Category Archives: Archive sermons

Something to help people on the journey of grief….

Robin Palmer's space

Reading: Psalm 23;  John 10:11-18

There’s a story of a little girl who came home late from school one day. Her mother was furious and went on and on for about five minutes ranting and raving at the girl. Finally she stopped and asked, “Why were you late anyway?”  To which the girl replied, “I was helping another girl in trouble.”

“What did you do for her?” asked the mother.  “Oh, I just sat down beside her and helped her cry.”

 Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote this:   “Still, when we honestly ask ourselves  which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is  those who, instead of giving much  advice, solutions, or cures, have  chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion…

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Easter Sunday Sermon 2011 – review and reminder

Readings: John 21:1-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11


Do you remember the song:  “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

Here it is:

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Look all around there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead nothing but blue skies

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
I can see clearly now the rain has gone
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sunshiny day
Test time – who wrote the song? Johnny Nash. When? 1972. If you know that – you’re no spring chicken, pardon the pun.

It ages me – and many of you! It’s a song that has a melody that sticks – like many older songs there is a melody of sorts!

When thinking about Mary on Easter Sunday – this song came to mind.

It’s the seeing clearly thing that intrigues me.

Do we see things clearly? Or is our judgment and view of life confused?

I want to suggest that the resurrection is in fact the lens through which we should be seeing everything.

So back to Mary to see this – a woman who knew sin and forgiveness – and the amazing grace through which Jesus takes the most broken of us and restores us to health again – in the sense of being whole forgiven and reborn people.

It’s dark when she gets to the tomb. In John’s account anyway. Mark’s Gospel places this visit “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,”

I suspect that John’s reflection places this in the dark for good reason – the theme of light and darkness in his gospel is central.

But more than that – there is the darkness Mary is in. How hard it must have been for her to see the man die who had restored her to a dignified life. People who lose the plot through unhelpful choices – whose lives are burnt out and tainted by failure, or overwhelmed by darkness – who then find love or light only to lose it again – are in danger of a deeper darkness.

You only have to work with the depressed to see that – or feel it, because it’s too dark to see.

Writers have suggested that the darkness is Mary’s darkness. And the exciting thing is the way in which it lifts! Listen to her words initially:

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

She is in mourning and doing what one would do with the dead – seeking to complete an appropriate burial with dignity. Part of the indignity of crucifixion – apart from being stripped naked – was that often people’s bodies were not buried – but left to rot or be consumed by wild animals.

It’s the body she is looking for. It’s still dark for her.

Confused and shocked, she runs to the leaders of the group – Peter and John – announcing that the body’s gone.

It’s good that two men are fetched. Mary’s testimony as a woman in those days would not have been valid – it required two men. Such was the prejudice of the day that two partially blind men would have been accepted as witnesses, I suspect, rather than one woman with 20=20 vision.

The men are not much better. They’re not seeing clearly either. John – the writer of the gospel writing about himself – says this:

Joh 20:8  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Joh 20:9  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

And then they go home – a clear sign that the lights are not completely on in their minds either. Probably went home to think about it. They certainly aren’t telling people the good news at this point. There’s no proclamation like ours – THE LORD HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED.

Mary stays there. She looks inside the tomb – and gets much more than she bargained for. It’s a lovely thing – that she sees angels. Even though the angels don’t shift her emotions.  Joh 20:13  They ask(ed) her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Still looking for the body. Someone’s put the body somewhere –disposed of it in an inappropriate way.

Then she sees another someone, who says.

Joh 20:15  “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Still in the dark. Mary. Until she hears the voice – the personal call of her name:

 Joh 20:16  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turn (s) (ed) toward him and cries (cried) out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

One can hear the words of John elsewhere in the gospel:

Jesus words:  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (10:3-4).

Mary calls him “Rabboni!” Teacher!

There is recognition – that this really is the one who was dead. It doesn’t matter what the scholars say about the words – whether kyrie – translated as “Lord” or “Sir” is higher or lower than “Rabboni” – Teacher – is higher than Sir and less than Lord.

Anybody dealing with a dead person coming alive again would take time to figure out the theological implications and the title doesn’t matter.

“I have seen the Lord” is the stuff of transformation! Death is overcome. Grief is dispelled. Life is changed forever.

The resurrection is the lens by which we see the world from that day on.

And here’s the curious thing – even though our faith depends on this amazing event from the past – the resurrection means that “The present is determined by the future not the past.”

This is the power of hope. The forgiving Jesus who took Mary as one of his disciples despite her shady past gives new impetus to her future. This woman sits down and tells the men! “And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

Some people think that men have been forced to listen to women every since! It settles the idea that women should or should not speak in church, I think!

But this is Mary the messed-up one – she is now the transformed person and the credible witness.

She is given the task to tell then. And she does!

And Jesus backs up her testimony by appearing to the others too – even to Thomas who needed the tactile experience and confirmation.

The resurrection is the lens through which we see the world as Christians. If an apparent defeat and horrendous flogging and execution of an innocent man can lead to a sublime and glorious victory – and a woman like Mary can say with such certainty “I have seen the Lord”, then we need to see our brokenness and despair from this point of view as well.

