Live the Life Posted12-04-2004
Easter Sermon 2004
In year 11 a new teacher called Geoff Boyce arrived at our school. He started a youth group. We had a band and a singing group and sang at churches and strawberry fetes.
For two years life revolved around Friday and Sunday nights. He tolerated us holding him down while we blew up his letter box. He carried us through the road death of a classmate. He gave me rides to Adelaide to visit my girl friend. He was a focus for our lives. In a very real sense he gave us Life. He was so much more than just a Teacher.
With hindsight, I think I was quite seriously depressed during Year 12. We didn't know much about depression then, so I didn't know. My church, which was the Youth Group, and Geoff Boyce were two of the major factors which pulled me through that. He knew the sound of my footsteps coming down the corridor to his office- which shows how often I would drop by to talk during lunch hour.
Imagine having a Geoff in your life. Imagine, though, that his name is Jesus. Imagine you don't live in a fairly affluent country town. You live in an occupied country. You're desperately poor. The leaders of your country are hand in glove with the Roman overlord oppressors, or stuck up, pious perfectionists who make it clear there is no place for you in God's scheme of things. You're poor- that's God's punishment of you for not being good enough. It's your fault. You deserve it. You're damned forever.
Along comes Jesus. Like Geoff, he takes you seriously. He treats you like a person. You get the constant message that you're NOT damned- he likes you. You are good enough. He turns your life around. You get hope. You find purpose. You even begin to think that maybe things don't have to be the way they are.
Maybe the stories of Exodus and the return from Exile and a land of milk and honey and a Messiah who looks after the little people-… maybe they're not just stories. Maybe they are the way things are meant to be!
All through history, we see good people show the shortcomings of the social systems they live in. Whenever they challenge them and begin to change them, the Powers respond. Evil rears up determined to defend the hold it has gained over life. It will stop at nothing.- absolutely nothing, to destroy what challenges it. So the 'powers that be,' the temple elite, the Pharisees, and the Roman overlords had Jesus killed.
For Jesus' friends there must have been the terrible realisation that he was wrong. Nothing was going to change. There was no hope. It was all a stupid dream. Life belonged to the rich and powerful... In such a situation, wouldn't you just give up?
They didn't. Something happened. The Spirit of the man Jesus somehow persisted among them. He had put them with… given them a glimpse of… something beyond time and space and the Powers of the day. And that glimpse, that reality, was greater than the evil, the political powers, the oppressors and the death they dealt out.
We have no idea exactly what happened. But we have letters from 10 to 15 years later speaking of a thing called 'resurrection.' It meant that Jesus had, they said, 'risen from the dead.' You could still experience him. You could meet him even if you'd never known him in the flesh.
Over the decades they experienced bursts of terrible persecution. They were thrust out of their communities, they were no longer Jews. They spread the word and its life changing power to people who had never been Jews.
And they began to see him as a cipher and conduit of ultimate realities, and the fulfilment of all the old stories. He was the one who still, in some sense, called people out of Egypt. He was the one who led them back from Exile. He was the true King of Israel. He was the one their scriptures had called God's Son, not the petty kings of the past. He showed them… and he didn't just show them, his being meant… that Life never ends. Life never gives up. Life is never defeated.
Some Christians have learned that Easter and Jesus' resurrection are a kind of password into heaven. Just say the right words and believe the right strange things hard enough, and the gate keeper will let you in. As long as you believe he bodily rose from the dead and physically walked around, you're a good enough Christian, and you're 'in.'
If that's what people insist on, or if that's all Easter is about, they've missed the point. They haven't got to 'first base.' They're in spiritual 'kindergarten.'
The reason Geoff Boyce had such an impact on our lives was because we lived with and around him. The more we let his life lessons affect us, the more we were changed. Some people just let him teach chemistry. Maybe they passed Year 12 Chemistry- so what?
It's the same with Jesus. You believe in Jesus by living his life. Jesus can come to you like a visiting teacher whom you never really get to know. But you only really meet him, he only really rises in your life, he only really shows you God, when you 'live the life.' It's in living the Jesus life that we find reality… and healing… and purpose… and face evil…and can be defeated and be resurrected. And then Easter means Life never ends. It always, somehow, goes on.
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