LORD OF THE UNIVERSE
Sermon delivered on the 2nd Sunday
of Easter (Easter 1) the 3rd
April 2016 by Bishop Nicholas J.G. Sykes in the congregation of St.
of England, Cayman Islands.
Scriptures: Acts 5: 27-32 Revelation 1: 4-8 S. John
Part of John’s greeting to the Churches:
Revelation 1:5 describes the Son of God in this way:
“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and
the ruler of Kings on earth.”
There are occasions in life, as I am sure you will all
agree, that we become overburdened with various sorts of busyness.
Many families will have their own particular focus of busy-ness; mine
at this time of year as Rector of this congregation has often been
the preparation of the Holy Week and Easter services. In the various
sorts of things needing careful attention, it is not difficult to
find oneself getting anxious about one thing or another, that
something is being left undone, or not as well done as one would
Anxiety such as this is perhaps only round the next
corner for all of us, and it is something that is probably a greater
temptation for some than for others, according to one’s
personality. Like pain in general, in one respect anxiety has its
good and useful side, in showing us that something must be attended
to. The most dangerous aspect of the disease of leprosy, for example,
is that it first attacks the capacity of the feeling in one’s
extremities – and after a while the deformities result from an
accumulation of injuries which because they are not felt are not
attended to. A sense of pain is necessary to alert a person to do a
simple thing like adjusting one’s weight from one foot to another
or stretching out one’s toes. If, through lack of feeling and
therefore lack of pain, such simple adjustments are not made when
they become necessary, the foot or the hand begins to deteriorate.
Before very long an ulcerous condition, which again is not felt,
begins to develop, and so the process of decline accelerates.
Perhaps some may have no anxiety because they don’t
care about anything, and then I suppose we have a mental equivalent
of leprosy. If that is so, parts of our mental life, like leprous
hands and feet, will begin to be deformed and useless, because we
will have done these parts of our life injury and have not cared to
repent or to attend to the matter in any healing way. In the same
way, we who are members of Christ’s body, the Church, are supposed
to feel for one another out of mutual concern. If we cut off that
concern it may be that some even small injury experienced by a member
through going unattended by the Church will cause deformation and
We should always recall, however, that Jesus Himself
taught that we should not remain in a condition of anxiety, and the
grounds upon which He teaches this are the Fatherliness of God and
the fact that He has a “Kingdom” or a rule that is active in our
universe. How then do we put together the need to have concern, and
the instruction not to remain anxious? Only by one way, it seems to
me. That is the way of submitting the concerns we have to the rule
or the Kingdom of God in prayer, and such prayer may be that of an
intercessor as well as our own. Out of such prayer and particularly
by His Word we will often find not only the relief of anxiety but the
ways of addressing the concerns we feel. We will know that certainly
the rule of God is in practical effect in our universe.
The greatest sign that this is
true, that the rule of God is
in practical effect in our universe, is the reality of Easter itself,
the fact, as abundantly witnessed, that the Lord Jesus overcame death
by being raised from it. This being raised
from death is the confirmation we needed that His passion and death
constituted the greatest acts of His royal clemency on our behalf.
No temptation to anxiety, therefore, comes to us without the
assurance of His Kingship and rule, because there is no trouble we
know that He
is not fully and personally acquainted with. In resisting temptation
He is able to help us as a strong and merciful High Priest, and in
suffering for righteousness’ sake it is He Himself who stands with
us and within us. The signs that Jesus did, including the signs He
did when risen from the dead, are written down, as St John explains
in our gospel today, that “you may believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His
name.” This “life” is, of course, not merely existing, but an
abundant life, which acts to oppose and defeat inordinate anxiety.
Believing in the sovereign Messiahship of Jesus according to the
scriptural witness is what enables us to have such abundant life.
Surely Peter and the apostles were living that abundant life when
they so boldly witnessed to their judges in the sanhedrin to the
truths of Jesus and to the fact that while those same judges had
condemned and killed Him, God had raised Him.
The opposition between the sovereignty of the Lord and
the condition of unrelieved anxiety is revealed in the exodus events
of the Old Testament by which His people were rescued. We heard
about these things again during the Easter Vigil. The people were
anxious and rebellious because they could see the enemy forces
marching after them and they seemed to be trapped yet they were
positioned where they were because the Lord had led them there.
Their anxiety was understandable, but continuing in it was rebellion.
It did not acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty nor perhaps His
goodness. Their rebellion declared either that there was no God or
that His word should be ignored, or that He should not be trusted to
bring about what He had undertaken to do. When we experience anxiety
and you peel away its layers, you may find a similar sort of
rebellion there in our hearts against the sovereignty of God, which
we are taught in our hearts through Christ to be in practical effect
in our universe.
This, too, is the great affirmation in our text today
from our second lesson, Revelation Chapter 1. Jesus Christ is
acknowledged as the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and
the ruler of the Kings of the earth. He was the faithful witness
because he faithfully did the will of God unto death, exercising
royal clemency on our behalf in a pure and costly act. Being
firstborn or first-begotten from the dead incorporates also the
meaning of sovereignty – He is sovereign of the realm or realms of
the dead. As ruler or Prince of the Kings of the earth, He also has
sovereignty here on earth. He has successfully opposed the claim of
Satan to have such sovereignty. The children of Israel’s anxieties
and our inordinate anxieties are not necessary and constitute
rebellion. Let us put them away, and help one another to do so. For
we are an Easter people, and our song is Alleluiah! The Lord Jesus,
crucified and risen, reigns as King!