Also preached as a homily
4th April 2021
May I begin by wishing you a very happy and holy Easter. This is traditionally one of the happiest times of the year, but of course this year, like last has felt very different because of the pandemic. Last year, the lockdown hadn’t long started and we didn’t really know what lay ahead of us. This year, many are feeling low and deflated by the amount of suffering we’ve heard about or experienced, the separation from friends and family, and the fear of the unknown. Yet, if there’s one thing Easter teaches us is that sad and painful times will pass - as we’re told in the 1<sup>st</sup> Letter of Peter, “By his wounds we have been healed” (2:24).
Last Monday, we passed another milestone on the roadmap out of lockdown as some of the restrictions were eased. I’m all too aware that for many people that’s not going to be the freedom others are enjoying, but I hope that every small change to our lives will bring hope for after this nightmare. Whilst we all want life to return to ‘normal’, I hope and believe that we won’t have to wait for that point to experience joy again. I pray that every time we see another friend or family member, or every time we feel confident enough to try something new, we’ll feel positive and hopeful. Some of us are going to need more reassurance than others and some will want to see every scrap of evidence that the scientists can produce before they feel safe, and of course that’s absolutely fine.
In a way, we’re like the disciples after the resurrection; they needed reassurance and Thomas wanted evidence (John 20: 24-29). Jesus appeared to the disciples and gave them the comfort they needed. When they saw Jesus, yes, he was raised from the dead, but he still bore his wounds from the cross. This was to show them that he was not a ghost, but the same Jesus who had been crucified and was now alive again. It also served to remind them that this Messiah had suffered and shared their pain. We may not have seen the risen Christ with our own eyes, but let us be reassured by what those first disciples did see, and how they were changed from frightened men and women into bold and brave believers.
I find it fascinating that Jesus’ resurrection, the most important event in the history of humankind, happened before sunrise, while it was quiet and, as far as we’re aware without any witnesses, well human ones anyway! We’re told in today’s Gospel reading (Mark 16:1-8), that Mary Magdalene; James’ mother, Mary and Salome went to the tomb on that first Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body (as Jesus was crucified on a Friday, there wasn’t time to anoint him before the Sabbath started at sunset that evening).
However, we’re told that when they reached the tomb the stone had already been rolled away - Jesus was gone, the resurrection had already happened. Without any great fanfare or announcement and in the quietness of the night, God raised Jesus from the dead.
What a stark contrast to the crucifixion on Good Friday which was public, loud and savage. Resurrection’s not like that – it happens quietly and is unnoticed at first. The same is true of our lives. The reality of suffering in our lives is often public and brutal; it resembles the pain of Good Friday. And yet, because we don’t suffer alone, God will have already quietly begun our resurrection, infusing life where there has been pain and grief. It may take us time to notice it happening, but God’s will is for us to be transformed out of strife and restored to wholeness.
As incredible as this resurrection story is, I feel the most precious words in this passage are, ‘and Peter’. The angel tells the women, “Go, tell his disciples, <em>and Peter</em> that he is going ahead to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (v7). Only days before, Peter had denied knowing Jesus, and how he must have been tortured with the memory of that betrayal. Yet, here was Jesus, as always overflowing with love and compassion, reaching-out specifically to him. Jesus wasn’t interested in the wrong Peter had done, but the pain he was enduring, and if we remember all through the Gospels, Jesus was always far more concerned for the repentant sinner than the sin. This, I pray will help us to realise that through our Christian journey we have to keep striving to know Jesus more and more. Through life, we may collect ideas of what we think God is like, and very often they’re wrong. We can’t assume we’ll know what our Lord’s response will be to our actions, but rather we need to draw closer into a relationship with him. Because of the resurrection, this bond shouldn’t be stagnant; because our Lord is a Living Lord, there are always new and exciting discoveries to be made. So, this Easter I pray that as we reflect once again on the wonders of God’s love for us, shown in the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, we will truly give our lives more fully to him, and more intentionally show that love to others in our day to day lives.
I would come to you
Live my life for you,
Son of God.
All your commands I know are true,
Your many gifts will make me new,
Into my life your power breaks through,
Every blessing, Heidi.
Also preached as a homily