Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah! You can see the cross we decorated at the bottom of this post and the short video that began the service below. May hope and life and love and joy and peace rise in your lives this Easter Sunday and always.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
We've basically just sung this morning's sermon. When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Jesus' touch can call us back to life again; fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: love is come again like wheat that springeth green. As wondrous as the resurrection of Jesus is, it finds its fullest meaning in the ongoing resurrection of creation which it promises. Pain and sadness transformed into hope and life, not just in a garden in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, but here and now and everywhere and always. If one who has been abused and murdered can rise with words of peace and encouragement for those who have known grief and confusion, surely every life can be redeemed and every hope can be restored. The Easter story is a microcosm of our story, and redemption and restoration rarely come so quickly for us, but Christ's risen body and the women's joyful worship assure us that they will come, on this side of death or beyond it.
We heard Matthew's account of the resurrection this morning, but it is perhaps more common to hear John's. That version is full of very human details, like two of the disciples racing to the tomb and Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener, but the reading we heard is rather more epic, with an angel appearing from heaven rolling away the stone to reveal that Jesus has already gone. Stories evolve in the telling of them, and the differences don't take away from the truth at the heart of them, that Jesus rose from the dead. They may however gives us a glimpse of the different ways we might experience resurrection in our own lives. Sometimes it will come like a lightning bolt, sometimes we will scramble after it, and sometimes it will be a slow realisation of the hope that has been before us all along.
Easter falls when it does because of its connection to the Jewish festival of Passover, but for us in the northern hemisphere there is something glorious about the fact that it coincides with spring. We are surrounded by new life, as if creation is joining with the celebration and reminding us that God's heart was ever for renewal. It got me wondering this week what it's like to celebrate Easter on the other side of the world, where it is autumn and there is more of death and decay to be seen. Perhaps there is a different poignancy in remembering the promise of new life when you are furthest from it. Something to reflect on if you ever find yourself in Australia at Easter, but for now let us rejoice in the imagery of new life, and engage in some creating and growing of our own.
[We spent time making Easter gardens and decorating the cross, while chatting and eating chocolate. Easter is a festival after all, and there should be space in our worship for fun and food and friendship]