The Fourth Sunday of Easter
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whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Please read before continuing: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=42
‘Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved’.
A week is a long time in politics – or so they say. This is particularly true at the moment, with daily government briefings on the state of the nation during a pandemic, with the whole world waiting with bated breath for politicians to speak and act – politics dominates our common life. What politicians say is vitally important. In the USA President Trump is focussing on re-election what he says makes waves.
Time is important – and the politicians know that they’ve only a limited amount of time to make waves, to persuade the general public to put a tick in their box on Election Day. So what do they do? They go canvassing, they drop leaflets, they speak boldly (for good or ill) as one newspaper headline put it: ‘General election rhetoric is a masterclass in repetition’. The one who impresses the most will win. The one who speaks powerfully will draw the votes and pull the numbers.
Today, in our reading form the Acts of the Apostles, we hear what words spoken with conviction results in: ‘many were added to their number, those who were being saved’. In a nutshell: the Church was growing because people were being persuaded by the truth of Jesus Christ, and his message, proclaimed by the Apostles.
I began with the saying, ‘a week is a long time in politics’ – a week is a long time in the life of the Church (and it certainly seems that way at the moment), for we hear in Acts, that the amount of people turning to Jesus Christ was on average a few thousand each time the apostles began to preach. The people were clearly captivated by their words. Wouldn’t it be wonderful a few thousand people came to faith today and flooded into the life of our Church here in Anfield?
How might we go about spreading the message of Christ’s life, death and resurrection? We must follow in the footsteps of the Apostles. And like that newspaper headline, we too must be ‘masters of repetition’.
We must repeat the key message of the Gospel: that Jesus came that we ‘might have life and have it abundantly’, that’s what he desires for each of us, life and life to the full.
But how are we to do it? We need to proclaim.
The Acts of the Apostles teaches us that proclamation is crucial if we as the Church are going to grow, and if people are going to come to that divine ‘life’ that Jesus promises.
In our gospel, we hear that Jesus desires all people to enter through the narrow gate that leads to salvation. And that truth must be at the heart of our Christian lives. We must let him be the Shepherd of our lives, directing us towards the goal to which we are all called; salvation and our home with him in heaven, so he can be the ‘guardian of our souls’ as we heard in our second reading.
That truth must the content of our proclamation. The world today tells us that Jesus is nothing more than a nice guy, a good moral example or a fine teacher. We as the Church must not be in the business of agreeing with that description of Jesus. We must be sure in our own lives, as the Apostles were, that it is by his wounds that we are healed – that he gives us that life, that Easter life, that resurrection. Jesus is the narrow gate – that we as sheep are called to enter through.
The truth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, guardian and shepherd of our souls, redeemer of the world, crucified, dead, buried, risen and ascended. That’s the Jesus the apostles believed in – that’s the Jesus that people will come to know if we are bold in that proclamation.
So what needs to accompany our proclamation of Jesus Christ? It must be urgency.
Politicians are only too aware that they have a limited amount of time to persuade people to sign up to their manifesto, to put a tick in their box on election day, to inspire confidence and garner a following.
We do not know the time or the hour when the Lord will return, and so there is the imperative to ‘urgently’ proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Each of us is called to proclaim Jesus as Lord and each of us is called to proclaim him urgently, to our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. This is the calling of all Christians, that’s you and me. To actively share the faith that will give people life and life to the full.
A week is a long time in politics. We as the Church, do not have the luxury of a long time, in the face of ever increasing secularisation we must get into gear and repeat constantly: Jesus Christ is Lord. Not a Lord, but the Lord, the unique and only Son of God who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, winning us an inheritance imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven, we must enter through the narrow gate.
May each of us in our own lives, proclaim Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd as Lord, with urgency, so that others may enter through the gate that leads to life and life to the full, so that the Lord ‘may add to their number those who were being saved’.
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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