Resurrection

Readings for this week April 20 – 24
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – He Is Not Here

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 28:1-7

“He is not here.” Four very simple words, nothing out of the ordinary about them. We have probably heard them many times, in many different contexts, usually based around situations when someone is not home when visited or not around when called up on the phone. For us, such usage implies that the visitor or caller simply has the wrong place; they came to or called the place they expected the person to be, the most likely place to find them. They just got it wrong. With a bit more information and a slight change of plan, contact can be made and the person reached. But in this passage “He is not here” is a shocking, world-shaking, gut-wrenching thing to hear. It is inconceivable that Jesus could be anywhere else. He is dead, he is buried, the mourners themselves were part of the burial. There is nowhere else for him to be. His body is in the grave – this is the way of the dead.

Imagine how horrible that initial “He is not here” must have been to the grieving mourners come to anoint the corpse of Jesus. The body of their loved one gone? What has happened? What would you think if you went to visit the grave of a recently deceased friend or relative, only to be told at the cemetery gates “He/she is not here”? Has there been an accident? A landslide? The grave desecrated, the body stolen? Grave robbers? What has happened?

Questions to Consider
How do you think the women were feeling on their way to the tomb? Why might “He is not here” obscure the angel’s next sentence “He is risen”?

Prayer
Lord God, You are the God of the unexpected, the God of the impossible. Help me look further and deeper to see those unexpected times and places where and when you are. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Surprising Encounter on the Road

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 9:1-19

Paul is the most famous Christian convert – although that word ‘convert’ is perhaps too strong, as it gives the impression that Paul ‘converted’ from one religion to another, exchanging Judaism for Christianity. This was not the case. For one thing, there was no such thing as ‘Christianity’ back then, just little scattered pockets of believers meeting in houses around the empire. For another, it wasn’t so much a shucking off of Judaism on Paul’s part; it was more a complete re-examination and redefinition of who God was and what he was doing – and how he was doing it. But however we phrase it, it was a massive change. Paul went from being persecutor of the church to its most ardent supporter, builder and sustainer. He went from taking the lives of believers to pouring out his own life in service to those small communities sprinkled across the near east. His encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road profoundly changed him and his view of the world around him.

In some ways it is strange that such a zealous persecutor became such a firebrand for the gospel (although it is a classic example of poacher turned gamekeeper!). But Paul is a wonderful example of the reach of the grace and love of God, proof that no one, no matter how lost, corrupt, wrong-headed or -hearted, is beyond the saving love of God the Father. God reaches out to all, maybe not as spectacularly as he did to Paul, but there is no one whose humanity is so degraded that God cannot reach them. We can only hope and pray that people so reached will stop, listen and respond just like Paul did.

Questions to Consider
What is scandalous about Paul’s encounter with Jesus? Why?

Prayer
Loving Lord, thank you for not giving up on us, even though we give up on you. We praise you for your grace and forgiveness towards us. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – “All Change!”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 9:20-31

Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus changed everything. Whether we want to call that encounter a conversion, a call, an epiphany or whatever, it was not a slight readjustment in his thought, or a minor course correction, or a trivial tinkering with his previous beliefs. It was a wholesale re-evaluation of who God was and how he acts, of who Paul was and how Paul acts, and of the entire story of God and his creation and where it might be going and how to get there. It would have been incredibly wrenching for Paul. As glorious as an encounter with the risen Jesus is, Paul would have experienced a profound dislocation, possibly involving elements of shame and heartbreak and bewilderment, as he realised how fundamentally wrong he had got things. This realisation would not have come upon him all at once. He needed time – lots of time – to process, to assimilate this new information, and time and space to learn more from others.

Jesus changes everything. Sometimes what changes is obvious and easy to see; sometimes what changes is harder to see but no less profound. Sometimes it is behaviour and actions, sometimes it is motives and intentions. But an encounter with the risen Christ cannot help but change us, sometimes in many ways at once, but always at least over time as we grow in him, learn to better listen to his voice and become stronger disciples. An encounter with Jesus is an invitation to change, to grow and to learn, on the road to becoming a new creation in him.

Questions to Consider
How have you changed and grown since encountering Jesus? How do you sustain and continue such growth?

Prayer
Holy Father, thank you for rescuing me and changing me, loving me enough to want me to be more like you – and making it happen. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Living Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

This is Paul’s origin story, his story of the origin of the people of Jesus. This is where we come from, says Paul, and this is what the community is founded upon – the crucial, all-important bedrock that defines the community’s existence. And this momentous foundation, this glorious new thing that God has done, is just the most recent – and wholly decisive – moment in a much longer story, a story found in the scriptures of Israel, the very scriptures that help explain why this event is so important. The foundation is Jesus himself, and the transforming event is the resurrection. The resurrection is the key for Paul. He was never afraid of sharing the story of his encounter with Jesus with others as in this letter to the Corinthians and also his letter to the Galatian believers.

For Paul personally, where he (now) fits in God’s story is defined by the resurrection of Jesus. His transformed self-understanding stems from that Damascus Road encounter. And flowing from this new self-understanding is a new understanding of the people of God and their place in God’s story. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, and so, as Messiah-led resurrection people, the church has an important part to play in the way the story will unfold from this point on. You are the Messiah’s people, Paul tells them, living in the power and promise of his resurrection. Don’t forget that. Take it on board as I have done, he says, let it transform your understanding of who you are and of who we are together. The resurrection changes everything, for all of us – if you will let it.

Question to Consider
How does the resurrection change the story for you?

Prayer
Lord God, help me live each day in the power of the resurrection, offering love to others, and inviting them to take their place in your story. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Easter 2020

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 145

Life is full of surprises; life is an arena for the unexpected and unlooked for – much like that first Easter. As we look back over this Easter season, spend some time reflecting on how you have found – or not found – God to be with you in these times.

How have you encountered God in new and fresh ways throughout this Easter season?

How have you sensed the presence of God with you in your home over the past few weeks?

What have you learned about God and about yourself and about others throughout this time?

What kind of God would take on human form in order to suffer our punishment in our place?

If you encountered Jesus on the road, just as Paul did, what would you say to him?

What did God give up for you? What did you give up for God?

What does the broken body of Jesus say to those today living with broken bodies, and with the broken bodies of others?

What makes saying ‘But not my will but yours be done’ so hard for you?

What do the scars of Jesus mean to you?

Prayer
Loving Father, sometimes you seem so absent, so far from me and so unable to help me in my time of struggle. But even in the darkness I know you are there, even if I cannot see or feel you. Give me strength to make it through the times when I feel your absence. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)