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2, Yr 3, 7.04.2013
Acts 5.27-32: Peter & apostles: we must obey God, we are witnesses to these things
Ps 118.14-29: this is day Lord has made; open for me the gates of righteousness; this is the Lord’s doing & it is marvellous in our eyes (Hallel, entering temple)
Or Ps 150: praise God in his holy temple
Rev 1.4-8: John to 7 churches: grace to you & peace from [God] & from JC the faithful witness.
John 20.19-31: reversal of Gen 3; doubting Thomas (1269)
Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father.
(Basically, Christian prayer is primarily centred on the Father, not Jesus or the Spirit.)
I have preached
on the readings for today at some length on this Sunday in this year of the
lectionary twice before, in 2004 and 2010. So
I won’t do that again today.
Although we are
in Eastertide, to begin with I am going to talk about a little phrase that St
Paul uses twice, ‘the things that are not’, and then eventually about
So, here we go.
You have heard me several times on the wise, powerful, well-born pattern
that is used in the OT and then is used in the NT to undergird the witness to
the humanity seen in Jesus and to which we are called.
If you open
your Bible and turn to Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 1, you
will find this pattern in its clearest form, and Paul is using it to admonish
the Corinthians against becoming too uppity.
Here it is in chapter 1, verses 26 to 29:
Consider your own
call, brothers and sisters, not many of you were wise by human standards, not
many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose
what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and
despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that
are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
It is the
phrase ‘the things that are not’, τα μη οντα in
Greek, that I want to speak about.
the phrase, ‘the things that are not’ in his letter to the Romans (4.17)
when he speaks of ‘God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the
things that do not exist’. It
is God our Father who does this, and in both 1 Cor and Romans what Paul is
supremely referring to is the Father raising Jesus from the dead.
As you have
heard me stress many times, Jesus did not rise from the dead, rather, he was
raised by God our Father, as our reading from Acts specifies.
It is the sovereign act of God that brings about the resurrection event
that we celebrate at Easter.
There are two
other passages in 1 Cor that I want to set before you.
The first of these is 1 Cor 8.6. You
all know what a palindrome is, as in the saying about Napoleon, ‘Able was I
ere I saw
One of the
... for us there is
one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one
Jesus Christ, through
whom are all things and through whom we exist.
So the Father
is the source of everything and our ultimate goal, and Jesus, the Lord and
Messiah, as Wisdom is the Father’s agent through whom we and all things exist.
Jesus is not our ultimate goal, he is rather the way to that goal, and that goal
is the Father. Paul spells
this out very carefully in the final passage from 1 Cor which I want to share
with you. This is in chapter 15, a
chapter largely concerned with the resurrection and the consummation of all
things. Here is the passage; it is
rather lengthy (15:19-28):
If for this life only
we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of
those who have died. For since death
came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a
human being, for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming,
those who belong to Christ. Then
comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has
destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.
But when it says ‘All things are put in subjection’ [Ps 8.6b], it is
plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under
him. When all things are subjected
to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all
things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.
So what Paul is
saying is that Christ will reign only until the final consummation, and it is
the Father who empowers his reign, that is, it is the Father who does the
Now for the
question that started me on this sermon, namely, What is Christian prayer?
Christian prayer is primarily centred on the Father, not Jesus or the Spirit.
Christian prayer is addressed to the Father through the Son in the power of the
Spirit. Thus it is quite right that
all of the Church of England’s Eucharistic prayers for the Great Thanksgiving
are indeed addressed to the Father, but today’s prayer for the day is
addressed to the risen Christ.
In expressing our worship we sometimes go overboard and go into what we might call flights of fancy, hyperbolic language, poetic language, language which won’t bear the light of logical scrutiny. I think today’s prayer is of that type.
It says, ‘No
door is locked, no entrance barred’ – but you and I know that we can lock
the door and bar the entrance. I
rather think of Holman Hunt’s painting of Jesus with lantern in hand standing
at the door and knocking. We have
only to let him in.
from Revelation speaks of Jesus as the ‘faithful witness’, and we look to
Jesus as our ‘faithful witness’ to lead us to the Father.
Jesus as the Son, the totally obedient and dependent one, shows us the
Father, whose very essence is love. This
is the life of loving service to which we have been raised in baptism.
We are in the year of the lectionary devoted to Luke, and it is Luke
above all who repeatedly specifies that Jesus is begotten, guided and empowered
by the Spirit, God’s powerful presence. Jesus
is the truly wise, powerful and well-born one in and through whom we find our
At the Passover
supper Jesus and his disciples sang the Hallel psalms, that is, the Praise
psalms, which include today’s Psalm 118, so we, too, echo that praise today
and every time we sing the Benedictus and welcome Jesus as the one who comes in
the name of the Lord. Our gladsome
Eastertide ‘Alleluias’ do the same, for the Hebrew hallel-lu-ya,
simply means ‘praise to the LORD’.
So in this season of the
resurrection, in praise and thanksgiving to our Father, let us end with an
alleluia: Alleluia! Christ is risen!