Sunday, April 7, 2013

God's ways are not our ways

Easter for me poses two questions.

How can we believe?

What should we do about it?

How can we believe?

Because people who saw, recorded what they saw, passed it on and it has been included in the Bible.  We can now scrutinise their testimony.  Take one example – in the fourth gospel, the Gospel according to St John.

He had  been there at the beginning.  He was there when John the Baptist baptised Jesus.  He was there when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He wanted to know where Jesus was staying and when Jesus said to him ‘come and see’, that’s exactly what he did.

He came and he saw Jesus teaching in people’s homes and outside on the hillside.  He came and he saw Jesus bring healing to a man who had been born blind, he saw Jesus bring new life and purpose to a woman abused by a sequence of men.  He saw so many things and drew closer and closer to this Jesus.

Then came that night, the night of Jesus’s arrest.  He saw Jesus wash the feet of the other disciples, he saw Jesus washing his own feet.  He felt close to Jesus and Jesus was close to  him.  Ask him, nudged Peter, ask him who it is he is talking about when he says ‘One of you is going to betray him.”  Go on, ask him.  He leaned over and asked him, “Lord, who is it.”  He saw him give the piece of bread to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.  He saw him go out.  He saw it was night.

And the next day he saw it happen.  He was standing there. 

As close as he could be to Jesus.  He saw his mother there.  So alone.  “Woman, here is your son,” said Jesus – he saw that he was speaking of him.  “Here is your mother.”  He had known her for so long.  He saw her for the first time.  His love flowed out to her.

He saw the soldiers break the legs of the other two.  But not Jesus.  He saw them pierce his side with a spear.  He saw blood and water flow from that wound.

He saw and he bore witness.  So that you also may believe.  And his testimony is true, and he knows he tells the truth.  He saw.  With his own eyes he saw.

And on the third day, he could scarce believe it when Mary Magdalene arrived running, she had come from the tomb.  The tomb was empty.  How he ran, as fast as he could.  He outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go on.  Peter did.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then it was he too went in, and he saw and believed.

That evening, he was there.  In the upper room, as scared as the others, thinking they would be next, when Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”

He saw as Jesus showed them his hands and his sides.

A week later, he saw it all again.  This time Thomas was there too.  He saw Thomas reach out and touch those hands of Jesus, his side just where the spear had pierced him.  He saw what a difference that made to Thomas as he said, My Lord and My God.

“Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

He saw and he believed.

Some time later he went back to where it had all  begun.  They caught nothing – and then the stranger bade them cast their nets again.  It was such a large catch of fish.  He looked and he saw – it was Jesus.  And again he saw Jesus on the shore, cooking fish and he saw him eating the fish.  He saw the love Jesus had for Peter.   Do you love me more than these – yes, Lord – not once but three times.

And then he saw Peter catch his eye and turn to Jesus and say, what about him?  They were strange words that Jesus said.  He would remain, remain until Jesus would come.

But how would he remain?  Through the words of his testimony, witness to all he had seen?

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.

There are many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

These are all written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the  Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

How can we believe?  The next step … is to test it out among people we know – people around us today.  Does Jesus, the Christian faith, make a difference in people’s lives?   I guess that leads us on to the second question what should we do about it?

Hymn:  I know that my redeemer lives

For many years we ran a Time for God scheme with volunteers joining us for a gap year after school.   One of those volunteers who had been with us thirteen years ago joined us with her husband.  They both spoke of their Christian faith, the difference it makes in their lives.  They finished speaking of the way when we make plans, sometimes they don't work out, but God's ways are not our ways.  They directed us to Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

With that in mind, when things don't work  out as we plan, we can be sure God is with us and he has his own plans for us.

We finished with prayers inspired by Isaiah 55:6 and the promise that when we pray, God is near.

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