Easter Sunday



Easter Sunday

Collect


Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Mark 16:1-8
The Resurrection
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

Sermon

O Lord, our God we will exalt you, 
for you have done wonderful things,
 plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 


As Jesus once said to the Pharisees: “My father is always working.” 
God worked in the past and God works in the present because God is past and God is present.

This year I have been especially aware of how God is present from past to present to future, and how sometimes that is almost one image, and time boundaries start to disappear.
In particular there are a number of ways in which like a palimpsest, Christmas appears superimposed upon Easter.
I hadn’t heard of a palimpsest until I was interviewing an author, Janet Soskice, about her book on the two women from Scotland who in the 1800’s go and search for ancient biblical texts in Sinai.
In an ancient monastery in the desert these indomitable women searching for evidence of ancient scripture texts are shown dated manuscripts in which they realise there are in fact two layers of writing,  and even older writing have come through, the ancient stories are still evident,  existing  behind what was written on top. 

So a palimpsest  looks like a double exposure if you remember the days of camera film.

And So God comes through , God comes through the stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and God comes through the writing of Isaiah and the prophets, and into the story of Jesus of Nazareth.
O Lord, our God we will exalt you, 
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 

And as we gather to celebrate the second major festival of our Christian year There are a number of ways in which in particular, like a palimpsest, Easter appears superimposed upon Christmas.

And the first way is that in both  stories there is a lot of fear. The Christmas narrative is punctuated by the refrain from the angels. In fact every time an angel appears to anyone, -and they do it quite a lot, Christmas really isn't for the fainthearted! -Every time an angel appears he says: do not be afraid…
Because it is a fearful thing to come across the living God breaking through into our material world.
Mostly it is done indirectly. Mary has an angel in her house, and Joseph three dreams, otherwise Mary ponders all this: the shepherds and the wise men, and no doubt the flight to Egypt, and holds it all in her heart. Because she knows and says with us:

O Lord, our God we will exalt you, 
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 

But it remains a fearful troubling thing for mortals to come across even a messenger from God. 
(And )During the events of Good Friday the sky turned black, the curtain of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, and an earthquake shook open the tombs of some of the righteous dead who walked again. And Jesus, the good shepherd, met, it seemed, his end.

It is not surprising then that anxiety also runs very high in the Easter story. 
As the women make their way even before it is properly light they are anxious about the stone over the entrance to the tomb. When they arrive and see the figure in white: ‘The women were shocked’ ‘The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.’  And when they do find the men they are hidden away in an upper room with the door locked for fear of reprisals.

Christmas and Easter were marked by fear, the mortality of humanity was shaken.

There are a number of ways in which like a palimpsest Easter appears superimposed upon Christmas. It is in the presence of the vulnerability of mortality.
And secondly this is in the hiddenness of it all.

When the prophets talk of Jesus they say a bruised reed he will not destroy and a smoking wick he will not extinguish. Jesus’ arrival at Christmas seems to us to be a great thing because he is our protagonist , the one on whom we are focussing… but there are plenty of hints throughout the narrative that actually for most people this wasn’t the narrative, Rather it was of a census, of a packed Bethlehem, of parties an renewed family ties. There was no room at all for such an obscure couple, only a small part of someone else’s house, the animal end. And their visitors? Only the waifs and strays of that culture saw them; the shepherds, the innkeeper,  and the  unknown Magi. When word does get to the ruling elite, and Herod goes on a rampage, his ire is spread very broadly, because he has no idea where this baby is hidden.

At Easter, and during that last week we know now as Holy Week, Jesus is at first very visible. On Sunday he rides into Jerusalem hailed as king, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday he teaches in the Temple, and then he disappears from the main streets and the temple courts. 
He and the disciples meet quite secretly in a borrowed Upper Room for a quiet meal together. 
They walk in the dark to the garden of Gethsemane, and as we thought a few Sundays ago, Jesus goes very quiet at his trial. 
Once he has died the disciples are nowhere to be seen, it is Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus who take his body down.

Christmas and Easter are marked by a hiddenness.
Isn’t it strange that our instinct is to communicate, and to do so clearly, And God’s is not. It is fine to be hidden and obscure. That doesn’t stop anything working out. 

O Lord, our God we will exalt you, 
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

There are a number of ways in which like a palimpsest Easter appears superimposed upon Christmas. Firstly in the accounts of fear at the time, secondly in God almost hiding in the story.

And thirdly, in the constancy of God and the presence of Christ.

One of the stories for the children this week was how Christmas turns into Easter:
FIGURES
Here is the Christ child, he holds his arms out to you for a hug.
Here is the Risen Christ, now (superimposing) the Christ child is not in one place and one time but all of God is now everywhere, in every place, at every time. 

I sense that this year, this Easter Sunday, we are quieter in our spirits. 
This last year of continually looking forward to ‘going back to normal’, of having dates in which we are able to be with our families and friends again, and then to have them changed or rescinded, means our hope has constantly been curtailed and put on hold. We have started to distrust the idea that all shall be well. We are less certain about resurrection…

This Easter in particular we therefore need to know that the God of Adam and Eve, the God of Noah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Joseph and Moses and David and all the prophets, and the God, Emmanuel is with us still, 
always has been, 
always will be, 
and quietly but powerfully able to transform us; 
our characters, our lives and through us our community, our society, and our world 
....by what is actually the earth shattering power of the resurrected Son, of whom we are not to be afraid, but rather to whom we are to look, to hold his gaze and say:

O Lord, our God we will exalt you, 
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.