy any possibility that there was something else, something divine, going on here. And we are told that they ‘took offence at him’.

I am reminded here of not one but two Monty Python sketches.   In the first John Cleese enters a room dressed smartly in a suit and his elderly mother and one of her elderly friends are there. He says “Good evening Mother” and the two old ladies are amazed that he can walk and talk until, eventually, he says: “Mother, I am the Secretary of State for Trade.” and that sets them off again.

And the other is, of course, from the Life of Brian when Brian’s mother says to the gathered crowd, “He is not the Messiah, he is a very naughty boy.”

And we can probably understand the human nature of what is going on. Here in Hadlow, where no one knew me as an 8 year old, I am the Vicar and many people like to imagine that Vicars drop from the sky fully formed. But when I visit friends and family I am not the Vicar, I am simply Paul and rather than getting to preach I usually struggle to get a word in edgeways.

But of course, the whole point of the incarnation is that Jesus was fully human, a person with a family and a history of growing up in Nazareth who was also fully divine. God works through real, living, breathing human beings not only in the person of Jesus but also in his church – sometimes that makes it hard to discern the divine through the human but it is a useful reminder that we need to open our eyes to the divine presence in the familiar and the material – ordinary bread and wine are transformed to divine service but so too are ordinary men and women – even those we may have seen growing up and even those we know to be fallible human beings.

So, the encounter in the synagogue that started well with the crowd being astounded with Jesus ends with him being amazed at their unbelief. 

In many ways this passage should be a comfort to those of us in ministry who may have unrealistic expectations about people liking us because we are seeking to do good or being won over by our preaching. And, indeed, when Jesus sent out the apostles he made it very clear that just as his ministry was not welcome in Nazareth so there will be times and places when the apostles are not welcome either.   It is the apostle’s responsibility to go in the name of Christ and do what they are commanded to do but if the people won’t respond then that is the people’s responsibility.   Likewise it is the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility to go to the people, but it is up to them how they respond.

With the exception of Jesus himself, who still had to suffer the disbelief of his home crowd, all those called and ordained into the service of God including Peter and Paul and this Paul are fully human beings with pasts and with faults.  Do we choose to take offence at the humanity of the preacher or do we choose to listen to the divinity of the message?

What is that message?  God loves you and he calls you to love him and love each other, even those who are unlike you in every way.

How will you respond to that message this week?

Amen.

New Anna Chaplain for St Mary’s

On Tuesday .. June Jenny Hopkins was commissioned by Bishop James as the Anna Chaplain for St Mary’s.  The purpose of Anna Chaplaincy is to be a Christian presence with and friend to the older people in our community, both in church and in the wider village.  

Jenny has already been exercising an informal ministry in this area for a number of years but she felt particularly called to develop this further as a result of a dementia-friendly nativity service which was held in December 2019.  Although dementia care and older persons care are not the same thing they do overlap at times and we hope that St Mary’s is going to be part of the ‘dementia-friendly’ village initiative which is underway and that Jenny will be part of this too.  

In the short term Jenny will be opening the church on two Friday mornings a month (the first and third Friday, staring on 2 July) and would be delighted to see anyone who wishes to pop in for a chat.  As covid restrictions lift the plan is that we would be able to re-start some coffee mornings for older people, a bereavement support group and a number of dementia-friendly services each year.  

Please do pray for Jenny in this new ministry and if you would like to work with her in any way as this work develops please do not hesitate to speak either to her or to me.

If you would like to see more about Anna Chaplaincy there is a page on the Rochester website which is a good starting point – here. 

Jenny, following her commissioning, with Bishop James and Julia Burton-Jones, Diocesan Co-ordinator of Anna Chaplaincy.

