Sermon for Easter Morning 2021
4th Apr 2021
Sermon for Easter Day 2021
Terror and amazement had seized them and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid”
The experience of Jesus’ followers on the first Easter day reminds us of just how human and vulnerable they were. They were for all intents and purposes, ordinary people like you and me. And yet the experience of the risen Christ proved completely life changing. The first witness, Mary Magdalene had come to them and her message was a revelation and the igniting of a new realisation. But this was only to happen gradually. Last night we had great trouble getting a light from the Easter fire to the Easter candle, but in some Christian cultures that sense of gradual and even awkward realisation of the resurrection is quite deliberate. In the great Holy Sepulcre Church in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ death and resurrection, orthodox monks loiter around the site of Jesus’ tomb for a while quite furtively, and priests go in and out of the place of the tomb once or twice or three times, and then suddenly issue forth blazing torches, and the younger more athletic priests rush out of the tomb to proclaim the suddenly realised resurrection. The effect is as startling as it must have been for the early followers.
So much for the effect. Now for the source of the effect. The experience was not for them simply one of shock and awe. They experienced something quite new to human experience, that this Jesus, whom they had honoured and loved, had risen from the dead as God, or as Son of God, a vital part of God. The experience of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not therefore just an experience, it is now a life changing, cataclysmic event in which, because it is God who is Risen, changes their lives for ever. God is now no longer pitched upon a cross or sealed in a tomb, but God in Jesus is now alive and as God will ever remain with them In a way they could never have envisaged. Jesus is to be with them always. They in turn are to become one in God as Jesus is God.
I spent the earlier part of lockdown binge watching episodes from the 20 series of ‘Silent Witness’ about a group of trendy, likeable forensic scientists who could solve difficult and mysterious cases of death and catastrophe through DNA and the minute investigation of body parts. Alongside this I watched Agatha Christie murder mysteries and particularly the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. In thinking about the Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb, I might imagine the ‘Silent Witness’ team picking over the empty tomb to try and find the vital evidence for this amazing happening, closely examining specks of dust or perhaps a tiny fragment of the white linen cloth left behind. They would present their findings and we might be impressed by their handiwork but it would not carry us to an experience of resurrection. Likewise, Mr Hecule Poirot might with his acute mind summon the forces of logic to provide a plausible reason why this resurrection event had occurred and single out individuals, who in the dead of night had taken the body and hidden it. No resurrection here also.
This morning on the radio, David Suchet, who played the Belgian sleuth Poirot, related his conversion to Christianity in 1986. He had been reading the Bible in a hotel room and was convicted by the words he was reading from Romans Chapter 8.11:
He was struck by the words from Chapter 8 verse 11
If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through the spirit which dwells in you.
The experience of reading and digesting this piece of scripture was for David Suchet a conversion to Christ. It spoke too, of the truth that lay at the centre of his and every being –
That God is no dead thing and neither is the word of God. It is alive and active and present. It speaks to us about our lives and their true condition in a way which can never be surpassed – that God in his love sent his Son Jesus Christ to die and to rise again, and that the spirit of God, resident in all our hearts cries out for its own ‘Alleluya’; it’s vital ‘Yes’ to God’s summons. He mentions that the Bible is really about all of us, and particularly the failures. But it is relentlessly hopeful. Its words are always meant not only to be read but to be heard, just as the follows heard those words from Mary Magdalene that he had risen from the dead and that life could never be the same again. Now we are the followers who receive her message, we now are the vital hearing witnesses and Easter calls us to become God’s very own Easter people, always and everywhere declaring Christ to be alive and operative; life giving and life renewing. And we at this time of pandemic proclaim the message of God in Jesus as the re emergence of hope in a way which surpasses mere words.
This is because of Jesus. `This is because Jesus is God. An experience of Resurrection is converting and renewing and joyful. God proves is love and trust in us as the flickering Easter candle nonetheless proclaims his light and his spirit. God can work through the terror and amazement of the followers and establish his love in them despite their partial sight. May this same human and vulnerable Easter be with you, today, on this glorious Easter Feast and for always. Amen. Alleluya!