EASTER DAY 2015
There are three key words, or themes, that seem to jump out from this morning’s readings: “waiting”, “Amazement” and “All” (in the sense of everyone and everything).
“This is the Lord for whom we have waited”, says the prophet in our first reading. For centuries the Hebrew people have longed for the living God – have found him, have then taken a wrong turning or two and lost him again – only to look back and recognise that he has been there all along – patiently waiting for them, with the same longing.
And so for us, “waiting” is part of the search for God’s presence. If someone challenged us to prove that God is real and here now – we simply couldn’t do it. We have to learn to recognise the signs of God’s life and love around us, and that takes time. Just as human relationships need time and attention to develop – so our awareness of God takes patience and persistence.
Very often for us too, it’s only as we look back over our lives – or at a particular chain of events – that we recognise that God has been with us, steering us through.
It’s in our Gospel reading that we read about an overwhelming sense of amazement – as the women make their way to the tomb. The amazement they feel is coupled with terror – not because they are horrified to find the tomb empty, but because they can’t take in the enormity of what has happened. Presumably that’s why, in this version, we’re told that the women went away and “said nothing to anyone.” How could they describe what they’d seen?
That kind of reaction is not really that strange to us: we’re probably all familiar with the clips from old news reels from the time of Elvis Presley, or the Beetles on tour – with rows and rows of women (mostly young) who are screaming uncontrollably – not because they were terrified, but because the experience of being close to their idols was just too overwhelming.
And that kind of reaction is not exclusive to the fairer sex, either: despite the stereotype, teenage boys can actually be highly articulate – especially when they’re feeling hard done by! But should the girl of their dreams enter the room and somehow the power of speech seems to just evaporate into a meaningless babble, or a blushing silence.
Again, the sense of wonder seems to run too deep for words.
In a more profound sense, we can experience those same sensations in our own fleeting direct encounters with God. Such moments can fill us with such intense joy that we can hardly make sense of it – let alone explain it to someone else.
And therein lies a problem!
Our first two readings tell us that God is Lord of all nations and all peoples. And if the good news of Easter is for everyone – then someone has to tell other people about it.
Evidently, those first visitors to the empty tomb DID in the end find a way to speak about what they’d found – otherwise WE wouldn’t be here two millennia later, reading about them!
And if, for us, God is a reality too amazing, too overwhelming to put into words – then our best hope of pointing other people towards him is by demonstrating the change God has made, and continues to bring about in us.
Sadly, we know that when people think about the Church – it’s not all good: there’s too often a hint of self-interest or a whiff of hypocrisy that somehow undermines the message of hope.
And it’s no use blaming those other people – the onlookers – for noticing what’s there before them. It’s down to us to keep working at making the changes God calls from us.
If we are honest – we will recognise within the church both the loving service of faithful followers of Jesus AND also those elements of self-interest and apparent hypocrisy that draw such criticism.
In reality, all of us are busy trying to be “faithful, loving followers of Christ”, but – being human – we will sometimes lapse into selfish, hypocritical ways.
The key thing is that we keep on trying – assured that there is forgiveness in Christ’s name, no matter how many wrong turns we make along the way.
And it’s in the progress that we make – in learning to serve both God and our neighbours – that we demonstrate the reality of God’s presence within us, among us and around us.
The story of Easter is one of waiting for joy, of being amazed by joy and of sharing that joy with anyone who will listen.
May that joy be ours this Easter – may it overcome and transform us – and may it strengthen us to proclaim the good news of the living God. Amen.
[Readings: Isaiah 25: 6-9, Acts 10: 34 – 43, Mark 16: 1-8]