Easter Sunday Sermon 2020

“Breaking in” or “breaking out”?

Address for Easter Day 2020

Reading: Matthew 28: 1 – 10

There is a real mixture of emotions in today’s Gospel reading, I think: if anyone ever tells you that the Bible is boring, then I suspect they probably haven’t dipped into it very often!
In this story there’s real sadness – as the two Mary’s make their way to the tomb.
I suspect there’s also boredom – for the guards who’ve spent all night on sentry duty – watching over a dead man.
There’s anxiety – fear – for the women as they first see the guards sitting there, and for all of them when the angel makes his dramatic entrance.
And there’s a confusion of emotions as the angel explains things – hope battling with sheer disbelief; and even more so when Jesus himself appears – the women’s deep joy and their sense of unreality both vying for the top spot.
It’s really all too much to take in.

The same might possibly be said for us, as we live through the unchartered experience of lockdown. Perhaps we are wrestling with conflicting emotions, as we try to make sense of conflicting evidence and as we struggle to comprehend the enormity of it all.

For us there is sadness – at the lives that have been lost and loved ones separated.
There is boredom at times – perhaps as we fight our own instincts to enjoy the warmer weather by heading out into the countryside or off to the coast.
There is anxiety – as we wait to see how things will develop; as we wonder when things will start to get better.
We are encouraged. I’m sure, by the generous response of our neighbours to those who need help – delighted to witness a real flourishing of community spirit here – and yet, still it’s quite at hard at times to believe any of this is really happening at all!

The point of the gospel story is that what lies ahead for the two faithful women, is far better than either of them could possibly have imagined – out of the horror of Good Friday and the sadness of Holy Saturday comes new life, not just for Jesus, but for everyone and everything
And the similar challenge that faces us is to believe that, when this pandemic is over, we will not be faced with a struggle to get back to what we had before.
Through faith, we may instead find our way towards a better way of inhabiting this planet.
I promised to talk about the egg – which, on a normal; Easter morning, sits in pride of place at the front of the church just up until this point in the service.
And then I’d chose two children to carry the egg through the church to give everyone a sight, and possibly even a scent of it, (and hoping all the while that neither child is unusually accident prone!)
If I allowed them – to carry straight on and out of the doors – then they’d head home with quite a prized: enough chocolate for weeks!
What does happen, of course, is that other children then tale it in turns to crack the egg – so that it can then be broken further and shared out.
Unless it is broken – we can’t make sure that everyone will get a piece to eat later.

Jesus is broken on the Cross so that the sheer scale of God’s power to transform can be revealed – nothing is so devastating that it can destroy all hope – nothing is so terrible that it cannot ultimately be turned towards the good.

Fears have been expressed this week that economic and political systems across the world are breaking down – under the pressure of enforced lockdown in several countries.
And many of us are rightly concerned about what that means for our economy – whether our local businesses will survive; what the effects will be on my livelihood, my job, my savings, my pension?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, then, just to step back to normality again – and get on with whatever our ordinary tasks may be?

And yet, as the women at the tomb discovered, what came just before may not be the best thing to hope for or aim for. The risen Christ was not the man they had known two days earlier– or at least not just the same man.
His resurrection changed the picture completely.
It is just possible that the creaking structures battling to remain in place today may break, to produce something more just and more stable, and not the financial black hole that some are dreading.

Forced to stay at home, members of sports teams and music groups are unable to meet to hone their skills in the usual way – and there will be real challenges ahead when they finally do meet together. And yet, as skills are re-learned, might there be an opportunity to shed bad habits; and perhaps to appreciate more fully the skills and contributions of others in the group – to really prize the team effort over personal ego.
And I guess that thought transfers to the Board room too.

Just now, some of us are lonely, some of us are frustrated because we cannot see the friends we normally spend our time with.
Some of us are suddenly dependant on neighbours we’d never met before – but whose kindness and concern are now our salvation.
There is so much good that can come out of that realisation – as again we really learn to value all those people and what they mean to us.

And, of course, there are places we can’t see at present.
Every month Google Maps provides me with a timeline of all the exciting places I’ve been to. And this week, in popped the summary for March.
It listed 3 great cities that I’d visited – Salisbury, Egham and Fovant (that well known metropolis).
And then it lists 3 highlights – Rivers leisure centre, the Garden centre and Lidl! Talk about living the dream!! And yet I really wouldn’t mind even half an hour in any of those places just now, just for a change of scene.
By being “grounded” in this way, though, might we learn to appreciate just how much there is on our doorstep – local facilities and natural beauty.
And might it lead us to think how we travel and how often? Could we use our cars less in order to keep the cleaner air that we’re now breathing?

The reason that you are now listening to my dulcet tones via the internet is that we can’t now gather in church – and that’s particularly hard for us on this most holy of days when we’d normally have a busy, joyful celebration.
Yet can we, by this grasp what it is to be what Pope John Paul II “an Easter People” –filled with the new life of the risen Christ, worshiping together, not just with the comforting familiarity of the “normal”, but with the boundless joy and expectation of the two faithful women on Easter morning?
We don’t know what life will look like in 2 months, 6 months, or a year’s time – but if the story of Easter tells us anything it is that there is no reason to assume that it will not be at least a pleasant surprise.
In these strange times, and in all circumstances we are called to celebrate and to witness to the power of Christ’s Resurrection:
for we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!