Sermon – Trinity 4

Trinity 4 – The Church as place of healing27th June 2021

Rev’d Christopher Miles

Readings: Lamentations 3 vv 22 – 33    God’s faithful love

Mark 5 vv 21-E     Healing of the sick woman and raising of Jairus’ daughter

  1. Introduction.         As we progress hopefully towards the end of Covid restrictions it is good to have the two positive readings today to encourage us.  The reading from Lamentations, speaking of God’s love for us and the reading from Mark’s Gospel with such positive accounts of Jesus’ ministry to those in distress.   It is good that, with these accounts in mind, we should consider both the spiritual input to the healing process and the Jesus’ ministry in relation to the specific ministry of the Church as an institution.  There are also difficult questions that I cannot even touch on, such as “Why does God inflict plagues on this worldwide level?”  Firstly a few words about the readings. 
  2. Lamentations.       The book of Lamentations follows the book of the prophet Jeremiah.  In the older, Hebrew, Jewish Bible it is simply labelled ‘Lamentations’ but usually attributed to Jeremiah, because in the 2nd Century Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, it is entitled ‘The lamentations of Jeremiah’ and opens with the introductory words, ‘And it came to pass, after Israel was taken captive and Jerusalem was made desolate, that Jeremias sat weeping with this lamentation over Jerusalem and said’.   Much of the book is the author questioning why God seems to have deserted his people and brought this terrible desolation on Israel and especially on the capital city, Jerusalem.  So, its theme is appropriate to our current national and global situation.  It is good that within that context Jeremiah can come in with such a strong positive note as we had in our first reading this morning, beginning, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end (3 v 22).”   There is one verse that seems a bit difficult and calls for comment.  V 27 reads, “It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth”, in otherwards to experience some hardship when young.  When I was young, I experienced all the usual childhood diseases, namely mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, measles and German measles.  Perhaps that has given me some immunity later in life.  In a wider sense I think that this is what Jeremiah is saying.
  3. Mark’s Gospel.     Now let us turn to Mark’s Gospel.  What a wretched time the sick woman had had.  She had suffered a great deal under many doctors.  Medicine has developed a long way in the last 2000 years, but still does not have all the answers.   It is perhaps difficult for us to appreciate the woman’s dilemma.  She was aware of Jesus’ healing ministry, yet for a woman in public to approach a man, other than of her own family, was a ‘No, no!’ and certainly not to touch him in any way, yet she had both a strong belief that Jesus could heal her, that he had healing power, and that healing power needed to be transmitted physically.  Her scheme was a cunning compromise, that in the crowd, she could come up, perhaps from behind and just touch his robes.  How terrified she naturally was, when Jesus called out, ‘Who touched me’.  She was in danger.  Because of her bleeding she would have been regarded as ‘unclean’ and to deliberately touch a rabbi was a serious sin.  No wonder Mark records that reluctantly and trembling with fear the woman admits to what she had done.  Far from condemning her, he responds, “Daughter your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your sufferings.”  An attitude towards women that we are only now 2000 years later, catching up with!

Mark then goes on to narrate the account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter.  These two accounts occur in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.  One may consider the event an equivalent of the raising of Lazarus in John’s gospel.  Jesus’ strict instruction to Jairus, his wife and the three disciples, who had accompanied him, not to tell anyone about the event may seem surprising.  You may feel that he had tried to provide a cover for the situation by saying “The girl is not dead but sleeping”.  Matthew tells us, “News of this spread through all that region.” (9 v 26).   Jesus knew though that such a dramatic miracle would arouse the concern and even wrath of national leaders.  His instruction is in contrast to that in the previous chapter where he tells the healed demoniac, Legion, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” (5 v 19).  On that occasion He was in the tetrarchy of Philip on the East side of the Sea of Galilee, well away from national leaders, whereas in today’s events he has returned to Galilee on the W side of the lake.  Albeit not in Judah, he was nearer to Jerusalem and in an area of Palestine of greater concern to the national leaders. 

  • Implication of Jesus’ healing miracles.            It seems to me that there are three possible responses to today’s Gospel and Jesus’ healing miracles generally:
  • Firstly, some Christians might regard the healing miracles as unique to Jesus, as evidence that he was God’s chosen Messiah, or Christ, to use the Greek term.
  • Secondly some Christians might regard prayer and healing as a phenomenon of the early Church, a ministry of the chosen apostles to give the Church a kick start but not applicable today.
  • Thirdly others might say that with the development of modern medicine, spiritual healing has no place these days.

To the first group, regarding non-medical healing as solely proof of Jesus Messiahship, I would say that Jesus sent out the 12 disciples and then 72 disciples telling them to preach this message, “The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Mtt. 10 vv 7, 8). Then, when he sends out 72 disciples, he tells them, “To heal the sick and tell them that the kingdom of God is near you” (Mtt. 10 v 9).

