Easter Sunday

John 20:1-18
(St Alkelda’s – Revd. Paul Fisher)

SO HERE WE ARE, EASTER DAY. AND WHAT A LONG TIME IT HAS FELT TO BE SINCE LAST EASTER! BUT HERE WE ARE.

STILL, GLIMPSES, TRACES AND ECHOES OF EASTER CAN COME TO US ANY DAY OF THE YEAR – IN A CARING, COMPASSIONATE ACT, A NEW SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY, A STRANGER’S SMILE…..AND MORE RECENTLY, WITH WELCOME SIGNS OF NEW SPRING LIFE – NEW-BORN LAMBS SKIPPING, BLEATING – DAFFODILS – A BLACKBIRD SINGING – THE COSTLY SELF-GIVING OF CARERS, MEDICAL & HEALTH STAFF. INDEED, EVERY GOOD ACT, EVERY KIND WORD  OF OURS MIGHT JUST CREATE A RIPPLE OF EASTER – TO SPREAD WHO KNOWS HOW FAR!

NOW EASTER DAY IS COME – THE 3RD DAY! REMEMBER THAT 3RD DAY WEDDING – CANA?   STANDARD OLD PLONK’S RUN OUT – PRETTY TIRED STUFF – SOMETHING MUCH BETTER IS NEEDED – NEW WINE! – NEW LIFE  FOR OUR CELEBRATIONS!

EASTER IS SURELY A THING RADICALLY NEW, QUITE STUPENDOUS, MOMENTOUS, EXCITING…LIKE NOTHING EVER BEFORE! THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THE CHURCH’S YEAR: AND VERY LIKELY THE MOST TRANS-FIGURATIVE EVENT IN THE WHOLE OF HUMAN HISTORY!

ON THE FIRST EASTER MORNING, ALL OUR IMMEMORIAL FEARS – THE FEAR THAT LIFE MIGHT BE BUILT ON NOTHINGNESS OR BE THE PLAYTHING OF DEMONIC FORCES – ALL THESE FEARS ARE FOR EVER DESTROYED. ALL THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL ASPECTS OF LIFE ARE HERE TRANSFORMED!JESUS, IN GIVING HIS LIFE – HIS ALL – IN A LOVE-BEYOND- WORDS – ABSORBED ALL THE DARK EVIL OF THIS WORLD THAT EVER WAS & EVER SHALL BE,  DRAINING IT OF ANY ULTIMATE POWER TO DESTROY & KILL.

THIS HAD TO BE DONE, HERE ON EARTH, IN REAL TIME, BY AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING – BECAUSE ONLY SO CAN WE HUMANS, AND ALL EARTHLY LIFE, BE LIBERATED FROM THE POWER OF EVIL AND DEATH TO HAVE THE LAST WORD. BUT THIS PERSON MUST BE REALLY GOD TOO – GOD IN JESUS CHRIST. BECAUSE IT IS ONLY GOD WHOCAN FINALLY BRING TOGETHER, IN A COMMUNITY OF EARTH AND HEAVEN, ALL THAT EVER WAS, IS, AND SHALL BE!

YET THIS EASTER IT MUST BE HARD FOR MANY PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE MUCH OF ITS REALITY. ALL ACROSS THE WORLD WE ARE CAUGHT UP IN THE LONG DARK CAPTIVITY TO PANDEMIC. YES, THERE IS LIGHT AHEAD – BUT WE KNOW THERE REMAINS SO MUCH THAT IS VERY WRONG WITH GOD’S WORLD.  HOW, THEN, DO YOU FEEL TODAY? WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN TO YOU – TO ME?

I HAVE A FEELING THIS PRESENT TIME BRINGS TO A HEAD EVERYTHING WE HUMAN BEINGS HAVE KNOWN – FOR BETTER & WORSE – THRO’OUT A VERY LONG AND SEEMINGLY ENDLESS 2,000 YEARS. THIS IS OUR “SATURDAY TIME” – THAT LONGEST OF DAYS BETWEEN GOOD FRIDAY & EASTER DAY. WHAT A LONG DAY’S  JOURNEY WE TRAVEL!

     FOR SURE – DESPITE OUR MUCH-NEEDED HINTS OF REAL EASTER, DESPITE OUR CELEBRATIONS – OURS IS AN IMMENSITY OF WAITING – WHEN, LORD, WHEN?

AND YET – ALL THINGS ESSENTIAL TO THE WORLD’S REDEMPTION HAVE ALREADY BEEN DONE BY JESUS – ACCOMPLISHED FOR ALL TIME. BY THIS ACT, INDEED, AN ABIDING CONNECTION IS ESTABLISHED FOR ALL TIME AND BEYOND BETWEEN GOD AND EARTH.  WHATEVER MIGHT HAPPEN IN THE YEARS TO COME – THIS LINK CAN NEVER, EVER  BE FINALLY BROKEN

AND YET- GOD SEEMS TO BE TAKING AN AWFULLY LONG TIME ABOUT IT! SO, UNDERSTANDABLY, WE BECOME ANXIOUS, WE DESPAIR. BUT THIS WAY, WE SO EASILY MISS THE POINT.

