Sermon preached by Fr John Pritchard
on Sunday 12th April 2020 (Easter Day)
Acts 10.34–43; Psalm 118.14–24; Colossians 3.1–4; John 20.1–18
In these recent days we have been recalling the passion, trial and killing of Jesus. The greatest act of social distancing ever known to put more than two metres between God and humanity, between God and religion – lest God influenced and transformed our practices and understanding!
Many couldn’t get their heads around the incarnation… God with us, that God would be so close to us in the person of Jesus and be so close to us while we are as we are… because the presence of God would disrupt and contradict, and quickly unpick the ideas and practices of the religious ruling elite that had been created not always to serve God and certainly not to serve the people or see them flourish in relationship with God.
So, not only would we have to accept that we are able to see God, but also that we are loved by God when he sees us closely as we are. And because we are loved, we would have to accept that others are loved also by God, and so we would have to love others indiscriminately if we believe ourselves to be influenced by God, and find ways to express this as part of our faith’s understanding and for this to be our hope.
Recent years have subtly undermined our genuine sense of hope. Europe, climate change, communities in freefall, knife crime and drug running, loneliness, historic and present abuse cases and family breakdown. Obesity and disease have meant an already overburdened NHS was on its knees just as we are when we come to plead with God about our future when we feel we have no hope.
It’s uneasy to list the brokenness of our communities and society, and to be truthful about us being selective about those who we enjoy as friends or care for, and our being unable to believe that God would want to come so close. We admit though that we have lacked faith at times, we’ve lived too long with the brokenness of our lives and society and lacked understanding or trust in the unseen God who walks amongst us, and inspires us.
But we have come through Lent and, now being attentive to Easter Day, we are given an opportunity to rethink God’s faithfulness, how brokenness can be transformed and the impossible made possible.
A friend of mine sent me a communication from her boss, in which he astutely wrote
“Turns out we can reduce carbon emissions by 50% overnight when we have to!
We can prioritise the elderly and vulnerable when it matters most
We can pump money and care into the NHS
We can support people who are disposable to their employers
We can subsidise companies that face massive challenges trying to deal with disruptive technologies and global competitors unburdened by taxes or the need to be profitable
Perhaps most importantly, we can pull together as a nation and a community to overcome almost any obstacle.”
It seems we can contribute to making the impossible – possible. None of us want the Covid-19 virus to mark our world. We will face big challenges and questions when we come out of this lockdown; but in light of what we have learnt and practised these past weeks, we must hold to the hope that what we have contributed to each other in these recent days will continue to be part of our future practice.
On Easter Day the disciples found themselves living in the reality of the impossible. He who was dead is risen. Alleluia.
Initially, they followed him not really knowing where it would lead, but they caught a vision of God’s kingdom; a glimpse of what might be, they saw a new earth and a new heaven, that transformation was not only possible through death but even through the life of Jesus there was a new understanding of how they and we might live.
Early on that Easter Day in the garden standing at the place of burial and weeping Mary looks into a tomb not full of death, but revealed as a testimony to love and the impossible being realised.
Two angels sit where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. A reminder to us of the image of the ark of the covenant and mercy seat, the promise of God’s commitment to his ancient people and his presence with us (you might need to google an image of that to see what I mean). For the promise which we could not have understood has been delivered: unconquerable death has been conquered. The impossible made reality, and the reality reminding us in faith that we have hope.
Mary did not go to the tomb full of hope, she went there to weep for the absence of her familiar friend. And in that place of desolation and sadness she found something new, but also familiar: a voice which calls ‘Mary’ and her response ‘teacher’.
All of us still have so much to learn as a species who are part of the created world and Christians and followers of Christ.
It’s quite difficult to explain the resurrection, because it’s within the power of God to accomplish and outside of our human understanding to know its real impact – but what we do know is that the encounters with the risen Jesus give those disciples and us a hope that there is an encounter to be had with God this side of and beyond the grave, that the impossible is achievable, that there is a tomorrow which is about life and flourishing, about communion and community and love being practised and realised amongst us all.
The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that all we have hoped about the transformation of our world, is possible… his conquering death shows us that God loves life, and not destruction and for that life to be with us and all of creation.
Friends, do not be socially distanced from God or the possibilities of God. We must allow God as much into our churches, as into our homes and into our lives.
So wherever you are listening to these words, remember that bidden or not bidden the risen Christ is with you and so too is the power of God!
May you be blessed and even though we are distance from one another at the moment, let us look forward to the day when we will be together again, singing songs and rejoicing in the life and hope God gives us. Amen