To the second group I would point to Paul’s epistle to the Church of Corinth, where he writes of gifts of healing as one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12 v 28).

To the third group I would point to the Epistle of James, where in his final chapter (5 v 14, 15) he writes, “Is anyone of you sick?  He should call the elders of the Church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  Oil, probably olive oil, was used because of its healing properties. Here the physical and spiritual go hand in hand.

Healing today.       Where does this lead us as Christians today?  It seems to me that scripture and experience strongly point to a place for healing ministry in the Church today.  This ministry may be exercised in direct co-operation with established medical treatment through chaplaincy in hospitals etc.  For 5 years, early on in my retirement, I served as a part-time chaplain in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Health Trust, mainly at the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells but also in Pembury Hospital and occasionally in Maidstone Hospital.   I had conversations with a great variety of patients as I went round the wards and generally, I offered to pray for the person I was visiting.  This was nearly always accepted, even in the case of a Muslim.   We had a sizeable chaplaincy team with a full-time ordained chaplain and many lay volunteers, one of whom was a doctor.  We always had at least one chaplain available, day and night.   There was one amusing incident where the doctor had been seeing a patient.  She then said to the doctor, “Now I would like to see the Chaplain”.  “Yes, I am right here” the doctor responded.   The patient had great difficulty in understanding that a doctor could also be a chaplain.    There is of course a place for healing ministry in the local church.  Clergy and lay ministers have the opportunity in visiting people at home to offer to pray with and for people.  There is of course no reason why any of us should not pray with and for friends and acquaintances.  Each Sunday we pray for the sick.  It is not appropriate, nor is there time to speak of the particular needs of individuals.  Let us though consciously pray for these people believing that God will work in their lives.  Perhaps you could remember one name and pray at home during the week for that person.   Whilst touch and physical presence can be valuable, the work of the Spirit is not confined.   Jesus healed by a remote word.  Some churches have an opportunity for specific individual prayer, perhaps in a side chapel so that people returning from receiving communion can receive prayer.  Not every local church has members with gifts of healing.  My gift is more aligned to healing of church lightning protection systems!  That must very definitely be aligned with science, and engineering!   But as shown in my stole I recognise that I exercise that gift under the hand of God.  In conclusion let us develop our belief that our risen Lord Jesus is at work through his Church to redeem, heal and renew us as we seek to serve him. 

I finish with 3 verses from Psalm 103, verses which we said at Morning Prayer on Tuesday, the day on which Jenny Hopkins was licensed as a lay minister.

“Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits;

Who forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities.”

Sermon – 4th Sunday of Easter

Sunday 25th April 2021

Acts 4:5-12, John 10:11-18

May I speak this morning in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Nearly every week I start my sermon in that way – seeking to ground my thinking, my writing and ultimately my speaking in the name of God.

“…there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved.”

Names are important and names are powerful.

The name by which you are known, and how others use it, can speak volumes about relationships.  If someone you don’t know well changes your name without consent – perhaps they shorten a Stephen to a Steve or a Vivienne to a Viv – then not only can it cause annoyance but it can also feel as though that person has become over-familiar and trying to exert informal power.

One of the redeeming features about being called Paul is that it is not an easy name to either shorten or lengthen – although I was called Pablo when I lived in York many years ago. I guess that could now be Padre Pablo.  That has a certain ring, but no!

When parents shout, or say quietly, your full given name, including your middle names, then you know you are in trouble.

People in close relationships may use all sorts of nick-names for each other, which may not be known or used by anyone else, and which reinforce intimacy.

People who don’t like each other, or wish to be deliberately unkind, may call each other horrible names:

‘…sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me…’ – I think we all know that is not true.

People with depression or self-esteem issues may call themselves all sorts of bad names, which can change the way they think of themselves.  When we think lowly of ourselves and give ourselves demeaning names, remember always that that is not how God sees us – he knows our real name.

The importance and power of names runs like a golden thread from the beginning to the end of the bible – let me highlight just a few:

At the very beginning, when God spoke creation into being, he also named that which he created:  ‘God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night.” (Gen 1:5) The act of naming completed the act of creation. 

