Chapel — Wednesday 25 March 2020: ‘Do Not Be Afraid’
Wednesday 25 March 2020
Good morning and welcome. As we come to the end of what has been in many ways an unreal term, we are going to think about Easter. Easter is a significant celebration in the life of the Christian community and it brings hope, new possibilities and good news. In the Bible there are four gospels, which tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth. The resurrection is recorded in all four and our reading this morning is taken from Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus has risen
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
In this very short reading, the word ‘afraid’ is mentioned four times. The disciples, those who had followed Jesus, witnessed his miracles, heard him preach and teach were afraid. They were afraid of what the authorities would do to them, but mostly, their world had collapsed. Jesus had promised so much, a Kingdom where God’s love would rule, where people would truly care for each other, where we would all be allowed to be the individuals we ARE and to live full and interesting lives. Jesus had promised a new order and he had shown the people that it was possible.
The week before he died (Palm Sunday) he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people laid their coats before him, waved palm branches and called him King. The disciples thought the moment had arrived. And then it was all gone, all their hopes and dreams! But on Easter Sunday something amazing happened, the women who went to tomb discovered that the body was not there, that Jesus had been raised from the dead and Jesus said to them those wonderful words, “Do not be afraid”. Their circumstances had not really changed but they had seen this wonderful person dead on a cross and now alive. Death was no longer dark and final. Jesus who was dead was now alive and had told them that they did not need to be afraid.
The resurrection is fundamental to the Christian story and that is what brings hope and confidence in the future in the darkest of times. It reminds us that the most difficult and challenging of times will pass, and if we trust God, are guided by him, let go of what we think things should be and open ourselves to new possibilities, we too can experience the amazing.
Like you, I too, find these times challenging and as a person of faith, I am trying to work out where God is in it and how we can learn from this experience, what good it will bring. It is a choice. In fact how we approach each day is a choice, but remember in the reading we heard earlier, Jesus said do not be afraid, for fear demobilises us.
Easter is about hope and new possibilities. Even in these times each new day is a gift. I have gone back to the piano, an instrument that his defeated me for a number of years! I am keeping in touch with friends especially the ones I have not spoken to for a long time. I am finally reading books long on my shelves and spending more time in prayer and reflection. I am keeping a journal. With this precious gift of time, I pray that you will discover new possibilities in your lives and the joy and peace that Easter brings. Do not be afraid.
Living God, may the truth of Easter,
Break into all situations of uncertainty and suffering,
Bringing help and healing,
Strength and support,
Comfort and courage, hope and help,
Faith and freedom,
Love and life,
The change that you alone can bring.
Lord of life, hear our prayer.
May the Lord bless you, and keep you.
may the Lord be kind and gracious to you,
may the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace.