St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Easter day, 2014

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 “Choosing the Light...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
“14 February 1987, Saturday afternoon
With my back to the Namibian/Angolan border I look to the night sky in the south. The Southern Cross with its cloud-obscured pointers is there to show me the rough direction of my home in Cape Town. Rain clouds are heading towards Angola. I wonder if the enemy will be as dry as me tonight if I sleep under the Ratel again.
 
It’s bizarre. A country as beautiful as Namibia is torn apart by a low-intensity guerrilla war. Young men from homes in the same areas of Ovamboland fight against each other in different armies. Young men from thousands of kilometres away are hauled straight from school to be trained to kill in a war over a country that they have never seen before and will probably never see again...”
(Paul Morris/Back to Angola: A Journey from War to Peace/2014)
 
Today is Easter Sunday!
Praise be to God on High!
We have travelled together as a Community of Faith through an austere Lenten period of forty days. Some of us have witnessed the Stations of the Cross. Many of us have participated in the Maundy Thursday, Veneration of the Cross and the Easter Vigil services. This has been a time of intense reflection, introspection and prayer as we remembered the journey of suffering and death that our Lord Jesus Christ endured for us- fallen humankind.

But today is different!
Today is a great day!
It is the celebration of all celebrations, the feast of all feasts!
Today we lift up our hearts in happiness and joy as we celebrate the Risen Christ. He who died, is now alive and lives amongst us so that we may know eternal life. Hallelujah!

In today’s Gospel reading in John Chapter 20, we read how Mary Magdalene, still absolutely distraught after witnessing the death of Jesus on the Cross, made a point of visiting the tomb of Jesus as soon as possible. When Mary arrived at the tomb she was shocked to find that the tomb was empty. Not only had she to endure witnessing the death of Jesus, but now also the seemingly theft of His body. Mary was taken by surprise. This was not something that she had expected to happen. If so, a plan would have been made to hide the body of Jesus, or perhaps set up a guard at the tomb. Neither was done.  

John is now beginning the proof of Christ’s resurrection. The sepulchre is found empty and the grave clothes are in good order. 
Mary Magdalene loved Christ so much that she was prepared
to put aside her own fears
she was prepared to put aside her own grief
she was prepared to put aside her own physical exhaustion
in order to go to the grave and to anoint the dead body with the ointment that she had prepared.
This morning I would like to take a moment to focus on Mary. She was brave enough to visit the grave of Jesus. 
She had faith. 
She chose light...

This is what the resurrection of Jesus is all about. Jesus dying on the Cross for our sins and then rising on the third day means that we now have the option of choosing light. We, you and I now have the privilege and luxury of choosing to have the light of Christ in our lives. In spite of her pain, grief and fear, Mary chose to seek the light of Christ, initially by planning to honour and pay respects to His dead body, later on becoming the start of being a witness to His resurrection and new life.
So, here on Easter Day we are celebrating the Risen Christ and the light that He brings to our lives.
What does it mean then to seek the Light of Christ?
Our reading in Colossians 3 this morning answers that to some degree. 
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”
Remember Paul Morris, a young man from Cape Town in the 1980’s who found himself embroiled in an unjust bush war on the Namibian/Angolan border?

Paul went on to complete his two years of National Service in the South African Defence Force where he spent most of his time on the border fighting. He was fortunate to survive. Many of his friends did not. Paul, however, did leave the army a bitter and angry man who struggled to make sense of his experiences.

Paul then took a gap year and travelled overseas and spent time back packing and hitch hiking through Europe. He was astounded by the general generosity of people who he came across and slowly, but surely, he began to work through his anger and he began to have faith in the goodness of humanity again.

Paul went on to study Psychology in London and became a successful Psychologist. He eventually returned to South Africa, married and settled down. His personal journey, however, was far from over. Over time he realised that he now needed to return to Angola and travel through the same areas that he had been in before as a soldier, but this time swapping his Ratel for a bicycle.
You see, my brothers and sisters, Paul chose to see the light. He refused to be dominated by the angry and bitter memories of the war he had experienced. He knew that he had to face those fears and he was determined to do it by travelling through Angola on a bicycle, meeting the locals and making a new set of memories that would replace the memories of the war.

This is a true and remarkable story. His memoirs go on to dictate how he often came across people who were soldiers fighting on the other side at the time. After a while, through broken communication, he was able to explain that he once was a soldier from South Africa. These meetings would often end in tears, hugs and reconciliation as both sides mourned for their losses... but a new hope was generated... by choosing light. 
 
Light over darkness
Light over pain
Light over sin
Light over death
Thanks to the Risen Christ!
So, what does it mean to choose the light in Christ?

Firstly, we need to keep our eyes focussed on Him. Christ is the light. If we keep our eyes focussed on Him, then we are less likely to be distracted by the world around us and the sin that abounds.

Secondly, we need to worship as a Christian community of faith that loves and supports one another, just as Christ instructed us in His New Commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

Thirdly, we need to continue to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ. This involves self-discipline, determination and patience.

Choose the light.
Mary Magdalene did.
Paul Morris did.
Nelson Mandela did.
So can you.
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.
May God bless you this Easter Sunday as you celebrate the Risen Lord and the Light that He brings into our lives.
Amen.
 
 

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