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  • The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF

River Sunday. Creation 4.Genesis 8:20-22, 9:12-17 Psalm 194 27-33 Revelation 22:1-5 Matthew 28:1-10

In the name of God, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today in the Series of the Season of Creation is River Sunday and we call to mind an image of a River flowing with the fullness of life, so we are encouraged to find joy in God's justice and healing.

The Legend of the story in Genesis is about Noah coming out of the Ark after the flood and giving thanks to God in worship because they had lived through the ordeal. We cannot help thinking of the people caught up in the river of water from the broken dams in Libya, a disaster beyond comprehension and in other dam bursts over the years. We imagine Noah his family and the creatures with him stepping out of the ark onto an earth devoid of life and covered in mud. Noah gave thanks to God anyway and he had a reassuring promise from God and a covenant with three parts.

Never again will flood do such destruction.

As long as the earth remains the seasons will always come as expected.

A rainbow will be visible when it rains as a sign to all that God will keep his promises. The earth's order and seasons are still preserved, and rainbows still remind us of God's faithfulness to his Word.

The psalm appreciates God's creation of the world and helps us to understand the power of God which reminds us that not only do we depend on God for our lives but also that God wants the best for us. The Holy Spirit of God is in Creation and the Spirit is continually creating so that the earth is healed and renewed. Part of that renewal is the work that humans have been given, so we are reminded that we cannot say that we love God, if we do not care for the gift of creation in all its wonders and riches.

Water is life giving and without it we cannot live. Since ancient times apocalyptic literature has spoken of Rivers as life giving. We think of the great rivers of the world and our own Clarence River illustrated in the photograph on our service booklets. In the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt mighty rivers were the waters of life, an expression of divine love. Agriculture, industry, religion, economics, and cultural life of whole nations depended on the flood cycles of the rivers. Rivers symbolized the saving action of God.

Even in flood, rivers are life giving and we are reminded that after disaster of flood Creation is at work and the earth is renewed. The water of life is a symbol of eternal life and Jesus used this image with the Samaritan woman he met at the well near Samaria. (John 4:7-14) It pictures the fullness of life with God and the eternal blessings that come when we believe in him and allow him to satisfy our spiritual thirst. The powerful image of water brings both destruction and new life.

Matthew 28 verses 1-10 remind us that even in the first days after Jesus' crucifixion there was already a great stir in Jerusalem. The soldiers had witnessed the three hours of darkness, the tearing of the temple veil and the earthquake. They are now compelled to acknowledge the sublime identity of Jesus; this person that they had previously mocked and abused, because of the supernatural events they were now witnessing. Fear of the unknown and power of the created elements had overtaken them. The same group of soldiers at the tomb are also afraid when they experience the earthquake and the appearance of an angel rolling the stone from the entrance to the tomb. The appearance of the angel is like the natural elements of lightening and snow, and they are awe struck. This is the only account in the Gospels where non-believers encounter something of the resurrection. The stone was not rolled back so Jesus could get out, but so others could get in and see that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead just as he had promised. The accounts are unclear about exactly when Jesus physically comes out of the tomb, but the guards are faint with a kind of dread at the terrifying presence, brightness and strength of the angel. They are awe struck by the supernatural at work in the created world they are familiar with. But unfortunately for the soldiers this is not a life-giving event, and they are soon being bribed by a group of religious leaders into propagating a lie, a lie that compromises their own competence to keep guard – that the disciples stole the body of Jesus While they slept.

Next in Matthew's account we find Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary going to the tomb. The other Mary was not Jesus' mother, but could have been the wife of Clopas, or if she was the mother of James and John, she may have been Jesus' aunt. They are reassured by the calming words of the angel telling them not to be afraid and giving them in place of their fear the astonishing news of the resurrection and the commission to proclaim the joyful message. The women are filled with awe, joy and reverence that emphasises the awesome difference between the celestial and terrestrial realms. This awe of holiness is a natural and appropriate response to the proximity of the divine, and we recognise this in our own lives when we experience the awesome work of God.

Can we be encouraged by the experiences of the soldiers and the women at the tomb, by the awesome power of God? We are reminded that the women now joyful and excited quickly move through the streets to find the disciples and to tell them the amazing news that Jesus was alive. Their sadness gone, they have renewed courage and energy and are filled with joy.

Can the joy of the resurrection of Christ encourage us to rely on God's life giving, so that we can in turn can give life giving encouragement to others? Can we be joyful encouragers for our family members and friends in the community of Grafton and even casual acquaintances?

The message of the Resurrection brings new life and hope for Mary Magdalene, Mary, the other disciples and for all creation. When we contemplate this day, River Sunday, we cannot say that we love God if we do not care for the gift of creation in all its wonders and riches and share it's joy with others.


The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan tssf


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