Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, April 13, 2018

Shut Doors Can’t Keep Him Out

Have you noticed these yellow bicycles all over the place in Norwich (and, I believe, in other cities in the UK)? This one has been at the entrance to the chapel most of the week:

 This was in Middleton's lane on Wednesday:

This was near Mousehold Heath
and you can work out where these were:
Now, I can't turn this into an advertisement for this company ... but the general idea is that you get an app on your mobile and when you want to use one of these bicycles you do some stuff on your phone, the bike is unlocked electronically and you ride it ... it's very cheap, I think 50p for an hour ... and when you get to where you want to be, you leave it there and it locks itself. It's tracked by a GPS tracker, so the owners always know where they are ... it can't be stolen. I think there are 500 in Norwich.

Of course, they can be vandalised, and you might have seen this picture in the EDP

Someone collected a few and through them into the Wensum in the city! They were raised from their watery tomb and are back in circulation.

As I saw them popping up all over the place over the last week I couldn't help but think of our current series Another Great Forty Days, looking at the 40 days between Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension, 40 days during which pops up all over the place. On Easter Sunday He's in a cemetery and meets Mary; last week He was on the road to Emmaus and just appears to two men; today He literally pops up in a room with the doors tightly locked ... and our title today is Shut Doors Can’t Keep Him Out.

And the good news is that Jesus can ... and He wants to ... and He does ... show up in the least expected places and situations in your life. And you don't need an app ... you need a relationship; and you don't need to pay, because He's paid the full price. He took all our vandalism, our sin, onto Himself and let us throw Him away. And God the Father, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, raised Him from death and offers you and me the free gift of new life NOW ... and, when you die, eternal life with Him on high in the heavens, rather than eternal death in the depths of hell.

And He meets you here and now and says: "What will it be for you?" He meets you in those locked up places in your life ... He passes right through the doors you try and keep shut to Him and I want to suggest He says three things to us today:

Firstly:Peace be with you!’ and Again Jesus said, Peace be with you!'  With these words, Jesus fulfills one of the promises He made on the night He was betrayed: the gift of his peace (14:27). This peace is given to Christians who, He warned on the night of His betrayal, will experience the world’s hatred and persecution (15:18-25). 

Secondly: The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Once again, this is a fulfillment of a promise Jesus made before His death: Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

Thirdly: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you
Jesus commissions those to whom He gives peace and joy to continue the work God sent Him to do ... Matthew sums up that work at the end of the his Gospel for us in those memorable words of Jesus just before His Ascension:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

Summed up in these few verses where the disciples are in fear behind closed doors is the Christian life: Peace, Joy and the call to Christian witness.

Each is a subject on its own: this peace is not just an absence of anxiety ... it is a restoration of peaceful relationships; a peaceful relationship with God because of the finished work of Christ dealing with our sin which actually puts us at war with God ... but He dealt with it on the Cross and made peace with us sinners; but the peace He offers is not only peace with God, but peace with ourselves and with who we are because of Christ who is in us ... please hear this: "You are never what people say you are ... you are what Jesus says you are: "Valuable, precious in His eyes and worth dying for"; so, peace with God, peace with yourself and these then lead us to be able to be at peace with others, even our enemies.

Are you at peace?

And joy: Christian joy is something which springs up from deep within us ... it comes from who and what is within, unlike happiness, which comes from happenings, which always come from outside of us and are often beyond our control. So we can be, and often are, deeply unhappy but still full of joy.

Do you have this joy?

Hear what comes next in our reading: Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit who is the source of our peace and our joy and who empowers us to continue the work Jesus began. The word used here for breathe clearly evokes the description of God’s breathing the breath of life into the first human in Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

It also recalls the description of the breath of life in Ezek 37:9 when the prophet Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones and God asks him whether those dry bones can come to life.Over Lent there was a display of "dry bones" at the Cathedral:
Sometimes you have felt like those dry bones, haven't you? And God says to Ezekiel ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’  

And Jesus breathes on the disciples that evening ... and you know what ... Jesus is here this morning and wants to breathe on you.

Jesus’ breathing the Holy Spirit on His disciples is being described as a new, second creation, a re-birth. Those who believe in Jesus receive new life as children of God, and the Holy Spirit is the breath that sustains that new life... and with that new life brings peace and joy.

Do you have that new life that has been made available to all through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ ... and with that new life, do you still have the joy and the peace that only He can give? As one Christian to another, I don't need to remind you that the Christian life can sometimes drain us of the peace and joy that only He can give ... Christian you might be, but at peace and joyful you might not be.

So as the worship team comes forward I ask you: Do you have the life that comes from giving your life to Jesus ... if you don't, sing the words with us from your heart and after the song, please ask someone to lead you through a prayer by which you give your life to Jesus;
And if you've given your life to the Lord Jesus, but peace and joy have somehow slipped away ... He's waiting to breathe on you ... let's stand and sing:

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

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