The Second Big Bang
Acts 4:32-35, John 20:19-end
If you’ve been to the shops this week you will have noticed that all the Easter stuff is gone. No more fluffy chicks. No more spring themed bunting. No more Easter eggs. All done and packed away for another year.
But Easter isn’t a day. That first Easter wasn’t just a spectacularly wonderful day when the disciples realised that Jesus, who they thought was dead, turned out to be alive again. Wow! Isn’t that cool….what’s next? Easter was of a different order than anything ever experienced before.
So here’s what I want to do. First, I want to notice two things that our readings tell us about the utter power of Easter. Secondly, I want to notice two profound consequences of the resurrection for the early church and for us, and finally I will leave you with two questions for reflection.
Let’s start with the bible. When St John comes to write his gospel and is looking back at the events of those days, he realises that there is only one other event in the history of the world that can compare to resurrection day - creation itself.
‘When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week’, writes John. And he goes on to talk of divine breath giving new life - just as God had breathed over Adam, so now Jesus breathes over his disciples. Just as the start of his gospel - ‘in the beginning’ - matches the start of the bible ‘In the beginning’, so the ending does the same. ‘The first day of the week’ would take his Jewish readers right back to Genesis when, in the beginning, God created it all.
For John, the only thing that comes close to the power of Easter day was the Big Bang - the day everything started. Easter Day is The Big Bang all over again.
And that was clearly the experience of the early church as a whole. In the passage from Acts we also hear the author - St Luke - going back to a beginning. Where St John goes back to Genesis, and the beginning of everything, Luke goes back to Deuteronomy and the beginning of the people of Israel. Deuteronomy lays out how the newly formed people of Israel are to live. And in chapter 15 we hear all about the Jubilee Year. The Jewish calendar, based on the 7 days of creation, operated on a seven year cycle. And just as the 7th day of the week is a day of Sabbath rest, when bodies and souls are restored, so the 7th year - called the Jubilee - was the year of economic rest, when all debts were forgiven and everyone was restored to an equal place in society.
And in Deuteronomy 15, verse 4, after the concept of Jubilee has been explained, we hear this ‘There will be no one in need among you’ - exactly what Luke tells us was happening in the early church in which everything was shared and ‘there was not a needy person among them’. This Easter community is God’s new Israel, a community which will live as he intends his people to live - not just once every 7 years, but all the time.
A new creation and a new community, that’s what we’re talking about. So much more than an event, even a spectacularly amazing one - this is the renewal of the Universe and it’s people. This is Day One and everything is possible.
And what are the consequences? Two things emerge very quickly for the first witnesses to the resurrection - whiten hours of the empty tomb; two things that are true for us, as the inheritors of the resurrection, today.
The first is that everything is being restored. Talk of a new creation means that everything that has been broken is now ready to be healed. That starts with the relationship between God and humanity,
Jesus’ disciples, who have abandoned him at his hour of greatest need, hear words of restoration - ‘peace be with you’. They are forgiven. They are back in right relationship with God.
And the resurrection promises that kind of restoration at every level. As individuals, we are forgiven, set right, in relationship with God once again. At the social level, we’re given a new vision for thriving communities in which everyone has a place. At the global level, we see how tribes, nations and ethnicities need to be brought back into relationship with one another. And even at the cosmic level, St Paul will go on to say that, creation itself is being renewed.
Resurrection means that everything that was broken is now being restored.
And the second response was to share this news with others. We easily take it for granted that Christianity spread, but that was never inevitable. Plenty of religious movements and communities have kept themselves to themselves, and stayed small. But something happened to those disciples which impelled them to spread the news - and it started with Jesus himself.
Just as the first resurrection witnesses were given a new kind of peace, so they were given new instructions - ‘as my Father has sent me, so I send you’. In the New Testament, it is striking how, over and over again, those who are touched by Jesus in one way or another, know that they have to share their experience with others. They’ve been forgiven and restored - and they have got to tell people about it.
And those two founding truths, which were evident within hours of the resurrection, remain the foundation of our life and our calling as resurrection people today.
We are to be the new community which works for God’s renewed creation, and we are to tell people about the person who makes it possible. We are to work for restoration, for healing, for reconciliation and we are to do it in Jesus’ name, sharing the good news of his love and mercy with those around us.
That’s true for us as individual disciples, and it’s true for us as a church community.
At the very core of who we are, and at the very heart of what we do, should be those two things - an absolute commitment to making peace, bringing reconciliation, restoring what has been broken, lifting up those who are cast aside, healing that which is sick and telling people, boldly and wholeheartedly, why we are doing these things.
So here’s something for you to reflect on this week, as Easter continues, and we remain particularly alive to the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
How are you - individually - living those two core Christian commitments, to reconciliation and to sharing your faith, at the moment?
And how well are we doing that as a church? Or if you're from another church, how is your church doing with that vision; mending what is broken in the world, and sharing the Good news of Jesus Christ with those around you?
It’s an awe inspiring and impossible vision - to be people of restoration in Jesus name, but it’s what Peter, Thomas and those first disciples were given the power to do, and because of them, we’re here today.
Now it’s our call too.
John's gospel suggests that Easter Day is like a 'second Big Bang' - what metaphors help you understand the power of Easter Day?
Read Deuteronomy 15, which Acts 4, refers to. What would a society living by the rules of Jubilee be like?
The sermon suggests that, as a result of Easter, 'everything that has been broken is now being healed'. What does that mean for you? Where have you seen or experienced something broken being healed?
How do you feel about sharing your faith? Have you ever done that? What happened?
Answer the two questions at the end of the sermon, looking at how you're doing with the 2 key core elements of the Christian faith - to reconciliation and to sharing our faith - and how the church is doing.