Sermons from St Faith's   

Alive Again in Christ

Paula O'Shaughnessy Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

'Man is the pie that bakes and eats himself and the recipe is separation.'

This is the reality of Alasdair Grey's dystopian world, a surreal depiction of late 20th century Scotland, in his novel 'Lanark a Life in Four Books'.  The main character has lost a sense of his own identity, forgotten his own name even.  Human nature in this world has no redeeming qualities, there is a sense of hopelessness, corruption and decay everywhere.  People do not relate to each other, everywhere is shadow and suspicion.  It is like the banishment of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden; ahead lies only sorrow and strife.

'Man is the pie that bakes and eats himself and the recipe is separation.'

This has the deadening sound of hopelessness and dehumanisation.  When such forces seem to be at work, we must stop to pray – to ask God to bring hope and life again, to the world.  Yes, bad things do happen, some cannot be prevented.  But some things can and should be prevented from happening.  When we identify with our neighbour, then we are living in God, then we are alive again in Christ.  Our hardness of heart is melted, to softness, warmth and love.

I was walking in Manchester yesterday. Sitting at the roadside was a young man he was so young  and so innocent looking sat there in the sleeping bag. His face reminded me of someone I knew. There is now so much homelessness in Manchester. It is often described as an epidemic these days. When you see the face that you feel you almost recognise then it really touches you.  There are though, times when we do not identify with a fellow human being.  Maybe when we perceive some wrong-doing they have committed against ourselves or against a loved one.  What then?  We know we are to follow the teachings of Christ, to have faith in God, to forgive our enemies and to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.  But how hard it is to do.

In today's gospel, the disciples face this dilemma.  They are hiding from the Jews, for fear of their lives.  They have lost their messiah, so they think.  The hopelessness and loss of faith is overwhelming for them.  Fear, the primal instinct, has possessed them, stopping them from thinking clearly, and undermining their faith. By coming among the disciples, Jesus brings to them once again, courage and faith.  We are not invited to judge Thomas for doubting the resurrection of Jesus. It is clear that we are rather to recognise ourselves in him and in the other disciples.

After the resurrection, Jesus is not recognised as himself.  First by Mary Magdalene, then by the disciples.  This is understandable, as it defies all worldly expectations.  That Jesus is risen from the dead, is not readily comprehended or accepted by the witnesses.  But this is the reality, and it is acceptance of this, which so transforms the world.

John the evangelist refers to how there are many signs pointing to the reality of the resurrection and the divine nature of Jesus. The divine nature of Jesus is something which we accept in faith. We cannot understand or rationalise within our present life experience.  Our faith transforms us, and the lives of others.

It is by recognising Christ in the world, by recognising Christ in our fellow men, that we start to see and live in a world transformed by Christ.  When we can recognise the weaknesses and tendencies to do wrong within ourselves, then we can begin to do a small part in healing in the world.  When we can only see the speck in our neighbour's eye, but not the log in our own, we cast our own dark shadow onto the world, but do not receive light into our eye.  Herein, is one of the difficult but profoundly important teachings of Christ.

We are not merely the banished children of Eve, we are also those for whom the saviour died, because he so loved the world.  The dystopia is not absolute, and we are not irrevocably lost to sin and sorrow.  We can, with faith and prayer bring ourselves and our fellow men back from the brink.  We can focus on the faith which sustains us.

John the evangelist, whose symbol of the eagle transcends the mundane, offers us the soaring, insight of the heavenly, the divine.  He reminds us again and again of the importance of the signs which Jesus gives to us.  These transform the world, with saving grace.

The courage of the disciples, who went forth from the locked room, bringing the gospel of Christ to the world, empowered by the holy spirit – is the embodiment of the faith.  When agencies of mission and charity ease the suffering of others, we see the holy spirit at work also.  When we as individuals turn away from sin, when we see Christ in others, then there is the true faith and a living witness to Christ.  Then we are healed in Christ

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