Awoken by Grace

Easter Day – Sunday 24th April 2011
Matthew 28: 1-10

Homer asleep on the jobI fell asleep at the office the other day. Not just a quick forty winks. The whole works. A full eight hours!

In most walks of life that could get you the sack. Not in all.

Did you hear about that recent study that discovered 1 in 5 pilots fall asleep during long haul flights?

Don’t worry, I’ve not just been diagnosed with narcolepsy. And don’t start to panic, I’ve not much chance of being fired – because I left the job 22 years ago.

Confused? Well, let me enlighten you.

Twenty two years ago I worked for British Telecom – universally known now as BT. I started in 1981 as a pimply youth on their apprentice scheme, and I finished eight years later (still a pimply youth) when I went to Theological College to train for the Christian Ministry.

After completing my apprenticeship, I went to work as a technician in their Private Wires Division, working first from the Cardinal Building in Humberstone Road as field tech, then moving to the main General Managers Office, next to Leicester Railway station, working in the planning office. I worked up on the 15th floor of GMO, with wonderful views all over the city – although I never let it distract me from my work!

Premier Inn LeicesterA few days ago I went home for the weekend to see my brother who was over here on a flying visit from his home in Las Vegas. Because Keith was staying with my parents, Debby, Jacob and I decided it would help hospitality arrangements if we simply booked into a local hotel. I did this over the internet a few days before going to Leicester and imagine my complete surprise when we arrived to discover the hotel we were staying in had been converted from my former office!

What a transformation! They’d given the old tower a bit of a makeover, painted it some garish colours, imported the brand colours of Premier Inn and made it all look sleek and modern.

I must point out that the hotel only ran from the ground floor to floor 9 – I’m not sure what happened to floor 15. They perhaps made a museum out of my old workplace, posted one or two blue plaques!

But what a surprise!

Anything like the surprise waiting for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb on the first Easter Day? A bit I suppose.
From despair to bewilderment, from fear to faith, from sadness to joy. What an Easter journey.

And that is the journey we are invited to join. The transformation of our faith. My old office has gone from workplace grey to blue/purple/yellow/red/orange. And we sometimes need a similar makeover of our faith, to let God’s rainbow faith and rainbow assurance come into our lives.

All too often our lives remain stuck in places of despair and heartache. We’ve been hurt too much. We’ve refined our defence mechanisms to cope with life. The surprise of Easter Day is that God doesn’t want us to stay there, he invites us into a new relationship, he begins to work a transformation on us. This isn’t some sort of health, wealth and prosperity message – I’m always very mindful of the thorn in Paul’s side. How often do we pray and pray and pray for God to work his miracle in our lives, and the truly amazing miracle is that he so clearly says to us, “My grace is all you need.

And that grace is the same grace that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encountered at the empty tomb. The grace that can transform our lives. The grace that does transform our lives.

Neil Diamond Home before darkThis might come as a shock, but I recently enjoyed listening to Neil Diamond’s album Home before dark. I hope I haven’t gone too far down in your estimation! One of the tracks on the album is called Pretty Amazing Grace, and it’s full of rich imagery of the path we often take in life.

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me
pretty amazing grace is who You are
I was an empty vessel
You filled me up inside
and with amazing grace restored my pride

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel
humbled in God by everything I found
beauty and love surround me
freed me from what I fear
ask for amazing grace and You appear

You overcame my loss of hope and faith,
gave me a truth I could believe in.
You led me to that higher place
showed me that love and truth and hope and grace were all I needed.

God is amazing. Grace is amazing. Be surprised. Be transformed.

Happy Easter!

Happy days.

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About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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