Christ has risen
Love is living
so today we sing:
Hallelujah, praise God!
we celebrate new life with Jesus!
Leave your old clothes behind!
Read: John 20: 1-10
If we are expecting everything to return to “normal” I suggest we haven’t experienced Easter in our lives! The world wasn’t the same after Jesus rose from the dead and normal service isn’t meant to resume today. It’s a NEW life we celebrate!
Children can often raise those questions that challenge grown-up theology and open adult eyes to a new understanding of scripture. It started me thinking when a child asked, “what was Jesus wearing when he appeared to his disciples?” Then, of course, they will continue with the thread of questions, including, “where did he get his new clothes?”
They are good questions, of course, because the old grave clothes were scattered around the tomb and Jesus didn’t appear in the garden naked. I am surprised one of the great fashion shops hasn’t realised the marketing potential of “new clothes for a new life!” with the label, ‘Resurrection Clothes!’
One thing for sure is that you will look good and feel good when you leave the old clothes behind and put on the new attitude modelled by Jesus. It is the fashion we grow into and will never grow out of when we do our shopping through scripture.
Clothe yourselves with splendour (Psalm 45: 3), or with strength (Isaiah 52: 1) or, as Paul says (Romans 13: 14), “with the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are God’s much loved children so put on the clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience then give it the perfect look with love. (Colossians 3: 12-14).
If you haven’t already done it Easter is a wonderful time to leave your old clothes behind and dress yourself in a new attitude. Jesus leaves his grave clothes behind and is dressed and ready to lead us into a new life which is better than before.
Jesus told his disciples, and tells us today, not to shop from the High Street or on-line, but to wait for the delivery from heaven. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” he says. (Luke 24: 49)
If we wear what God provides rather than what we buy from one of the world’s fashion stores we will make such a powerful impression on everyone who sees us. We’ll be dressed for a mission with clothes made in heaven!
As Paul says to the Church in Ephesus, “take off your old self and put on the new clothes, fashioned to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4: 20-24)
Some clothes are made for life to be worn 24/7 and will never wear out, but some of us save them as our Sunday best or for special occasions. The new attitude we are invited to put on at Easter isn’t for changing in and out of. We wear it to bed with joy, wake up in the morning with a smile and wear it in our daily activities with great delight.
We grow into our clothes until they become a familiar part of us and we are recognised as children of God rather than adults of the world. When we put on the clothes of Christ we become part of the Church that is the whole people of God called and committed to continue his ministry in the world. He clothes us with particular gifts and dresses some of us ready to be called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, some to be elders, others as community workers and many more to use specific gifts on behalf of the Church, the one Body of Christ. Whatever our role in the Church we are “urged to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4: 1) We’ve got to wear the right spiritual clothes for the job to be done and when we put on righteousness as our clothing and justice as our robe and turban we will make the widow’s broken heart sing. (Job 29: 13-14)
When we leave our old clothes behind and wear this new attitude delivered by God, we are going to look very different. So different that we, and our Church, will be unrecognisable so let’s read more of this Easter Sunday story….
Read: John 20: 11-18
THE PARABLE OF THE STRANGERS!
You won’t find the Parable of the Strangers being told by Jesus in the gospels, but it provides a wonderful expression of what the Kingdom of God is like.
It is not among the parables that he tells as an instrument of his teaching, but it is witnessed as the Risen Jesus appears to the disciples as a stranger they don’t recognise. If the disciples were to describe the appearance of the Risen Jesus what would he look like?
A Gardener pruning branches; a stranger on the shore; a traveller on the road; or uninvited guest breaking into their gathering or was he really a ghostly figure intruding into their grief?
When I question what the Kingdom of God looks like in the future I will refer to the resurrection and the meeting with strangers clothed in one attitude of Love. The Kingdom of God is a community of diverse strangers who come together as brothers, sisters, friends and neighbours all clothed in that one attitude that is a living expression of God’s Love that never fails.
Jesus seems to appear as a Gardener possibly pruning branches so that we will be more fruitful in our ministry; a Stranger shouting instructions from the shore about what to do, where and how and as a Traveller walking with disciples on the road who opens our eyes to scripture as he breaks bread with us.
He also breaks into a house at night like a thief in one of his parables (Luke 12: 40-41), but what he steals is our rubbish and leaves us with something far more valuable — the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will break into our lives when we least expect him and will take all our worldly rubbish and leave behind spiritual treasure. We know the name of the ‘thief’ but we don’t know what he looks like until we touch his wounds that are evidence of his sacrifice.
Our communities are looking for Jesus today and they don’t know what he looks like but the stranger clothed in love will help us find him. It is my simple recurring theme that “whoever welcomes a stranger welcomes Jesus and whoever welcomes him welcomes the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 10: 40) Embrace each other in Love and we find the Risen Christ and by finding him we find the Kingdom of God. The Parable of the Strangers!
The CHURCH is a gathering of strangers being shaped to BE like Jesus and the Spirit of God speaks to us as unique individuals who will have different interpretations to what we hear and see. We must be careful not to think we can shape the gospels into what we WANT to hear, but allow what we hear to prune us into who we are meant to be.
We will, probably, all claim to be followers of Jesus but following can be understood as walking behind in the footsteps of Jesus who will lead us to where we want to be or it can mean following the attitude of Christ which is to be like him in all that we do. Followers of Jesus are on a journey to be like him and so reveal the Kingdom of God to our communities. That’s the vision God puts on my heart this Easter in the Parable of the Strangers.
The CHURCH is the visible presence of the Risen Jesus alive today in our gathering of strange people who reveal the power of Love when faith is pruned by the Gardener at the tomb; when ministry multiplies as we listen to the Stranger from the shore; as our minds are opened to scripture by the Traveller on the road and as we touch the wounds of the unexpected Visitor breaking into our lives.
As CHURCH we have many followers among us with our mission to get to know Jesus better so that we can make him better known and with the vision to BE like Jesus and reveal the Kingdom of God.
We call people from out of the crowd to help us shape our mission and vision and that is how the Risen Jesus stands among us today, in the face of a stranger who is welcomed; in the voice of s stranger listened to. If we don’t recognise Jesus standing among us we can embrace everyone and BE like him to each other so that as a community we will see the Kingdom of God…. That isn’t a return to normal. It demands a radical change of attitude that will make us unrecognisable from the people we were before. That’s the NEW life after Easter!
Seek ye first Jesus in the stranger and find the Kingdom of God is my parable of the Risen Love that lives today in the strangers….
Christ has risen
Love is living
Hallelujah, praise God!
We celebrate new life with Jesus!