Sermon Preached at Worksop Priory 10 April 2011
Christ the Resurrection and the Life
said, "I am the Resurrection and the life".
Martha said, "Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of
do these extraordinary statements mean to us, today? It is one thing to say
Jesus rose from the dead nearly 2,000 years ago. That is an astonishing thing to
happen. It is equally astonishing that God's own Son should leave his heavenly
home and come and live on earth as a real human being. Again, what does that do
for us now? To begin to answer that question would take a very long time and
quite a lot of the answer would be concerned with what happens after death.
Ultimately that is the good news of the Gospel; that we live after death and we
live in Christ, with Christ, after death. Nothing could be more wonderful than
that. However, this has an impact on our life on earth. Jesus became man and
showed that God was deeply concerned about man, human beings, the whole earth.
Jesus lives among us today and works with us to try and make the world more like
God intended it to be. So in a world which is full of disaster, wars, violence,
corruption, earthquakes and human sin we find Christ, breaking out of the
darkness, bringing hope and joy. Christ
the Resurrection and the Life brings resurrection and life into dark places.
That is what is happening in Zimbabwe today.
me start with the dark. Zimbabwe today is
a collapsed economy. It functions on the US Dollar. There is 90% unemployment.
There is no social security, unemployment benefit, National Health or any of the
safety nets we take for granted here. All children must pay school fees and most
can't afford it. Hundreds of thousands of adults have died of AIDS, so often you
find in country schools that 70% of the children are orphans. The education is
poor; it lacks resources and the children are badly fed. They look skinny and
the food they do get is pretty awful. The church is divided too, for political
reasons. In two dioceses there are Bishops who have been rejected, for very good
reason, by the Anglican church but they have the police on their side. They will
not let real Anglicans use their church buildings. They send in the police to
beat them up and arrest them. When I was there in January I arrived at one
church to find two policemen there who would not
let us use the church so we celebrated outside. I was told not to visit
another mission as the police were waiting
to arrest me. I was lucky. Scores of good Anglican people have been arrested,
beaten up, driven out of church with tear gas, just because they are faithful
Anglicans. The renegade Anglicans think this will drive the Anglicans back into
their camp. In fact it does just the opposite. Anglicans grow stronger and
stronger. They meet in all sorts of places; schools, halls, gardens and their
congregations get bigger; the people are on fire with zeal. They are proud to be
Anglicans, proud to be persecuted. Above all they have discovered Christ. They
have found that they are Christians because of Christ, not because of a church
building. Christ is the Body of the church. Christ
comes to them wherever they are. Christ is the Resurrection and the life. It is
tough for them. It is not easy to be on the receiving end of persecution but
they are full of joy and hope and are a real inspiration to be with.
they help people poorer than themselves. This is where we come in. There are
thousands and thousands of children who live with relatives who can't afford
them and some who have nowhere to live. We have two houses in Harare where
teenagers live. We get them back into school, try and get them training, try and
help them face up to their shattered lives. The amazing thing is that it all
works. Here again we see Christ. He is with them and in them, giving them hope.
Each time I go there my heart lifts and my own faith in the presence of Christ
is renewed. So too with the 40 or so children whom we support in the community.
They are so full of life and joy, you would not believe they have such tough
lives. We call our organisation Tariro – which means 'hope'.
We try to put hope back in these young people's lives and we succeed. They
give us hope too. I take people from this country to Zimbabwe to help the people
there and they find it is the Zimbabwean people who give them hope and joy. If
you want to find a really living presence of Christ today, go to Zimbabwe. He is
all over the place.
do this we need money! Bringing up children is expensive and when there are no
grants, no free places in school, it is doubly expensive. Without money we
cannot transform their lives. We are fortunate to have people in Zimbabwe who
have shown they can use money well, account for it and make sure it does what it
is supposed to do.
also need to start trading; to help our older boys start a business exporting to
this country so that they can make money for themselves and take the burden off
need prayer too; really serious prayer. Prayer for the children, that they will
be able to take this chance and grow healthy again; prayer for the charity, that
we will find the money we need to do the work; prayer for the Anglican Church
that they will keep hopeful and brave and that their suffering will come to an
end and they will be safe. Every Sunday, Anglicans are arrested and put in
horrible police cells. Three of the Bishops have received real
assassination threats; one lay leader I know had three gunmen turn up at
his home to shoot him, last week. Fortunately he was not at home. When you are
in Zimbabwe you know the prayer of Anglicans all over the world is keeping
people safe. It is putting the fire into people's bellies so that they resist
evil and stand for what is good. It is helping these marvellous children of ours
to recover their lives. When you are in Zimbabwe you really believe in the
mystical body of Christ, for we are all in Christ; we all share his love share
his life, and find ourselves strengthening and encouraging each other.
am the Resurrection and the Life” says Jesus, in the midst of trouble and the
pain of poverty. "I have come to help you make the most of your life and to
live life to the full". It’s easy to say that but it's costly to do it,
as Anglicans in Zimbabwe are finding out. Many of us here have found that out
too. Jesus comes to make all things new; to take what is old and broken and
wounded and to make it new – the lives of rape victims, HIV orphans and the
teenagers we help. "I am the Resurrection when you are weak and
powerless" says Jesus." I am the Life, when you feel empty and
purposeless". What should our response be? Our response to this amazing
promise of Life is to tell the world that God can make all things new, that he
raises the fallen and lifts up the lonely. In the end Martha says it all:
"I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God". That is news worth
Nicolas Stebbing CR