I want us to think about 4 words that link to all that we do as a community of faith, and which at Easter are entry points to new perspectives, into new beginnings and being born again.
The first word is Celebration. To what extent do you link in your minds, coming to church and celebrating?!.
We have all attended some sort of celebration in our lives. A celebration marks a particular event, achievement or anniversary.
Speeches might be made; glasses raised in a toast, there may well be a meal involved. There is a lightness in things, there’s usually music, even dancing. Graduation, a wedding anniversary. We go to witness a milestone and to support and simply share the moment.
This morning, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. In our ever-so-restrained British-ness we give thanks for love. We give thanks that God, is the only God, the true God. We know this because LOVE comes from God and is stronger than all things.
We have discovered in Christ that LOVE is impartial, not prejudiced or divided. LOVE has no favourites and levels every playing field. God has demonstrated LOVE and the way it overcomes all barriers. In Christ we are loved warts and all!
The second word is Ritual.A ritual is a little different. With a good ritual there is a sense of formality. In a ritual we do things in a particular order. Some of what we do is symbolic and are door ways to layers of deeper significance and meaning.
In a ritual we are invited into the action. To participate.
Our willingness to participate will depend on our level of interest or commitment. If we are open to engage with the ritual we might find that our eyes are opened to truths and significance we might not have expected to experience. We might find that more than just our interest is tweaked.
We might find that we wake up to something beyond ourselves. A good ritual is a doorway through which we glimpse an alternative universe. Our eyes and hearts and minds are opened to a spiritual experience of being transformed.
The third word is Sacrament.This word zeros in on the spiritual awakening, and a spiritual presence. A sacrament is an outward sign (like a ritual) of an inner reality and truth. Holy Communion is a celebration built into the ritual of a sacrament.
It’s like a parcel wrapped up in wonderful and mysterious paper and it has a big colourful invitation on it – an invitation to open it and enter into the world which is revealed.
The action of this sacrament tells the story of love outpoured, of one who out of pure love gives himself and identifies with us in all our hungers, all our needs, our insecurities, anxieties as well as our hopes and aspirations.
It reveals one who was truly present to those he encountered, walked with, healed, ate with. The message of Jesus is this: Let go, do not cling on to the life you have. Stop trying to control everything that happens in your life, because you are not in control of either the universe, or indeed your own life. Instead follow me in my way. His way is a way which is lived for others.
And so we come to the fourth word which is Presence.In Holy Communion we encounter the presence of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus who let go, who laid his life down for others, who did not cling on to life.
Jesus who took bread and wine – saying these are my body and blood. If Jesus Christ can be somehow present in bread and wine, then he can surely be present in you and me.
But vitally, Christ being Present – a presence that is immediate and actual, here and now, sets a pattern for you and me.
With Christ present in us, we are called to be present in our world. Called to bring our whole selves – everything. To bring the best of ourselves, our anointed selves. To be intensely here, in this moment, with our brothers and sisters. To look into the eyes of our neighbours and to recognize there, the presence of another, with all the vulnerability, all the hopes, all the love that can be borne.
This is the whole basis of the mission of God’s mission for the church. To be present to those we encounter, whether in the check out at Morrisons, on the bus, or over the garden fence, and of course to those who come through our doors, and across our thresholds.
This work is costly, demanding and asks us to abandon all worries about the past, and what will happen in 5 minutes’ time, 5 days or 5 years. It demands that we abandon all sense of ownership or exclusive rights to anything. To be truly free and present is to be in the now, in this present moment.
Now is the only eternal moment in time. Think about that. Now is always with us. God is here in this moment, every moment is a moment of Communion, waiting for you to awaken to His presence. To have eternal life is to live in this present moment, intensely, deliberately, intentionally. The oxygen we breathe in this present moment is LOVE
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, we too celebrate our resurrection, because we are all caught up in Christ. As Paul says, it is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me.
So, as you come up to the altar this morning, bring your presence, your whole self, focused on this encounter with the risen Christ. Bring your presence into God’s presence, expressed in material, elemental bread and wine, and there find new life, eternal life. There is no other way to be authentically alive.