Easter in our Midst
Easter Sunday Sermon 2020.
In this current time, it is difficult to believe that resurrection has come. The news understandably has one topic, but we know that this is a time of joy as well as sorrow for families across the world; there are births as well as death. We have learnt a little more about what is important and how much our relationships with God in Jesus and with our family and friends mean to us. There have been so many tragic and worrying losses and ways in which life is diminished but there have been unexpected gains too: taking more time to think, to pray, to relax , to cook, to read, to phone and text friends and family. There has been food donated for the hungry, shelter found for the homeless. You might have seen the advert for the new ‘Have I got News for You?” on television where Ian Hislop looks nostalgically back to the days when he was lamenting that Brexit was the only topic in the news. If only……
I guess we feel a little like those first Christian disciples locked away in fear. It is so hard to believe now as then, that life, transformation and joy are as much a part of our situation as death and disintegration. The Christian hope of new life is not based on meaningless optimism. Resurrection is God looking squarely at deathliness and God affirming life. Without Easter there would be no hope, no faith, no Church. The empty tomb is an affirmation of the purposes of an eternal God. All our hope is scarred by the marks of nails, the wounds of the cross. Scars are the source of life, not its end. By ourselves we struggle to see life’s vitality. Mary on Easter morning was looking for death and she needed Jesus to say her name to recognise the truth that he is risen. We are loved into existence by God and we see glimpses of that even in these dark days. We are called to help others recognise God calling to them in the resurrected presence of God working through the Spirit. Perhaps our current crisis helps us recognise not only our need of God, but the priority of proclaiming that to others. The disciples, like some of us perhaps at the moment are tempted by fears and uncertainty, in that reality who better than us to face the reality of others’ sorrow and speak a gospel of assurance and transformation. This, like the first century, is a sharp time, a time for recognising what matters to us as Christians, and to us as part of a suffering humanity. We need now more than ever to live sacrificially, supporting the weakest in whatever ways we can. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, not just in the past but in the present and for the future. We may also need be the ones who accept love and help from others and relax with God, without striving.
We have glimpsed something of God’s resurrected life in refuse collectors, shop assistants, NHS workers, carers, parents, children and neighbours trying to bring some hope in desperate times. We have seen it in our church community, amongst many in our congregation: acts of kindness to neighbours, wrestling with new technologies to bring connection and worship to the church community, leading worship, setting up prayer opportunities, sending emails, using social media, writing letters, shopping, praying earnestly for each other. This is Church, in our midst, reminding us that God is in the world, not locked away
in a sacred building, but spilling out, in us, to bring light and resurrection hope to the darkest and bleakest of situations. God can be seen in sunlight and fear, in hope and darkness , in pain and in joy. There is nowhere that cannot be graced by God’s presence. This is God who does not escape the horrors of life but shares in them, in the life and death of Jesus and can bring something of resurrection hope gently and patiently, not denying the pain but sharing in it. God is not hidden away amongst the churchy people alone. I have seen God in my road ; in the beauty of new leaves on trees and bird song, in the kindness of a neighbour, as Easter bunny, leaving chocolate eggs at the front door of children in the road, in clapping the NHS, in dancing on doorsteps to the same song, in leaving food bank parcels on my doorstep, in walking dogs for those who are ill and collecting shopping for those locked way. This is Easter in our midst, in the refusal to accept that people should be left in darkness when there is a hope to bring them life.
In these days, we need a spiritual encounter with God which is profound enough to sustain our own faith. When we look at our own understanding and hope in celebrating Easter, we affirm that we see more in others because they are children of a loving God. We need to be convinced that God’s love for us, shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is life changing enough to be compelling, so compelling we can’t but share it. In Christ’s resurrection there is hope reborn and joy restored.
A prayer by Nick Fawcett
Loving God, we praise you again for this season and the assurance it brings that nothing can finally overcome your love .
You confronted the forces of evil, allowing them to throw everything they could muster against you, and when they had done their worst you emerged victorious; no power able to hold you down .
Teach us always to hold on to that truth, and so to live each moment in the knowledge that, whatever we may face, your love will see us through.
In the name of the risen Christ we pray. Amen
Revd. Sue Curtis