Rev. Andrew Cunnington
21st April 2019
Our Lives in His Story

There is a little chapel somewhere secret in France and I’m not going to tell you where.

I’ve been visiting it off and on for nearly twenty years now.

In that chapel up near the altar there is a book on a lectern, the size of a giant bible.

But when you open it, the pages do not contain the familiar words of scripture. They are full of handwritten prayers going back years.

The names of people I have never heard of are written in those pages.

Intercession in French that I cannot translate.

And I found myself doing a pretty strange thing. Into that book and into those pages I found myself writing the names of people like you.

In between those years of prayers for strangers, I’ve tucked in people I know who have been having a bad time or people I just want to thank God for.

Easter Day can be a let down if all we do is recount the facts of Jesus’s resurrection.

There was a good man who was put to death unjustly and his body was sealed in a tomb and after three days the stone was rolled away – his body had gone. He appeared to his friends in the days ahead and that gave them confidence to believe that the man they had been rubbing shoulders with for the previous three years – was indeed the Son of God.

And we surround our day with gardens and bonnets and eggs and bunny rabbits and glorious sunshine.

But what use is that unless you have had your name tucked into the story somewhere. Just a phrase or a footnote. But there somewhere.

For we each have to take hold of the facts about Easter and give them their own personal meaning for us.

There was a grandad who showed his grandson a little bible he had been given in the war.

And on a loose leaf inside the front cover was an inscription.

God so loved – space – that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

“Why is there a space there Grandad” asked the little boy.

“I think I was supposed to write my name in the space – but I just never got round to it“ .

It’s one thing to know the facts of that story – it’s quite another thing to sign your life up to those facts and apply to them your own unique story.

The Easter stories we shall share in the coming weeks have one thing in common. They are unrepeatable.

They are unique to the individuals involved. In the body of the four Gospels familiar stories are copied from one Gospel to another – all the Easter stories are unique to the single Gospel in which they are placed.

In those stories – people see clearly now who Jesus is and they exclaim that truth loud and clear.

“Master” cries Mary in the garden

“My Lord and My God” exclaims Thomas in the Upper Room

“Lord, you know that I love you” shouts Peter by the lakeside

“Stay with us” implore the disciples at Emmaus – for they knew it was the Lord.

And on they went to do all sorts of things they would never have dreamed of doing.

An Easter Church is made up of people on the same journey… but in uniquely different circumstances.

People who see their business as being about more than reciting the facts and having endless debates about how who moved the stone and how could Jesus have passed through locked doors.

An Easter Church is a body of people coming to see that there is a personal meaning of for each of them hidden behind the facts.

People who have no objection to their names being quietly written in somewhere.

Like in that bible/prayer book in France.

Like on the loose leaf of the war veterans bible.

Lest you baulk at this – here is a truth – we may not know the full extent of our contribution until the sun begins to set upon our earthly lives.

And here is another truth – I for one would be hopeless about any of this if I had to go it alone.

God knew that it was going to be a problem for the likes of us at St Matthew’s.

So look what he did. He threw us together in this parish church so that we might make sense of it – as one.

And it looks like he threw you in here…!

Alongside Mary and Thomas and Peter and the others.

Because when we make the facts our own – things start to happen.

Amongst all the sadness of Notre Dame – my heart goes out to the regular worshipping congregation there. The people for whom that building was as dear and special to them as this place is to us.

On Thursday evening I spoke about the disciple John who was in many respects just an ordinary follower of Jesus and yet – the Last Supper was given in his honour.

And at the cross he was the only one left to witness the death of Jesus and to comfort his mother.

And today we find him running to the tomb early and he gets there ahead of Peter – but he stays outside the tomb and then let’s Peter go in first – or does Peter elbow him aside.

It then says that Peter observed what had happened. He noted that Jesus had gone.

But when John goes in – it simply says – he saw and believed.

The difference I am talking about between observing the facts and applying the meaning.

If follows that we are called to be good stewards of one another and of our buildings and resources.

Attention to this is important to us if we are to continue grow into such a living church.

We have been careful with our resources in all their shapes and forms and this has enabled us to respond freely to what the Lord requires of us here.

When I came as Vicar in 2006 the budget to run the church for that year was around the £90k mark.

For 2019 that figure has risen to £161k and for the first time I am aware that we are not keeping pace with that.

Questions might be asked about the Vicar… what’s he been spending it on? We are not financing days at the cricket are we?

Would you take home a leaflet from my hand today and alongside reflecting on all that I have said, would you see if you could add to what you give week by week and if you are not a part of the planned giving scheme to think about joining that.

On Easter Day the turning of a single stone opened up a whole new way for Christian people to see the way God loves and cares for His world and is a part of our lives.

When we give ourselves over to work at the personal meaning behind the life changing facts – the unsettling thing is that no stone is left unturned.

And when I get back to the reason we do all this and what all this week’s words and music have been about it is simply this.

My song is love unknown. My saviour’s love to me. Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.

Let this be our mantra as we give to a living church.

JOHN 20: 1-18