Church of England Diocese of Norwich St. Peter, Sheringham

Message from the Minister: The Third Sunday of Easter 18th April 2021

18 Apr 2021, 1 a.m.
We hear in this week's Gospel reading how the disciples are left reeling at Jesus’ body having been risen from the dead as they witness the fleshy boney human frame of their Lord standing right in front of them. This was no ghostly apparition. Jesus ate, chewed, swallowed, digested. The disciples saw for themselves the human body of Jesus standing before them, witnessing his hands, his feet. Maybe the disciples could have just about got their heads around a ghostly vision of Jesus but not this fully human man, breathing and eating in front of them.

It is bewildering when we are confronted with something in our own lives that just doesn’t seem to compute. It’s as though there are no neural pathways available for some types of experiences to be processed. Our minds simply do not know what to do with the information before us and so we too are left reeling. There are no words, not even any recognisable feelings. On some deep level something tells us that everything we thought we knew, has in a split second been turned upside down. The world isn’t as we thought it was and all the rules we live our lives by no longer make sense in light of this new information.

Maybe in this place, we, like the disciples, are at our most open to being changed by God. Maybe in this place we too might find our minds being opened by God to understand Scripture in ways we hadn’t before. Maybe we need to have something extraordinary appear in front of us to stop us in our tracks, something that our minds will not know how to process or quickly rationalize away.

We have read and heard this last week about how Prince Philip’s life was a mixture of duty and service, tragedy and loss. However in one particular article Prince Philip was quoted from a letter he wrote to his wife-to-be, saying : “To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty." For all the pain and confusion Prince Philip must have experienced at various times throughout his life, he had also thankfully known joy. He knew that love made everything else pale into insignificance.

Goodness knows how small and petty the other experiences of the disciples' lives must have felt to them at this moment as Jesus stood in front of them. And we too experience moments such as these, when everything else, all of a sudden is put into perspective. Transformational processes such as these happen when we experience something traumatic, something that floors us, but so too can it cause us to stop and be more open than we have ever been before, forcing us to ‘rest and re-adjust’. In order to be guided and responsive to love after all Prince Philip had experienced, this readjustment process of moving from the reality of suffering into one of love would likely have included some form of letting go and forgiving as it would do for the rest of us.

We witness the disciples having to re-adjust to their new reality very quickly. Jesus gets straight on with pointing out the need to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. Significantly they are told to start where they are and with what they know, and for them, this meant Jerusalem and those they lived amongst. In order to move quickly from the shock and the incomprehensible, to being led by God and God’s love for us, we need to be able to truly repent and forgive not just others but ourselves too. If this feels too hard and asks too much of us, then we just have to keep trying and praying for God’s help in this process until we do. If we pray to Jesus and ask for help in carrying all that we wish to repent for and all those things we wish we could forgive, as we work on letting go Jesus will share in carrying those burdens and help us to transform them. Why?.. Because God has brought this to pass already in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Humankind has been forgiven already in this very act. This is what the Good News is all about. This is at the very core of what Jesus’ suffering was all for. This was and is God’s gift to all humankind.

In keeping our focus on Jesus and really remembering what God achieved when he took on human form and the gift not just offered but absolutely cemented in our transformed new identities in Christ, we will be able to let go of that which is small and petty because to not do so, in light of what Christ has done for us on the cross, is just us holding on to the smaller picture. As children of God, along with the disciples, if we stand strong even when we are frightened and doubts arise in our hearts, we give witness to the bigger picture, one of repentance and forgiveness for all, through and in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Natalie Rees, Ordinand