Easter – Matthew 28:1-10
I was in New Zealand last week! Indeed I was; I’m not lying! No, I didn’t go there by plane, as if there was still a plane for passengers to go on. And I didn’t close my eyes and pretend, or had a dream about going to New Zealand. So, if I’m not lying and if – as you might think – I haven’t lost the plot, how did I do it? Well, it was quite different, I grant you that, but it was because my sister, who lives there, had sent me a link to a virtual service of their church on internet, and it was live! It was a meeting of each member, from their own home, all joining in at the same time, so that they could actually see one another as they were in front of their computer screen. And at the given time, I joined! As I could see some people – not all at once – and see their movements, and hear every word, I was really there! Isn’t that amazing? There was one problem: with this technology, only one person can speak at a time. As soon as more people speak together, the screen goes mad and breaks up. So, it had to be orchestrated, and there were a few glitches, but it was a great experience. I was where thought I would never be, and couldn’t be, in the present world crisis. It was a true gift, a bonus. When I couldn’t be there, I actually was.
So, Easter Day, the day of the Resurrection; when something happened that we never thought could happen: that says in the words of our acclamation: ‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’ and the response: ‘He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’ It doesn’t sound now in our church buildings, but we can still say it as a Church, no matter where we are: ‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’ … ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’ We can say it together, even though we are each in our own home. The Resurrection of Christ and the hope that we have through it, isn’t proclaimed in church buildings alone, but in the lives of God’s people, when they respond to his call. God dying on the cross for our sins sounds like foolishness to some: a bit like me saying that I was in New Zealand last week, when I couldn’t have been there physically at all. And yet it was true for me.
But if we tried to put God in a box, pressed him into a mould of what we think God should look like, we would utterly fail! How could he be God if we didn’t accept that his ‘foolishness’ is greater than human wisdom? You know the story of the man on the roof of his house during a flood, and praying, ‘God, please save me.’ Soon a rowboat came by and offered to take him to safety. But he said, ‘O No, God will take care of me; thanks.’ The waters kept coming until he was in to his waist. Then a helicopter appeared with a rope ladder, but the man said, ‘O no, God will save me.’ Then the man drowned and when he stood before God, he complained, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’ And God said, ‘I sent you a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?’
Our church buildings may be shut, and we may say that it shouldn’t be like that, but the Church is still open, in us, as renewed children of God. Christ died on the cross, and we may say that it shouldn’t be like that, but he came back to life, so that we could be with him for ever. Death is an outrage; it is ugly; too often people die when they shouldn’t. But God came in Jesus, to put an end to death, to kill it, to open the grave and show the victory over it: As strange as it may sound, and as incomprehensible as it may seem, what the apostles proclaimed and the prophets foretold: ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’ He is standing at the open grave with an outstretched hand, and saying: put all your weight on me, and trust me, and receive the gift of eternal life.
Yes, these days may be scary and weird. We would never have believed it could be like that. But God is with us. And we are together, in the new life that Christ gives, even today. So, I give you now 5 lettuces: Let us rejoice! Let us thank God. Let us enjoy an Easter egg; or two. Let us accept the love of God in Jesus, and praise his name. Let us shine like light in the darkness, as beacons of hope. God has done it: ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’