TODAY’S GOSPEL SHEDS LIGHT.  MY POEM, ‘THE EASTER GARDEN’, IS A POETIC MEDITATION ON IT. AND THERE IS ONE KEY POINT TO DRAW OUT: IS JESUS REJECTING MARY WHEN HE SAYS “DO NOT TOUCH, DO NOT CLING TO ME…LET GO”?

NO! WHAT HE MEANS IS THIS: YOU MUST LET GO OF ANY LOVING ATTACHMENT TO MY EARTHLY BODY. LET YOUR DEFENCES DOWN, MARY: NO LONGER DEPEND ON ME AS A PROP – GO OUT, TELL OTHERS, LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE IN ME! YOU SEE, MARY, ONLY IF L.ET GO OF ME NOW CAN THE RENEWING ENERGIES OF MY LOVE FLOW INTO YOU – FILL YOU –  AND SO, THROUGH YOU, REACH OUT TO OTHERS.

I NOW AM IN YOU, MARY, AND YOU ARE MY LIFE IN THE WORLD, MY BODY. YOU ARE TO CONTINUE MY WORK IN THE WORLD – AND THROUGH YOU, OTHERS, SPREADING OUT EVER MORE WIDELY. AND WHENEVER YOU ALL SHARE THE BREAD AND WINE OF COMMUNION – MY BROKEN BODY, AND BLOOD SHED – THEN YOU BECOME MY BODY, TO CARRY FORWARD GOD’S WORK HERE.

AND SO WE TOO, NOW, IN THIS COMMUNION, ARE RE-NEWED AND SENT OUT AS “THE BODY OF CHRIST”

WILL EASTER EVER COME, THEN, IN ITS FULL REALITY?  WILL THIS APPARENTLY ENDLESS ‘SATURDAY TIME’ EVER GIVE WAY TO THAT FINAL EASTER SO LONGED FOR? WILL THIS STORY EVER BE COMPLETE? WELL, IT IS UP TO US, WITH GOD.

-WHEN ALL CHRISTIANS, ALL PEOPLE OF FAITH, ALL PEOPLE WHO WILL THE RESTORATION OF HUMANITY AND EARTH, WORK TOGETHER (KNOWINGLY OR NOT) ACCORDING TO GOD’S COVENANT PURPOSE OF “JUSTICE, MERCY, HUMILITY AND PEACE”

-WHEN EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING ON THIS EARTH WHO HAS NEVER HAD ANY CHANCE OF A LIFE…WHO HAS KNOWN ONLY POVERTY & OPPRESSION  

-WHEN THE LAST PERSON ON EARTH WHO HAS NEVER KNOWN JUSTICE, COMPASSION OR LOVE

-WHEN EVERY LAST CHILD STARVED AND FAMISHED, MURDERED IN CIVIL WAR AND GENOCIDE – EVERY LAST GREATLY DISABLED PERSON – AND THE LAST OF A BROKEN, RAVAGED EARTH WITH ALL ITS PRECIOUS WILD-LIFE

-WHEN, FOR EVERY ONE & ALL OF THESE, THE DAWNING LIGHT OF LOVE AND HOPE BEGINS TO SHINE – THEN WILL THE BLAZING GLORY OF EASTER COME!   

I WANT TO END WITH THE FINAL WORDS OF MY BOOK WRITTEN IN MEMORY OF MY LATE BROTHER ANTHONY, WHO FROM BIRTH HAD MAJOR DISABILITIES OF MIND, BODY AND EMOTION. MY EASTER BELIEF FOR HIM HOLDS TRUE, I BELIEVE, FOR ALL WHO WILL FINALLY KNOW THE FULL SON-LIGHT OF EASTER LIFE:

“Anthony now journeys beyond the borders of this life towards the ultimate fullness of Easter life, when all things are gathered up and made new. He rests from his earthly labours, but I am most sure that beyond the veil created by death, the divide between what is mortal and what is fullness of resurrection life as yet far beyond our understanding, he is very lively and active and will continue somehow to impact upon this world! And I know that for him ‘all shall be well’ as the fire and the rose become one. In that moment all the stresses and strains of his life, the distress and darkness, the suffering – the ‘fire’: all these come together with the settled and peaceful times, the happiness and humour, the community, the truly productive and creative times – the ‘rose’. In that moment the gardens in open air he tended and watered so diligently, the earthly gardens shaped by human hand from an earth formed long ago from fire – all these are ‘in-folded’ into the heavenly garden, the place of the rose, the garden of growth, the seedbed of new life and of energy beyond time. In that moment all the tensions and contradictions that Anthony knew in this life are resolved. In that moment comes final reconciliation. So it is that Anthony comes home, singing and playing to his Creator, arriving where he first started and  knowing that place for the first time – “And the fire and the rose are one”. So for Anthony, through the purging redemptive fire of the Spirit, is thesong and worship of earth finally conjoined and reconciled with that of heaven. So does the rose of heaven open and blossom with the flower of earth. All for him is now well. And all manner of things shall be well.”

AND MAY THIS BE SO, TOO, FOR ALL WHO NOW SUFFER, FOR ALL WHO HAVE DIED WITHOUT HOPE OR LIGHT, FOR A RAVAGED EARTH – AND FOR YOU AND ME.   AMEN   

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