Wednesday, 20 April 2022

'No longer contained' An Easter Sermon

 Acts 10.34-43 ‘We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection’


1 Corinthians 15.19-26 Christ is the first-fruits of those who have died


John 20.1-18 He must rise from the dead





Alleluia. Christ is risen.


This is the Christian proclamation par excellence!  Jesus Christ - truly God, truly human, born of the Virgin Mary – this Jesus, who died upon the cross and was buried is now alive, raised by the Father from the dead.


Christ is risen.


It lies at the heart of what we call ‘the mystery of faith’, a mystery whose depths we plumb in these days of Easter: ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again’.


And as St Paul reflected in his first letter to the Corinthians, this is not an abstract idea. Resurrection is so much more than a general concept of new life, the cycle of birth and death or even the transformation of caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly: those things of nature, beautiful as they are, point to, but are not, resurrection. Resurrection depends on a body, a body that was dead now alive.


Resurrection is shocking and in one sense against nature.


And it is wholly of God: ‘this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’, says the psalm (Ps 118.23).  


Resurrection is found in an encounter with the body of Jesus Christ made visible in the concrete, in person, embodied community of faith he draws around him to live his Risen Life and through the sacraments that body, the Church, celebrates.


That body, our first brothers and sisters in the church, made their way to the tomb. They did not find the bloodied corpse, but they found the tomb empty.


Mary Magdalene had gone to pay her respects at the tomb after Jesus’ brutal death, and instead finds herself responding to the reality which you and I are called to respond to today and, after her example, to pass on to others today, that Jesus Christ is not constrained by death, darkness and despair but is alive and risen.


There it is. Christ has died. Christ is risen.

The gospel passage for today paints a picture of urgency, of spreading the news, of bewilderment and of encounter.


Urgency. Mary arrives at the tomb so early in the morning that it was still dark. Such was her urgent desire to be near the body of her Lord and Teacher. On finding the tomb empty she urgently ran to tell Simon Peter and the beloved disciple. They in turn ran urgently to the tomb.


There is an urgency to the Christian life: this matters!


We see that urgency in those new Christians who have an intense and urgent appetite for Christ and in those lifelong Christians are renewed by a deep sense of assurance and hope. We see that urgency for Christ in the vibrant global Church.


Rekindling our urgent desire for the resurrection faith will be transformative for the life of the Church in England, where too often zeal flags in the face of a remote relationship with the gospel and with Jesus Christ.


Spread the news! With urgency comes a desire to hand this on; to spread the news. This news can’t be bottled up. Mary Magdalene had to go and tell. She became, in Pope Gregory the Great’s wonderful phrase, ‘the apostle to the Apostles’. Mary is sent to tell the ones who will in turn go and tell the whole world, as Peter says in the Acts of the Apostles..


Someone told you once of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was a parent, a grandparent, godparent or friend. However you were told you are now to go and tell. Mary told two people, if you told two people of the power of faith in Jesus Christ and demonstrated in your life that it is life-giving and urgent, then the church here in this land would grow as it does in many parts of the world. People are going and telling in countries all around the world, which is why Christianity continues to grow.


And don’t tell a bland, dull, tepid, inoffensive account of this – that’s not the Gospel - speak of the vibrant, urgent life that comes from an encounter with the Living God in Jesus Christ.


Bewilderment. At the same time, we have to be frank; this is bewildering. It is not a superficial gospel we tell.


Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Risen Lord was bewildering and disorientating. It took time for her to become aware of what was going on.


So many people look at the resurrection and are too bewildered to go further. They walk away. Mary was ready to stay, to pause, to ponder, to ask the deeper questions in her encounter with the Risen Lord.


That is the beginnings of a life of prayer and mystical union with Christ. And from that Mary realised that her life had to be re-ordered in relation to who Jesus Christ is. She couldn’t project her own desires onto him, be they romantic, deluded or idolising. She had to come to see him as he really was, stripping away the preconceptions she wanted to hold on to.


And again, reflecting on the complexity, she had to go and tell.


So the Easter Proclamation is not superficial: it is deep, it is urgent, bewildering, yet life giving. It has had, and still has, the capacity to turn the world upside down, human lives upside down, to reorient us to God, our Maker and our Redeemer,


So let us roll the stone away from our eyes and hearts, see the Crucified and Risen Lord and go, tell the Good News. Alleluia.

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