Sunday, March 31, 2013

I do not know where they have laid him



May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is easy for us to forget, because we have the Gospel story embedded so deeply into the fabric of our being, that the story of that first Easter morning, in the garden early in the morning, cold and dark, begins not with joy, but with despair and confusion. Mary arrives at the tomb, desolate at the death of her master, planning to complete the burial anointing that had been so hurriedly done a few days prior, and discovers the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. 

She rushes back to tell the others. And what does she tell them? Not that he has risen as he has promised, but that the body has been taken and hidden. Peter and the beloved disciple then rush to the tomb. They see and believe. What do they believe? That the body is gone. Not that he is risen. For as St John tells us, they still do not understand. They leave, but Mary remains in the cold and lonely garden, weeping. And when angels ask her why she is weeping, she explains that her sorrow is because the body of her dead master has been taken. 

So certain is she that this can be the only explanation for the empty tomb, that when faced with the Risen Lord she even asks him where the body is. And it is not until he calls her by name that the scales finally fall from her eyes, and she knows who he is. And then she goes to the others again; this time not to say that his body is missing; but that she has seen the Lord. It is only at this point in the story that there is joy for those who are in the middle of it.

So what is it that they needed to understand? What is it that we need to understand about the Resurrection that we may enter in the the joy of this most glorious event? What lies at the heart of the Resurrection? Well, as St Paul put it in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 'And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.' 

The Resurrection is the foundation and bedrock of our faith, his last and greatest witness that all he said about himself and all he taught was true … if Christ did not emerge from the tomb to leave it empty that cold, dark Easter morning, then we have nothing to hope or trust in at all … but knowing that he did truly burst asunder the bonds of death, we know that we too can have hope in his promise of eternal life … 

but – and there is a but – but only if we do not forget the other half of the verse I quoted from St Paul … the first half says that without the Resurrection our faith is in vain … the second that it is through the Resurrection that we know that our sins can be forgiven … and in order for them to be forgiven, we have to accept that they are indeed sins and repent of them … 

and having repented, radically change our life according to the way that Jesus taught … because just as his Resurrection gives us hope, so too does it also give ultimate authority to what he taught … to accept the Resurrection and then to reject it's full implications is foolish indeed. It is to recognise that we do indeed have the hope of all Christ promised … and then turn our backs on the hope of ever attaining those promises … and if that is what you chose to do, then there is no joy for you in the Resurrection … and never can be … 

Logic would dictate that everyone in the world would be filled with joy this day, having rushed to embrace that joy that comes with the Resurrection, with the hope of eternal life that it promises. Yet there are quite a lot of people in the world for whom this day is no different to any other … indeed in this country … because the Resurrection has no meaning for them. 

Even if they are not people without faith, there are a huge number of people who are nominally Christian for whom today will barely register … for those who rarely go to Church, Christmas is a popular choice, with it's candles, & carols, and cribs, and general feel good factor … 'we go every Christmas, if we can,' as one couple told me once … but Easter is often forgotten amongst the 'seldom attenders' … and I suppose we can see why … Easter doesn't get the same plethora of signals and reminders that Christmas does … 

Easter eggs don't have the same visual impact as Christmas trees & flashing lights & tinsel & all the other hallmarks of the season … especially now that Cadbury's crème eggs are in the shop pretty much all year round … and their larger cousins, the hollow chocolate eggs, make their appearance on the shelves weeks and months before the day itself … 

but of course, we should not be leaving it up to the secular media and commercial interests to provide people with signals regarding the major festivals of the Church … the joy that we have in understanding what it is that Christ has accomplished for us by his Resurrection is something that we should share with them ourselves … not only at this time of year, but always … Christ came that all should be saved, not just those 'in the know' … we must share it so that all may understand and so that Easter may be a source of joy for all people … it is a duty that Christ entrusted to us, the people who make up his Church … and I pray that the joy we feel this Easter will give us the strength to be faithful to this duty: today & always. Amen.

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