When Abram entered into a new covenant with God, at the age of 99, an age when most of us are quite used to our names I suspect, God changed his name, perhaps to complete the act of creation in his life: “No longer will you be called Abram your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations”. (Gen 17:5). 

Many monks and nuns change their names when taking religious vows.  I once stayed in a monastery and ended up sitting next to a monk called St John of the Cross.  Which felt a little intimidating but he was very nice. 

When Moses was called by name from the burning bush and sent to rescue his people from slavery, Moses asked the name of the one who was sending him: “I AM WHO I AM” or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE – Pure being-ness and becoming. (Ex 3:14)

When God, I AM WHO I AM, later gave the ten commandments to Moses the fourth commandment was that his people should not misuse the name of God – ‘for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’ (Ex 20:7).  In response to this commandment many Jews will not even write or say the word ‘God’, for fear of even accidently misusing the name, and will refer to God as “HaShem” – which simply means the Name.

I don’t know about you but when I hear people using the name of Jesus Christ as an exclamation or a swear word it really hurts me. I feel it in my heart.  It is misusing the name of God, it is misusing the name of someone we love and follow and I would certainly hope that no practising Christian would even be able to do this.

When God called the boy Samuel to be a prophet he called him distinctly by name, as he had called Moses before, and, as we heard on Easter Day, when Jesus wanted Mary Magdalene to recognise him following the resurrection he simply said her name.  Although God calls in many and varied ways he is also quite capable of simply calling us by name.  If we are brave enough to approach the burning bush, willing to seek the counsel of those who are wiser than us or simply take a moment to wipe the tears from our eyes, or metaphorically unblock our ears, we may recognise and respond to the one who calls us by name.

When John the Baptist was conceived his father Zechariah was struck dumb and was not able to speak again until he confirmed that ‘his name is John’ (Luke 1:57-66).

Having started in Genesis the theme of the power of names, both for us and for God, goes all the way to Revelation: “To the one who is victorious I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Rev 2:17)

Doubtless a mysterious verse but one which suggests to me that our true identity, our eternal name, is known only to God and that the act of creation in us will be completed on the other side of this life when God gives those who have won through that white stone with our new and real name written on.

And, at the very end of Revelation, in the new heaven and the new earth we are told of God’s people that:

 “They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads(Rev 22:4)

There is a beautiful circularity here: The people of God both receive a new name from him, which is their true identity, but ultimately they are known not because they wear their own name, but because they wear God’s name.  This is the opposite of misusing God’s name, it is being known as His people by making his name our name. 

Then, of course, last but by no means least, there is the name of Jesus:

          “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,

          every tongue confess him, king of glory now.”

I do love that hymn, but, like many hymns it is based in scripture, in this case Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The name above all names. 

Although I don’t bow my knee every time the name of Jesus is mentioned you may have noticed that I often bow my head during the liturgy, and those that wear birettas to worship would doff them at that point – this is no mere affectation or empty religiosity but, for me at least, comes from the same heart that is hurt when Jesus’ name is misused – it is a heart that recognises the name of Jesus as the name of my friend, my brother, my judge, my king of kings and my God.  How could we be unmoved by that name?

The disciples were asked:

By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7)

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said:

It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead…. there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved.”

There is no other name by which we must be saved.

Amen.

Sermon – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Sunday 18th April; Doubting Disciples

Readings: Acts 3:12-19 Luke 24:36b-48

May I speak this morning in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It is sometimes easy to forget that Easter, like Christmas, is not a single day but it is, in fact, a whole season.  

We don’t simply hear the story of the resurrection on Easter morning and then get back to ‘business as usual’, or at least we shouldn’t.  

For the 50 days of the Easter season we travel with the disciples in their struggles to come to terms with the reality of the resurrection, and what it might mean for them and for the world.

On Good Friday this year Professor Alice Roberts, the President of the Humanists in the UK, Tweeted that ‘dead people do not come back to life.’   Apart from demonstrating a severe lack of grace I wonder what she was hoping to achieve – would millions of Christians suddenly realise the error of their ways? 

Of course, we know that dead people don’t come back from the dead, apart from in ghost films, and the disciples also knew that dead people do not come back to life.  Well there was Lazarus and Dorcas but they are exceptions because Jesus did that, but generally dead people don’t come back.  It’s simply common sense, and the disciples were sensible people – fisherman, tax collectors, grown ups.