The present is determined by the future!

We live in anticipation of a complete transformation of all things!

 1Co 15:21  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,

says St Paul.

 1Co 15:23  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

1Co 15:24  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

1Co 15:25  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

1Co 15:26  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

 I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Johnny Nash could see things better when the rain stopped and the clouds had gone.

The resurrection ends the misty rain and dark gloomy clouds of all kinds!

It makes no sense to watch 3D movies without the 3D lenses.

Once we’ve seen this – even though we have not seen the Lord like Mary – we have Jesus’ word to Thomas as a reminder:

Joh 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We can hear his voice! We can live lives with a completely different agenda! Because we are his agents ushering in a new order.

The Lord has Risen! He has risen indeed! Nothing but blue skies!!!

How are you doing this resurrection day?

Still in the dark? Still looking for the body? Hankering after the past?

Look to the future – and Jesus will take you into it and through it!


Sermon thoughts for the week Sunday 25 March – “Sir, we would like to see Jesus”

John 12:20 – 33   (Sermon preached at Scots College in March 2009. I am not the preacher this week. This is from the archives.)

 “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

So religion is a bit of a pain for you. That’s the general kind of drift of the conversation these days. Why bother with all this chapel stuff? After all this is the 21st century. Who needs it – we’ve got the brains to solve it all – the intelligence to crack every problem. We are the intelligence of this universe – we will get there.

Religion seems a bit archaic to some – possibly even to most of you. The very idea that you should honour someone else – worship an unseen divinity – actually thank a Creator for the gift of life and love, is kind of dated.

Or is it?

I suspect that most of us who play the intellectual doubt game – who scoff at the Bible and its claims – who deride the church and its history, and even disregard the intellectual giants of history who have happily remained believers in this God – are really just ducking and diving.

I suspect that even if I was able to win the arguments thrown up and answer the pretend questions with logic and intellectual accuracy that would satisfy the hungriest of empiricists – that many would still not believe.

Simply because they don’t want to take the risk. There is always a cost.

I don’t believe that people really want to take the risk. They’re not brave enough.

The unnamed Greeks in today’s Gospel reading must have heard something that attracted them to this Jesus. They were probably just Gentiles of the day – perhaps people on a religious quest.

They would have heard of this Messianic person who had ridden into Jerusalem like a King. Even without email, internet, TV and text messages, people actually did communicate in those days – as bizarre as that may seem to you.

The word would have been out. It was news. Not bad news – we specialise in bad news and find it easiest to pass on rumours or criticism. It was good news.

For them it was news of hope in a difficult day – and they came with a serious request to Philip, a follower of Jesus: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

It’s to the followers of Jesus today that one hopes serious enquirers will still go.

The response of Jesus to this request is enigmatic and challenging – it’s the saying – the bible verse – that I’ve seen on many a cenotaph and memorial both in my home country and travelling around New Zealand – you find them in every town.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (v24 NRSV)

It’s one of the sayings of Jesus that only those who were raised on the King James Bible would remember as a special saying of Jesus

Verily, verily, I say unto you. Literally – AMEN AMEN.

Jesus starts speaking the kind of language that most modern people want to run from.

Give up things – take risks – die to yourself – and you will find the real growth in your life.

For Jesus, it was a literal death. This is the Easter season – just around the corner we will remember his death and resurrection.

Serving Jesus – he tells these enquirers – requires following him. And a fruitful life, modelled on that of Jesus, is a life for others.

The man for others – that’s what my minister used to pray when I was a teenager. He was a terrible minister – he drank too much, which was a strong incentive for me to not drink. But he got that right – Jesus – the man for others.

Ghandi – a heroic and devout Hindu – admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

So you want to see Jesus? Would you come knocking on my door and ask the question: “Sir, we want to see Jesus?”

The journey with Jesus is a very meaningful and exciting one – and believe me, his presence makes all the difference along the road of life.

My apologies for his followers. I am one of them – and we don’t always get it right. All the more reason to work at it!

As Easter comes – consider the courage and commitment of a man who would die in your place had you been sentenced to death. Pretty radical, I think.

It is Jesus who says in this same passage – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

It is too the cross that Christians look at Easter. I trust that you will look in that direction as well – and reflect on this man for others.

I was watching the high jump the other day – and someone said – “Oh it all depends how high the bar is”.

Jesus sets a very high standard. It’s a challenge to us all to follow him. The sacrificial life goes way beyond just service each day – kind acts, hard work for others, earning points because we have notched up service hours.

It’s about a life with a different purpose altogether. Perhaps one of my students in life skills this week was right when he had to answer the question “what is the purpose of life?” In jest he said, “My purpose in life is to find the purpose of life”.

I’m pretty content with the purpose that Christ Jesus has given me. I used to argue and scoff too as a teenager. Until I began to explore – and decided to see for myself – like the Greek enquirers in today’s reading.

Sir, we want to see Jesus – is a great place to start.