Sermon for Easter 2021

Alleluia Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed Alleluia!!

Image by the French Impressionist James Tissot – original in the Brooklyn Museum

It’s not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to one another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.

Eugene Peterson “Living the Resurrection

I think we might agree that today we are here to celebrate the Resurrection; but what exactly do we mean by that? Now this is neither the time nor the place to see how many angels I can stack up on the head of a pin, so we don’t want a highfaluting theological explanation, what we want is something more tangible, more experiential and more down to earth.

There is a point in the Easter Vigil when after recalling the history of the people of Israel, we suddenly switch the lights on and announce – Alleluia Christ is Risen and the congregation responds – He is Risen indeed Alleluia!! If this ritual gives the impression that the Resurrection is a sudden change from despair to joy, then maybe we need to think again.

That’s not how it was for Mary in the Garden, for the disciples on the road to Emmaus or those gathered in the upper room or indeed those who fished all night and caught nothing. These four instances are captured in our Eucharistic prayer today:

In the first light of Easter
glory broke from the tomb
and changed the women’s sorrow into joy.

From the Garden the mystery dawned
that he whom they had loved and lost
is with us now in every place for ever.

Making himself known in the breaking of the bread,
speaking peace to the fearful disciples,
welcoming weary fishers on the shore,
he renewed the promise of his presence

SEC Eucharistic Prayer for Easter to Pentecost

In all of these cases “the mystery dawned”, a slow realisation as to what had happened. Jesus, the man who had been with them for a while had been put to death on a cross and they had seen that happen. So of course encountering Him again took some time to sink in.

For the disciples on the road to Emmaus and those in the upper room, it was remembering what He had said when he was with them through experiencing His present actions that restored their faith in Him. For the fishermen, they had worked all night and caught nothing, but still they were given hope by a ‘stranger’ on the shore and experienced a bumper catch. For Mary, it was the love that spoke her name that she experienced whilst talking to the one she took to be the gardener. As Paul says to the Corinthians: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Now Christian faith isn’t a pair of rose-tinted spectacles through which to look at the Cross. The Cross is still a terrible instrument of torture and horror, one of the cruelest ways ever devised by human beings to kill each other. Christian faith doesn’t gloss over all of that. No Christian faith looks through the cross, and sees in that awfulness the mystery of love, the mystery of unconditional forgiveness, the mystery of hope and the very mystery of God.
In our Lenten Study on “Lament and the Psalms”, we saw that Lament takes us from crying out in Anguish and Despair, through remembering what God has done for us in the past and asking God for help until eventually it becomes possible to respond to God again in Trust and Praise. This process has much in common with Holy Week and in particular the Triduum. Like the Resurrection is also takes some time for “the mystery to dawn”.

The Resurrection of Jesus was the creation of the new bodily practical, down to earth world, not some sort of etherial existence in the clouds, the new way of being human, the new way of being a person in this world. The Risen Jesus didn’t enter paradise. He IS paradise. Heaven isn’t a place up there beyond the sky.

Sorry if it comes as a disappointment, but missions to the moon, to Mars or to the very edge of the solar system or beyond aren’t going to bump into heaven on the way, no matter how far they go. Heaven is the Risen Christ, the Body of Christ, living by love, pure love, which sets no conditions, no boundaries, the beginnings of risen humankind, the ultimate future of humanity.

It’s in the holy mystery of the Eucharist that we share in the embodied life of the Risen Christ and it’s because we belong to this new world, that we can conquer death, that we’re able to live not just for ourselves but for others in love. The love that Christ showed us, in everything he taught and every thing he did. And it’s because of love that we celebrate the Cross at Easter.

We have all lived through a difficult year. We have faced considerable disruption to our lives and challenge to the way that we interact with each other. In fact we weren’t able to meet up at all last Easter. However, no matter what happens, Resurrection gives us the ability to be present – to live, not just forever, but for now – to “have life and have it abundantly”.

Leo Tolstoy wrote: “that he became a Christian because he saw that the men and women round about him who believed in the faith, received from it a power that enabled them to face life and death with peace and joy

So let’s all engage with the Wonder of the Resurrection, through our experience of Christ, in Faith, Hope and Love.

Alleluia Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed Alleluia!! Amen.

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