Dead people do not come back to life.

Last week we heard about the disciple Thomas.  And ‘thank you’ Christopher for reminding us that the stories of the disciples did not end when their story in the bible ended, and that Thomas may well have travelled to India proclaiming the good news.  

Saint Thomas is often referred to as a doubter because he would not believe in the resurrection until he saw Jesus for himself.  This is doubly unfair on Thomas  – at no point do his words or actions display the slightest doubt, in fact he is crystal clear: At first he says that “unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my fingers in his side, I will not believe.”

I will not believe.  That is not doubt.

And then, when Jesus appears to him and Thomas sees and touches the wounds of the cross he says: “My Lord and my God!”  That is not doubt either.  Thomas was clear in both directions – he would not believe and then he believed.  

But the reason that calling Thomas a doubter is doubly unfair is because that word is used in today’s reading and it is not aimed at him:

“…Jesus himself stood among them and said to them ‘Peace be with you.’”

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”  “Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your minds?”

There is that word – doubt – and it is not being aimed at Thomas but at all those who were gathered in that room.  

The disciples knew that dead people do not come back to life.  Except for ghosts.

I find it fascinating that some think that it is entirely un-Christian to believe in the possibility of ghosts – when the disciples mistook Jesus for a ghost not once but twice – in this passage and also in Matthew 14 when he walked on water.

Jesus then goes to some lengths to prove that he is neither a ghost, nor a purely spiritual being:

Look at my hands and feet.  It is I myself!  Touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus was never a purely spiritual matter.  Jesus rising from the dead had nothing to do with a ghost or a spirit or a soul shedding it’s earthly shell, floating around for a bit and then floating up to heaven.  

The incarnation of Jesus does not just mean that God joined himself with our fleshly humanity in birth but he also joined himself to our physicality in death and resurrection.  

But even having seen his hands and feet the disciples were still not sure and so Jesus ate some fish in front of them.  

Poor old Thomas gets called a doubter and yet here is Jesus having to do party tricks in front of many of the disciples to get them to believe that a dead person had come back to life.

Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.  What a gift – to have your mind opened in person by the resurrected Jesus so that we can see him throughout the scriptures and see in him the fulfilment of those scriptures – we pray that the Holy Spirit will work in each of us that way.

But it is not kept secret – this is not a gnostic gospel – Jesus says clearly that the scripture is fulfilled by the Messiah who suffers and rises from the dead on the third day.  This, we know, is the thing which distinguishes Christianity from the other Abrahamic faiths – that apparent failure and disappointment will be overturned by new life and resurrection.  And that forgiveness for the repentance of sins will be preached in all nations.  

Christianity has a had bad rap for being too focused on sin, historically, and often for the condemnation of sin.  I sometimes wonder whether we have gone too far the other way in not thinking about sin at all and pretending that we are all fine with God exactly as we are, with no change required.  If the latter is true then, frankly, there would be no point to faith at all.  Actually I think we need to rediscover the import of what Jesus is saying here:

Sin is real – not everything we do is what God would have us do.

Repentance is real – We can turn from wrong.

Forgiveness is real – When we admit our sins and turn to Christ we are not condemned, rather we are forgiven.

Those who know their need for repentance and experience the forgiveness that only Christ can bring are always the most powerful witnesses to the power of faith.

And I want to close on that word ‘witness’ – it is used in both the reading from Acts and the Gospel reading.  For us to be a witness means two things: It means to see something happening – to witness an event.

But witnesses are not merely bystanders.  They are those who are prepared to stand up and act as witnesses to what they have seen – to give evidence of what they have witnessed.

The mission that Jesus gives the disciples is to be witnesses to his bodily resurrection.  To see that although dead people do not come back to life that Jesus came back to life and not as a ghost but as flesh and bones.  It is the resurrection first and foremost that makes us who we are.  Having acted as witnesses to his resurrection Jesus charges them to be witnesses to the whole world of the forgiveness of sins and the new life that brings.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  In the power of the resurrection the dead do come back to life – that is the lesson the disciples learnt and that is the lesson for us. 

“You are witnesses of all these things.”

Go out into the world and be witnesses to the difference that the resurrected Jesus makes to you.

Amen.