The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
On this Easter morning, we stand with the first believers at the empty tomb, full of awe and wonder at the enormity of what has taken place. In St. John’s gospel reading for today we find Mary Magdalene going early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus and to complete the rushed burial rites that were performed on the day of His crucifixion. She had come to do the work of decency and honour because the burial rites could not be completed on Good Friday, since to have done so would have made her ritually “unclean” and, consequently, unable to partake in the Sabbath.
“We are an Easter people
“Alleluia!” is our song.”
Now, on this first Easter Sunday, as she approaches the tomb she sees that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance; She sees “two angels in white” and then the risen Lord Himself speaks to her! Then, as instructed, she rushes to report what she had witnessed to the disciples. If you were to place yourself in the sandals of the first disciples that Easter morning it would be nonsense to suggest that Jesus is alive. It would have been unbelievable and utterly outrageous because they had seen Him crucified!
If we were told that a dead person was now alive we would think that the person reporting this to us was mad, deluded, drunk or on drugs! Yet, we know that Jesus is alive for He lives within us through the power of His Holy Spirit!
The resurrection happened at a particular time and place but its significance is eternal and universal; and from that day the Church has lived in the radiant brightness of our triumphant King.
From the first Easter Day Jesus’ disciples have made known the Good News of the Resurrection. The risen Lord told Mary Magdalene not to hold on to Him, but to go to tell the disciples. She did so, proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord!” On the mount of the Ascension Jesus addressed His friends, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” The disciples (followers) thus became apostles (those who are sent) and the Church has stood in that apostolic tradition ever since: both as those who profess the faith of the Apostles and as those who share in their task of evangelism.
I say this on Easter Sunday morning in April 2020 at an extremely difficult time in the lives of countless peoples, communities and nations. We’re going through something of a crisis on planet earth right now as covid-19 spreads exponentially across the globe. As Thomas Paine, whose writings influenced the American Revolution, said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”; and today we share the immeasurable pain and grief of countless inconsolable families around the globe today - even amidst the glory of this Easter Morning. The tragedy of the covid-19 pandemic has bitten deeply into the life of the world and we are all in desperate need of hope.
Kahil Gibran, the Lebanese philosopher who embraced the best of Christian teachings wrote, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Might it be possible, do you think, that the world will emerge from this, having taken stock; Having re-balanced, having collaborated; enriched with a fresh understanding of just how deeply inter-connected to one another we are.
Though this time of trial will pass and will not be allowed define us; it would be my most earnest prayer that the solidarity, relentless positivity and invincible togetherness on display at this time will do. I remain utterly hopeful for us all; I pray that this time of social-distancing and quarantine could help society as a whole gain a much needed insight into the lives of the vulnerable. Maybe this awareness will lead us to a new understanding and empathy.
We are find ourselves today confronted by our inescapable mutuality and we seeing huge community initiatives, and a tremendous sense of neighbourliness.
We see people volunteering like never before! We see care, compassion and empathy shared at scale - because that’s how this is going to go! We have to support each other and love one another and take it all just one day at a time as best we can. We are also seeing that real, positive change is possible if we have the will to achieve it.
I pray we can remember all of this once these days have passed… and they will pass… There is a million miles to go in building a better world full of Kingdom values, but a log jam has, at least for the moment, been broken. Could it be that our stubborn, messy humanity is finding new ways to be itself and what we are witnessing is a sign of a renewed humanity? As Christians we have a message of sure and certain hope to proclaim on this our highest and holiest day – we have a duty to bear witness to our faith: to speak of hope for the world in the Resurrection of Christ, a message seasoned with gentleness and respect.
Our actions of love, compassion, respect and gentleness confirm that the message we share is, indeed, Good News.
On this Easter Day, we may want to pray for the grace and dignity we need to live out that Good News in practice; even when our daily lives have been unexpectedly upset in these difficult days of uncertainty and confusion;
Today, we say the Easter acclamation, “Christ is risen!” with bittersweet joy, knowing that tens of thousands of our sisters and brothers the world over suffer and mourn this morning
Yet still we will sing our “Alleluias”! Still we will follow the command of Christ and respond with love, here and around the world.
We mourn and condole, we weep with those who have lost a loved one as the Church has done from time immemorial; For despite all... despite all, Jesus Christ is risen!
Resurrection sheds an unfading light because the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive!
We need such light more than ever today, not only in this country and not only because of the covid-19 pandemic; But wherever materialism, inequality, war, tyranny or cruelty have taken hold and enslave the human spirit.
Christians must show how to live resurrection life; that’s living according to Kingdom values and priorities, so that the rest of the world may see and follow in forgiving and loving one another; and making visible that which is, for now, unseen;
But witness begins with the individual meeting the risen Christ.
Mary Magdalene is the first to see Jesus after the men have gone away, puzzled.
Jesus commissions her as “apostle to the apostles”, and in her seeing, we have the model testimony for all of us. It’s humble, truthful and simple: “I have seen the Lord.”
Witness comes from each of us speaking of what we know and see - and speaking with the utmost simplicity.
Mary Magdalene does not explain the resurrection - she says only: “I have seen the Lord.”
It is the love of Christ risen and encountered today, as then, that can so fill us with love that it flows into our community, our nation and our world, bringing forgiveness and the new start we so badly need. The Christian Church, by whatever name it calls itself, lives with the risen Christ that it sees; and it is lit and led by His love and hope, enabling our country and the world in this time of international emergency to see unity, compassion, generosity and gift as its future.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are made anew into an Easter people and we offered a new beginning, a second chance and a fresh start!
Through the love Christ has shown us from the Cross and the love God has shown us in the Resurrection of Jesus, we are enabled to begin again.
Jesus, of whom we read in the gospel, is very much alive this Easter day. God’s future has arrived in the present time and we are called to be part of it. The event of the first Easter Day; the Resurrection of Jesus, on the third day after the crucifixion, is obviously, unique; For here we see something new; something never before done by God and never done again - and it is the key to our faith and our hope. It is central to everything that Jesus taught concerning Himself and the Kingdom of God!
The fact that Jesus is alive today is an abiding truth!
The fact that Jesus still goes before us is an abiding truth!
The fact that Jesus continues to lead, inspire and guide us is an abiding truth!
The Resurrection of Jesus shows us that death does not defeat life; The Resurrection of Jesus shows us that there is a future; and there is a point to living faithfully; and that there is much more to our world than the laws of nature would have us believe.
So allow yourself to be filled with meaning and hope this Easter. Move forward courageously and continue the positive spiritual momentum through the rest of the year. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter - don’t let that happen to you! Avoid the slow death of apathy and remain motivated as you share your Easter faith.
This Good News of the risen, living Christ is what we proclaim and believe! The empty tomb shows us the stone was rolled away - not to let Jesus out - but to let us in
This is the promise of Easter!
This is why we are an Easter people!
This is why “Alleluia” is our song!
This is why we live in order to serve.
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!
Lord of all life and power, through the mighty resurrection of Your Son You have overcome the old order of sin and death and have made all things new in Him.
Grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus Christ, may reign with Him in glory.
To whom with You and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity.