“Abide in me” – a sermon for Easter 5

“Abide in me” says Jesus, “as I abide in you.” And he uses this striking image of the vine and its branches.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus?

‘Abide’ is an interesting word. It’s not just about being friends with Jesus, or spending time with him. It’s something deeper, more rooted and grounded, more intimate than that. The branches of the vine are not just close it, they are part of it, just as we are part of the body of Christ.

And what does it mean to abide in the risen Jesus?

“We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.”

What does it mean to abide in Easter, to dwell in the resurrection, to know ourselves to be part of the risen Christ? One of the things I think being an Easter people must mean is that we make ‘alleluia’ our song in all things – in times of difficulty or sorrow or grief, as well as in the more obvious alleluia moments. Because in all those darker times, Jesus is still risen, we are still an Easter people.

I noticed this year that the ‘alleluia’ banner which the children made at Ark has sad faces on as well as happy ones. I was surprised by that at first, but perhaps I shouldn’t be. It speaks to me of a God who is as present and as risen in our pain as in our joy.

Easter, as we know, is not just a day, but a season. Perhaps that is because we need time to discover how to abide in it, to know the resurrection as a state of being rather than an historical event, to know the risen Jesus whose body we are part of.

We need time to learn what it is to be an Easter people, because alleluia is not always an easy song to sing. When we hear terrible, shocking news like we heard this morning, we may not feel much like singing alleluia. When we see friends or family suffering, when we ourselves suffer, through bereavement or bullying, mental or physical illness, it can be hard to feel like an Easter people. When we look at the world around us and see unjust immigration laws, and underfunded schools, and countries poised on the brink of war, and people going without food when others have so much, we may not feel much like singing at all.

But we sing alleluia because we have Good News to share. And that good news – that perfect love not only casts out fear, but has already overcome all evil, even death, in the resurrection of Jesus – is good news forever. It is good news which doesn’t depend on the circumstances, which doesn’t fade or change, even when everything else around us seems to be changing.

Jesus is risen still bearing his wounds. We, his body, participate in the resurrection still bearing our wounds. Being an Easter people, with ‘alleluia’ as our song, is not about “making it all ok”, and certainly not about pretending it’s all ok when it isn’t. Rather it is about a deep transformation towards God-reliant life in all its fullness, a transformation which can only be brought about by the Holy Spirit, abiding in us as Jesus has promised.

As we are transformed by abiding in Jesus, so we transform the world by abiding in it as the body of Christ. That is why we must live out the resurrection in ways which bring hope and show love, sharing our alleluia song.

We are the body of Christ, a risen body, bearing the marks of suffering, the wounds and the scars, but redeemed even in our brokenness and grief by the glory of God’s Holy Spirit abiding in us. It is only from that place of ongoing, lived transformation and resurrection that we are able to sing, and to keep singing: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.