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Sermon for Easter Day 2018

1st Apr 2018


Easter Sermon for 2018

 

We are bound to say as we now arrive at this glorious Easter time, (in the words of the song)  ‘What a difference a day makes’. Within the space of three days, everything for the Christian Church changes. And in the passing of this brief period of time --  of Holy Week and now of Easter, the Church has endured the pain of death of Jesus and now all is transformed. The Church’s proclamation is the one which has proceeded out of the death of Christ, and through his Glorious Resurrection she proclaims new life for the world. It has all been encapsulated into a week, and the saving events into three days.

 

The Holy Week days we have lived through cannot be experienced separately but together. They define The Christian Church, and this evening’s Easter Liturgy allows us to celebrate new life in Christ as we recapitulate the saving events of our Faith. This faith emerges out of the life that Easter makes possible, and it is ushered in as a flame, flickering delicately, The Light of the Risen Christ proclaimed as “Christ our Light” and then acknowledged and honored in the glorious Easter song The Exsultet…

 

Then there is a Liturgy of the Word for the recapitulation of The Christian Faith in the tracing of our origins. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to the Exodus and Abraham and then the coming of the One who will promise us the God not our of religious duty alone, but his own being from the communication of one heart speaking to another. This Easter Liturgy is a profound celebration of the sacramental life that God has granted us through the blessing of the font, of the baptismal water and of the renewal of our baptismal vows. Everything is to find its renewal through the grace which is Easter. We then celebrate the Eucharist, dominated by the great Easter candle…The light of Christ which now shines on a world redeemed by God’s action in Jesus Christ dead and risen from the dead.

 

I was in Waitrose this afternoon and saw the sad sight of the Easter eggs which were becoming too difficult to be sold. They sat on the shelves, forlorn, with their expensive price tickets waiting to suffer the ignominy of being reduced by half, or even more when the supermarket’s ‘Easter effect’,  marketed since the end of February, becomes redundant and no longer sales worthy. A salesperson was carrying one of those guns which slap a red  sticker on the buns as ‘reduced by half’. We live in a supermarket economy in which sell-by dates mix with sales trends and Waitrose’s own seamless thread which runs both vaguely with and absurdly counter to the Church’s calendar – how else can we explain the fact of hot cross buns sold in Marks and Spencer’s at Christmastime? In the popular mind’s eye, very little would be known about Maundy Thursday or Good Friday except as odd adjuncts to Easter. Easter-time stretches out from soon after Christmas. Lent is passed by, forgotten; after all how do you market Lent? A little speech was made after a show three weeks ago at a local theatre in which we were all wished a Happy Easter on the Second Sunday of Lent! And so we experience this disjunct between a popular, commercial culture which no longer remembers this time of Holy Week and Easter.

 

For Christians this is very strange. For this is the most important time of the Christian Year, one in which Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are each and alone significant in very specific ways. Each also belong to one another, and they all belong to that part of The Church’s life which places a premium on the hallowing of time. The Church’s calendar allows us to inhabit time in a way in which it is not thrown away or discarded as a fad or whimsy. The Church commemorates and celebrates and marks time. The passing of time is not made without its being offered to God in and through his Son. And this for the Church is, in the words of The Bishop of London ‘deeply inspiriting’. It is life-giving and is a way of living the Resurrection in the present and in the time to come. This is because, through our worship, it finds its place within our hearts. And so we don’t speak of the ‘Easter Effect’ or ‘The Easter Experience’ without its having been inscribed on our hearts and expressed in our actions. In this way we follow in the footsteps of the original resurrection witnesses. . The Easter joy is held in our hearts and proclaimed to our communities as joy and life and hope and freedom. It exists for a transformed humanity.

 

The contrary movement is the experience of an ‘Easter’ with the true Easter taken out, and we return to our unsold but expensive eggs! We see a society which no longer memorizes Easter as the time of Resurrection. It has been important in this church to celebrate The Resurrection through a preceding death. This action does not seem to be immediately gratifying and is puzzling to many. But it is for the Christian quite natural. But it can only be known and experienced through the eye of faith. Easter joy comes to us as a joyful surprise. It is like that of the followers of Jesus who come to the empty tomb and hear the words of the angel “Why seek the dead among the living? He is not dead. He has risen, as he said he would. Go therefore to Galilee where you will find him’. Easter activates hope.

 

The joyful message of Easter is that God’s time and our time have become everlastingly one.

 

Now, in Christ His Son, our hearts beat as one!

 

 

Easter, George Herbert

 

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise

Without delayes,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him mayst rise:

That, as his death calcined thee to dust,

His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

 

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part

With all thy art.

The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,

Who bore the same.

His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key

Is best to celebrate this most high day.

 

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song

Pleasant and long:

Or, since all musick is but three parts vied

And multiplied,

O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,

And make up our defects with his sweet art.

 

I got me flowers to straw thy way;

I got me boughs off many a tree:

But thou wast up by break of day,

And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

 

The Sunne arising in the East,

Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;

If they should offer to contest

With thy arising, they presume.

 

Can there be any day but this,

Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?

We count three hundred, but we misse:

There is but one, and that one ever.