Mind the Gap

A sermon by Revd Katherine Hedderly

Readings for this service: Luke 24. 36b-48

It’s really good to welcome all of our visitors today. When you are a visitor to London one of the things that is a signature of London life are the words ‘Mind the Gap’ on the underground or Tube to remind you to be careful as your train comes to a station and you step onto the platform. If you go to the northbound platform of the Northern Line at Embankment station a couple of minutes from St Martin’s you can hear a 40 year old ‘Mind the Gap’ recording of theatre actor Oswald Laurence that was reinstated some years ago, at the request of his wife, who after he died would travel to the station just to hear his voice. It’s a lovely reminder for us this morning of the gaps, between past and present, old and new, death and life.

Today those who have been baptised have made a step of faith across a gap into the freedom of the life of God and the life of the Church. Meera, Lawrence, Mathilda and Julian have done this for themselves, and Lyla’s parents and godparents have made that step of faith on her behalf. They have made a commitment of faith to the Christian life, to live with the love of Jesus at the centre of their lives. As they did this they were able to affirm “I believe and trust in God the source of all being the one for whom we exist. I believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again. I believe and trust in the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world.”

These are the affirmations that as Christians we say together and the source of the faith that we live from. We are able to take this step of faith into this life because Jesus first crossed the great gulf through death to life for us and for the whole world, in his death and resurrection, bringing us into the life and hope of his new creation. This is the joy of our Easter faith. Each of us are invited to be witnesses to that faith and joy in the way that we live, encouraging others to see that there is a way to live in this life that is full of hope and shares the love of God’s promises for us and for our world – a way that Jesus invite us into that is gentle and hopeful, forgiving, kind, loving, steadfast, peaceful and just.

As we look at the chasms across our world between the way things are and the way God intended them to be – vast inequality and injustice, conflict and poverty for so many – we see that more than ever the world needs people who chose that life and hope; people who shape the world for good not evil, for the many not the few, welcoming the stranger not pushing them away, making peace not war, with compassion and generosity and love, not greed and selfishness and fear. The world needs people who live beyond the gap into the hopeful life of God’s kingdom that Jesus came to bring. That is the call for each one of us today.

The disciples in our story today didn’t have the life of the church that we have today with its structures and creeds, and liturgy, or beautiful buildings like this one, or this wonderful rich diverse community of many cultures and nationalities and ages, all ready and waiting to be welcomed into. They were the proto-church, a gathering of friends, bewildered and doubting and terrified. They were the first ones who in encountering the risen Jesus, took that step of faith through doubt to hope, through death to life and bravely said ‘I believe in the Son who died for us and rose again’ and then went to live in the light of that faith and invite others to do so too. Their belief and faith made it possible for us to believe too.

It was in these resurrection encounters that their faith came alive. The traumatic events that they have just lived through, in Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, the shame of denying their Lord and scattering that they are carrying, all that Jesus had said about what was going to happen to him and the prophesies of scripture about the Messiah are brought together in their stumbling emotions, of terror and joy and wonder, hope and fear. The scene is a crucible in which they are being transformed into witnesses and ministers of the living Word because Jesus is really here with them, alive, and because of this they can dare to believe.

They are encounters where our faith can come alive too and be renewed. I wonder how this encounter helps you to feel alive in your faith and find renewed hope in the risen Jesus in this Easter season?

I suggest it’s because it affirms that Jesus meets us in our real lives and engages our senses to know and discover his presence. Jesus takes us beyond what we know into an exciting and hope filled future. Because whoever we are, we each are invited to be witnesses to the resurrection, showing others what it means to live God’s love in our world today. Jesus with us in our real lives; offering us a future of hope beyond our understanding and imagining; and inviting us to be witnesses of his love to those who most need it.

Jesus comes to where the disciples are, and in the midst of their hopes, doubts and confusion, says ‘peace be with you’. He invites them to look and see, to touch, to see his wounds, to watch him eat, and allow the reality of his real physical presence to sink in. In him the future the disciples hadn’t dared hope for is breaking into the present – in this room, in front of their eyes, in flesh and blood and in what they are seeing and touching and hearing. Jesus is alive with a new sort of life; the life that is to come. The resurrection is not an imagined spiritual life but a life that is real and here and now and soon the disciples will discover with the gift of the Holy Spirit, forever.

God knows about our real lives, the wounds we carry, the taste, touch and sights that delight and dismay us. As Jesus meets us in our real lives, and walks with us, and shares our meals and hears our stories, and lifts us up and forgives us when we have failed him, and touches us where we most need healing, he invites us to be with others in the same way.

It is in tending to other peoples wounds, sharing our food with them, opening our homes, in standing alongside those who are persecuted helping them to see new life and hope shaping our lives through the real-life decisions we make, that we will meet him and share his risen hope filled life. Every time the choir Woven Gold have sung here at St Martin’s, we have had a glimpse of that risen life breaking through the harrowing stories of refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world, with a passion and raw energy, that Annie Blaber, Lyla’s grandmother has helped to voice, as she has stood by them and encouraged them.

The disciples’ joy and disbelief and wondering are mixed together, in beautiful confusion as the reality of what they are experiencing takes them beyond all that they know, into the new possibilities and future ‘beyond the gap’ that Jesus offers them. He invites them to hear and be reminded of all that he has shared with them, to open their minds to the kind of Messiah he came to be, not one who comes in triumph and power, but one who has to suffer and die but whose life opens to everyone the possibilities of the kingdom of heaven. Like the encounter on the Emmaus Road, Jesus helps the disciples to see that all that has happened is part of God’s bigger story.

Jesus calls our hearts and minds beyond the reality of what we know into the bigger story that he has for us and for our world. He invites us to put our trust in his presence and to be his witnesses. He invites us to be like those first disciples, to live the resurrection in our words and actions, so much so that others are able to believe because of us.

What a challenge for little Lyla, and for Meera, Lawrence, Mathilda and Julian baptised today. But they don’t do it on their own. They are encouraged and supported by their sponsors, and for Lyla by her parents and godparents, and by the life of the church, gathered around them today. We each have something to share of that risen life, that has set our hearts on fire and led our hearts into that place of joy and disbelief where have had to make a choice about what we believe. Today is a day to remember those times and reaffirm what led us to believe – the touch, word and signs.

We don’t keep that to ourselves, we share it with love and compassion and tenderness, so that our lives are shaped around Jesus’s life and we become witnesses of the things we have seen and touched and heard, and are able to say to others, ‘Peace be with you’, words that our world is longing to hear.