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Where is Jesus ?
(An Easter Reflection)

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Where is Jesus ? 

(Originally preached on Easter Sunday 2010) 

Read : St Luke 24: 1-12 

"He is not here; but has risen." 

On Easter Saturday, when the annual Easter Play took place in Princes Street Gardens, St Cuthbert's church was the base for the actors. Occasionally one could hear the members of the production team rather frantically asking "Where is Jesus?" 

Then to be sitting in the church when Jesus suddenly appeared was - to say the least - rather odd and unnerving! But it was also immensely encouraging and reassuring to find that Jesus was walking around in our church!  

Where is Jesus? 

Early on that first Easter Sunday morning the women, who had seen Jesus laid in the tomb, dead and buried, came with spices to anoint and prepare his body. There had not been time for these rituals when he was laid in the tomb on Friday evening as it had been the eve of the Sabbath - the eve of Passover what's more. So now they come, first thing in the morning, the earliest point after Sabbath when they could perform this final act for their Lord. 

And then, shock, disbelief, disaster! As Luke tells us, "the found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body". 

Where is Jesus? 

They were (Luke tells us) perplexed.  

And no wonder. They had come fully expecting to find the dead body of their beloved Teacher and Master in the Tomb where they had witnessed him being buried. They had watched him die, seen him laid in the tomb, and now his body was not in the grave. What was going on? Where was he? Where is Jesus? 

And then they encountered what Luke describes as two men in dazzling clothes. And they were terrified.  

Perplexity and terror: not surprising responses in the circumstances. 

Then the women are given the astounding, startling, unbelievable message: "He is not here; he has risen". 

Suddenly everything they had expected and all they thought they had known was turned on its head. The ground shifted beneath them. Nothing was every going to be the same. 

"He is not here; he has risen!" 

It was a message that would change their lives.  

It is a message that changed the world. 

It is a message of true hope for us. 

Christ is risen! He has risen in triumph where we have sensed only defeat. He has risen in the bright light of new life when we have perceived only darkness. He has risen in hope when we felt only despair. 

"He is not here; he has risen!" 

He is not here, trapped within our limited expectations of him, but has risen - transforming our understanding of the power of God's love. 

He is not here, bound by our questions, uncertainties and perplexities, but has risen - bursting out of the limitations of our doubts. 

He is not here, buried in the darkness of our fear or grief, but has risen - breaking into our lives with the light of his victorious presence.  

This is the joyful Easter message for us and for all the world: "He is not here; he has risen". And it is a message for the Church in these often difficult times.  

In these last few days and weeks we have heard so much about the church facing a crisis. We may fear that the church is losing its relevance, losing its moral authority, losing its coherence, losing its way! 

"Where is Jesus?" we may well ask.  

Like the grieving women on that Easter morning we may be tempted to seek to hold onto what has long past and grieve over what has now gone; we might be perplexed by what we see in the present and we could be fearful of what might occur in the future. 

But "he is not here; he has risen".  

He is not held in the tomb of nostalgia; he is not contained by the cave of confusion; he is not imprisoned in the sepulchre of perplexity; he is not bound in the grave of fear. He is risen, bringing to birth new life, new hope, new confidence and new purpose.  

We in this congregation have a long history; St Cuthbert's has been here for a very long time; for over 13 centuries God's people in this place have borne witness to the Risen Christ, and have done so through times of change and challenge, danger and difficulty.  

Our history is long but this present marvellous building is much more recent. Unlike ours, some churches have ancient buildings, and I like the story of the guide at one such church who was showing some folks around his church building which had been there for many centuries, indeed before the Reformation. But he got a bit muddled and in fact told the tourists that his church was pre-Resurrection.  

Well, the church is most decidedly post-Resurrection! We are the people of the living Lord. And in spite of all that is faced by the Church in our day, locally, nationally or beyond our nation, we can gladly affirm today the Easter message of marvellous hope and divine assurance. 

"He is not here; he has risen!" 

We are an Easter people! Not a people of despair and dismay. 

Our Lord has risen; he is present; he is with us. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday, we may sometimes not recognise him, but he is here, and as he speaks our hearts will burn within us, and - as at this Communion Table on this Easter morning - we will recognise him in the breaking of the bread. We will encounter him! 

"He is not here; but has risen" 

Yes, rejoice you people of God! He is not to be found where we think we left him. He is risen and present in our midst! 

Rejoice you doubters! He will make himself know to us in our grief and confusion. 

Rejoice you for whom religious observance has become the mere remembrance of that which is past! He is present with us and to us now. 

Rejoice despairing Church! He is risen and active in the world and we will encounter him where we might least expect and will meet him just when we might be tempted to give up hope! 

Rejoice this Easter Day for - with open hearts - we will recognise him present in the breaking of the bread. 

We are a resurrection people and hallelujah is our song! 

He is risen indeed. Alleluia! 

And so praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour, power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen. 

Rev David Denniston, April 2010


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