Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
10th May 2020
EASTER 5 SERMON YEAR A 2020
It’s strange but true that at this time of Coronavirus the Church is being called upon to embrace the real contrast between lock down and resurrection. As we pass through the Sundays of Eastertide, each Sunday sets before us ever newer evidences for the Resurrection life. We discover along the way that the Resurrection of Jesus was not an isolated incident’. Rather it relates to all who have ever responded to Christ and to us too in the here and now.
St Paul reminds us in this morning’s letter to Peter that
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2.9
The resurrection confers a new kind of identity and new purpose. We give thanks those who have proclaimed the resurrection hope through their own commitment to the greater good. We have this past week celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day and in the Queen’s address to the nation she paid tribute to past human sacrifice whilst affirming the hopeful legacy that emerges out of it:
Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict.
They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad.
They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations.
They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe.
These words are, like St Pauls words, profoundly life-affirming and inspirational. They are part of a deeper consciousness which commands our understanding of past sacrifice in the need for present courage. Much of the language of hope and assurance refers us back to times when, amidst great challenge, individuals and communities have remained steadfast and faithful. They have responded to the call to the ordinary life of ‘doing one’s job’ or ‘doing one’s duty’. As the WW2 caption says on so many biscuit tins and tea towels “Keep Going and Carry On”. That will remain true of all of us : that our best attempts to keep things going will make up the hope we need to ‘come through’ this time of great challenge. It is also a time which makes many demands upon us and may well one day find us changed for the better. The resurrection life will have worked itself out through the creative use of time and the reaching out in positive and joyful hope even while we are, so to speak, ‘shut in’. We will remain a community of prayer. The spiritual refreshment and perspective it offers is the sure antidote to stir craziness.
As with the populace at times of emergency, so too for individuals who have stood out at times of crisis to put new heart into the lives of the many. Captain Tom Moore was first seen by us barely a month ago as just another fundraiser for another charity - albeit his age and military background made his little walk particularly moving. But the raising of £32 million pounds for the NHS charities sector was no small matter. It revealed both the very old man who was simply ‘doing his ordinary thing’ alongside the fact of his inspiring and moving and cheering all of us as he approached his 100th birthday. Likewise, our NHS workers have come into their own in extraordinary ways. Boris Johnson’s two carers, Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma saved the leader’s life and this provided us with a picture of the realities of life and death being waged on the front line. Through their care, the nation has witnessed the astonishing recovery from death of our PM, unprecedented in our history. The applause offered on Thursday evenings for our NHS workers is a moving and joyful tribute to their brave and sacrificial work. For Christians the resurrection is always about the transformation of ordinary human circumstances and the possibility that lies within each one of us for the renewal of hope and the emergence of new understanding. This time of apparent dislocation urges the appearance of a new social terrain with the strong need for the re-wiring of the old circuitry in the old way of doing things and the challenging of pre pandemic priorities.
This week, on Thursday we observe the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, and as we remember her we might pause following all the great phrases which surround her career. And in pausing, we might thank God that she was not primarily a nurse but a statistician, and that she believed that the right use of statistics could give legislators and politicians the tools to transform situations where bad practice had resulted in unnecessary suffering and death. It is to the founder of modern nursing rather than as the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ that her true fame is due. She was the first to popularise the use of statistical ‘pie charts’ and the right use of statistics is going to play a large part in the future overseeing of our nation’s governance. It would be marvellous for some of us to applaud her this Thursday as we celebrate her birth in 1820.
Christians have a duty to invest their imaginative energy and active effort in the spiritual and practical support of the greater good. The Coronavirus pandemic has not found the churches asleep or hidden away but alive and active and supportive of the care of those who are particularly vulnerable. We are learning new ways to disseminate and share the word of God. There have been many who have come to church online and found the Christian lifeline and spiritual compass especially welcome in this time of uncertainty and dislocation.
For Christians, the resurrection hope provides the bridge which carries us across and through that which we would fear and dread even unto our own death. We traverse the bridge of faith in life as God’s resurrection people, spurred on by the life that has been set before us, even Jesus Christ our Lord whose example is our witness. Amen.