Within the Easter bible readings we recognise that one of the great things about Easter time is love; and it’s love that is very important when we talk about the resurrection.
So where is the guidance that we have for resurrection?
Well perhaps it’s in the bible, which is good, but unfortunately many of us don’t read it very often and when we do perhaps we don’t get a great deal from it. Maybe because we haven’t tried to understand it.
So where else do we get it from?
We get it from the songs and hymns that we sing. Some of these actually really rise us up because they mean so much to us.
We also get it from our mistakes.
Because when we make a mistake we suddenly realise that we’ve learnt something. Something that we might not have learnt in the same way otherwise. We never learn quite the same from other people’s mistakes as we do from our own.
So what we need to learn is to understand what the message is in the bible and the hymns and our mistakes; and there is a message in everything.
There are two particular hymns that I’d like to mention this evening that I like to hear at this particular time of year.
The first one is ‘You Raise Me Up’. ‘You raise me up to be more than I can be’. Wonderful isn’t it. Isn’t that what the resurrection is about? Isn’t that what Jesus came to do. He came down in his Earthly body, not his Spiritual body, to show that there was life here-after and didn’t he try to show on three occasions, love to his disciples. And when he talks about disciples, he talks about all of us, because although we weren’t there as ourselves physically, we are all part of the story.
The other hymn is ‘Amazing Grace’. When we sing ‘Amazing Grace’ we don’t really understand where it came from unless we know the story behind it.
John Newton, who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ had a life that started in a rather terrible way, and in fact it ended up in a very good way.
Now John Newton, we can call him a ‘local’, he was born in Wapping and he lived locally at times. He joined the Royal Navy when he was young, but he didn’t get on well.
The Royal Navy was cruel at this time and discipline was very harsh and hard. He tried to escape from it, to desert, but he was found-out and beaten. He received eight-dozen lashes. Eight-dozen, eight twelves (94).
It must have been a matter of him still being alive mustn’t it? It did great harm to his physical body and his mind.
However, he finally managed to escape by doing his service in the Royal Navy and he then joined the Merchant Navy on a ship that dealt in the trade of slaves.
He went around the Indies picking up people and selling them as slaves, but after a time he didnt get on well there and he was put off the ship in West India, where he was caught by a slave trader and was put into slavery himself. He was badly treated.
Eventually he met the Captain of another ship who released him and took him away again, landing at Liverpool.
From Liverpool he went on again to work on a slave ship, as First Mate. As First Mate he got to know the trade and became the Captain of a ship. He traded for a number of journeys.
On his way from the West Indies back to England, he got in to a very violent storm. It almost sank the ship which was badly damaged.
The ship didn’t actually sink but he was in great fear, and he called out for support.
God Please Help Me, Please Show Me what I need to do.
He got through that and became interested in religion and the bible.
One day he started feeling unwell with a terrible fever. A sickness came over him and he was close to dying. He prayed again and this time he recognised the spirit within him, and he called to his spirit. The spirit that is in all of us, the part of God that Christ said he would send as a comforter.
He gradually got over this sickness and came back to England. He started to work in the Church becoming a Minister of the Evangelists.
He recognised that he had to do something about the career he had had and the terrible things he had done in his life.
And so he set up a movement against slavery and was the leader of the movement that was to ban slavery in the British Empire, which was a very vast area.
He lived to see the Slavery Act passed in 1807, which outlawed slave trading in Britian, and that movement eventually, in 1833, became world wide.
He felt that what had happened to him had ‘raised him up’. So i think the message is saying that we all need to look back at what we are doing at certain times, and set up within our livelihood are the four seasons, and with each of these seasons we have another time when we should review what we are doing.
I think what we need to do is understand and live for the hymns and prayers we say at these services because I assure you that when you understand them there is always a message. And the message this Easter is love. Love thy neighbour because they are your eternal brother and sister.
Read more about John Newton on Wikipedia.