Thursday, 17 April 2014

An all age talk for Easter Sunday


[Ask children to give out stones to everybody in the congregation, and then use them to act out the first point of the talk]

Today I'm going to ask us to look at our stones and use them to remember two particular stones.

1. The stone at the tomb

We read of two women today: Mary Magdalene and another Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (we don't know who she is) 

They come to 'look at the tomb'. They wanted to see the place where Jesus was buried. 
People do that. It helps them think of the person who has died. 

Let's imagine this is the tomb. 
Can I have a few people to be the stone. [stand them in front of the 'tomb' - and tell them to look rock-like, big and mean - nothing is going to get past them].

We put stones in front of tombs to keep the living from the dead, and the dead from the living. 

On this particular occasion they didn't just put a stone between the body of Jesus and us - they also put a human guard. (some soldiers)

It didn't do any good.

The angel comes and moves the stone. 
(This is the first time an angel has appeared in Matthew's account since the birth of Jesus. We're talking about something new.) 
The guards become like dead men 
(ironic really, because they were meant to be guarding a dead man)

But the angel doesn't move the stone to let Jesus out. 
Jesus has already been raised by God. He is already out. 

The angel moves the stone so that the world can see that Jesus is no longer there. He moves the stone so that when he tells them 'Jesus is risen', they can go into the tomb and see that Jesus in not there. 

What was meant to be a barrier now becomes an entrance.

So hold your stone. It is to help you remember the stone that covered the tomb of Jesus. It was the stone that was meant to tell us that Jesus is dead, to keep Jesus a long way away. But it has now become a stone on which an angel sits and tells us that Jesus Christ is risen.

But I'd like to suggest that this stone stands for a second thing.

A few months after these events, a man called Peter - one of the first followers of Jesus - prayed for a lame man, and the lame man was healed. The authorities are concerned. They arrest Peter and ask him how this has happened. Peter replies, 
"Let it be known to all of you ... that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." (Acts 4:10)

2. This stone is to remind us that the risen Jesus is the stone, the foundation on whom we build our lives. 

The women begin to learn this:

a) They are given a task to do. The angel tells them to go and tell his followers that Jesus is alive, and that they are to go to Galilee where they will meet Jesus. 

It is an amazing message. Jesus is alive, and you can meet him! There is somebody who is bigger than death. 
But it is also a very scary message! The women think, 'What will people say when we tell them that the tomb is empty and that Jesus is alive? They won't believe us. They'll tell us we are mad. And what if Jesus doesn't turn up when his followers go to Galilee? 

b) The women do go - and notice: they haven't yet met the risen Jesus. All they have got to go on is a fact they know: the tomb is empty, and the word of an angel, a messenger of God. 

But it is when they go that Jesus comes and meets with them. 

It is when we really begin to build our life on the foundation of the risen Jesus, when we begin to do what he wants us to do, that we begin to meet with the risen Jesus, and life becomes both scary and joyful. 

If we are going to build our lives on anything, then we need to learn that it is solid and reliable. 

Think of the pillars in the church. They need to rest on solid ground if they are going to hold up that roof.
[Illustration with dad and small child. Ask dad to go on shoulders of child. Then 
put child on shoulders of dad.] The child learns that they can trust the foundation of their dad.

We are not the community who meet to remember a dead founder, to read what he taught and try to live like him. That is foolish. Gandhi, Mandela, Luther-King: there are many other equally inspiring people who we could imitate. 

The Church is the community of people who are not seeking to imitate the dead Jesus, but who are learning to build our lives on the risen Jesus. 

Yes, you may be someone who thinks it is a good story but it can't be true. You may be someone who hopes that it is true. And it is fantastic that you are here.

But the church is the community of people who don't just hope that it is true, but who build their lives on the rock, on the foundation of the risen Lord Jesus. 
And the church is the community of people who come together to meet with the risen Jesus. 

And when we do that life becomes full of joy but, if we are faithful to Jesus, can also be very scary.

So, I know rocks have many different meanings in the bible, but could I ask you to take this stone home, and use it specifically to remind you

1. Of the stone in front of the tomb that was rolled away - that tells us that Jesus is not there - and of the angel who sits on that stone and tells us that he is risen.
2. Of Jesus, who is the rock on whom we build our lives. 

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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