Sermon on the Day of the Resurrection – 5 April 2020

When death occurs, the finality of the loss is so great that there is a denial of death itself. Like Anne, the widow of a French actor Gerald Philippe, who went to the cemetery to look for her husband:

“I went to find you, a mad rendezvous… I remained outside reality, without being able to go in. The tomb was there, I could touch the earth that covered you and without being able to help it, I began to believe that you would come, a little late as usual; that soon I would feel you approach me. 

There was no point in telling myself that you were dead. You weren’t coming; no you were waiting for me in the car. A mad hope that I knew to be mad, and still it overtook me.” 

When Mary, Martha and Salome goes to the tomb of Jesus they expect to make a rendezvous with death. I am sure they had taken a conscious decision that they will not lose sight of Jesus and they will make it their business to treat him as King, right up to the end. Perhaps things are easier for them because they are women. I assume their gender might have acted as a kind of cloak of anonymity to protect them from the kind of attack that Peter and other disciples feared. Perhaps the very fact that they had decided what to do is giving them a kind of strength and fearlessness. 

 It is very early on the first day of the week. It is still dark, the women have a plan, but it has loop holes, they keep asking each other who will roll the stone for us, having seen that the soldiers had rolled a big stone at the that trance of the tomb. As they get closer they begin to notice that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.  

If the other male disciples were thrown into terror and confusion by Jesus’ death, the women are utterly flabbergasted by the resurrection. The young man in white, who has so helpfully rolled the stone away, is telling them things that they cannot take in.  They were not afraid of death, or of handling the dead body of their beloved master otherwise they would not have come, but they are afraid of the empty tomb and the words of astonishing hope that are spoken to them. They had heard and understood Jesus talking about his own death, but apparently they had blocked out what he told them about the resurrection. So these women are given strict instructions to go and tell the men that did not come that he is going to meet up with them in Galillee. 

I am sure some of us one way or the other are sometimes astonished and confused at why we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and what impact does it have on our Christian journey. I know that it is hard to believe that life, transformation and joy are as much part of the world and its maker as death and disintegration. The Christian hope brought about the resurrection is not based on a kind of blind and meaningless optimism. It is the hope that indeed God is God and that he is the creator, the source of all life and nothing can make God not being God. 

This year we celebrate the resurrection knowing that it is God’s liberating love for his beloved son. It God’s response to the cross, his defiant answer to a world that hoped violence could keep Jesus in its hold.  In raising Jesus from the dead God raised every value that Jesus stood for i.e.  compassion, love, justice, kindness, accepting people where they are in their journey, unjudgemental spirit and all others you may think off. Every story that Jesus told, every preference that Jesus made, every purpose that Jesus followed. All this was given new life and new significance. 

If death had spoken a final word about Jesus, all what he stood for and did, would have been reduced to curiosity, a forgettable footnote in the crowded history of lost causes. God wanted to make sure that he had the last word and indeed he had the first.

The Father’s affirmation of Jesus in his resurrection is extended to us humans too. As Paul says in the second reading: “When Christ is revealed –you too will be revealed in all your glory with him”. We sometimes struggle to let some of that glory shine through, because of the things that halt us in following the Lord. We try to be good but evil takes over. We know the way of the cross leads to our doorstep and that we are challenged to take it. We know It leads us to the God who let us out of tombs, out of our misery. It leads to a God who says for goodness sake do not be imprisoned by your past, it was just a lesson, not a death sentence rise up and take on a new challenge. It leads us to a God who says to us you can do it, though it may seem difficult, though it may seem as if it’s the end of everything else, but you can do it. It leads us to a God whom we can exclaim:

“When I fall.. he catches me, when I am sad he holds me, when I cry, he wipes my tears, when I am broken, he puts me back together”

“He is my father, my Friend, my comforter, my Hero, my Redeemer, Jesus is my Saviour”

I hope this years’ celebration of Easter will unveil and dispel the confusion and questions people have at this time of the corona virus and all that is happening around us,  like it was dispelled from the women gathering at the tomb.

Bishop Monument