Reflection 31st March Easter Sunday: John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday: Resurrection

Preacher: Emily Hayes

Church Newsletter 033124

Let’s pray,


“O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise, Glory be, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen. Hallelujah.


As regulars here will know I try to begin my day with prayer, and I pray a morning liturgy that begins with these words. However, traditionally during lent the church does not use the word Hallelujah and so throughout Lent I just finish with Amen.


And I know this might sound a bit strange but it actually brings great joy to me on Easter Sunday morning to be able to again finish this prayer with the word. Hallelujah.


God be praised.


And perhaps some of you have also found a new appreciation, a new joy in, that something, perhaps very ordinary, that you gave up for the time of Lent.


And today is the day that we have been walking towards for the last 40 days.


It is the day at the centre of the Christian faith. A day of rejoicing. A day of celebration and giving thanks.


And yet as I have reflected on this story, this week, I note that even this story would caution us from Christian triumphalism and a sense of superiority.


This story begins in the dark. In this gospel Mary is alone when she discovers the empty tomb.


In her distress she goes and tells the other followers of Jesus.


Two of them, Simon Peter and the so called, one that Jesus loves, in a rather strange running race, come to the tomb. The one who gets there first holds back. Peter bursts in. It is indeed empty. One of them believes but what exactly he believes remains unclear for it says, “as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead.” And then they return home.


Mary stays. And weeps.


Jesus appears to her. Again, rather strangely, she does not recognise him. Why? It’s hard to know. Nadia Bolz Weber says, “I like to think Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for the gardener because he still had dirt under his fingers.”


But he says her name and she recognises him. The light begins to dawn.


And he sends her back to the disciples. And she goes and announces to them, “I have seen the Lord.”


In this account of the resurrection, there is darkness and light.


There are tombs and gardens.


There is running and holding back.


There is belief and confusion.


There is distress and loneliness and comfort.


There is grief and joy.


There is death and life.


Resurrection it seems is a little messy.


As Christians on this side of eternity we too must hold all these things as we come to resurrection.


We must resist the temptation to package Christianity as some kind of self help program, some kind of avoidance of suffering program. We must also avoid the opposite, that is packaging it as a glorification of suffering.


Jesus is about life and death and life again. And THIS is what the Christian life is always about.


Stan Grant put it, “true joy is pain made holy by the caress of the divine.”


Nadia Bolz Weber again describes it, “Jesus came to bring life, abundant life in fact. But it is never found in the avoidance of pain or the manipulation of God or transcending the human experience. It always comes from death and resurrection.  Truth and life and all the things God wants to reveal to us in Jesus Christ comes from descent into death before rising to new life.”


And the Eastern Orthodox chant, God tramples death down by death. That is our God triumphs over death by going through the pain of it not by evading it.


It has been a pretty painful week here in Mparntwe. Our town is again splashed all over the news across the country and most people do not have a lot of good things to say, especially many people who live here.


I do not know what happened at the Todd Tavern on Wednesday evening and I admit I do not know what a good response is. But as I watched the footage of the incident what I saw was an overflow of grief, an overflow of utter frustration and hopelessness and rage that was been directed at an industry that has, in my opinion, contributed to and profited significantly from this. And I felt so heart broken as I watched it.


I imagine my heart break pales in significance to the heart break of other first nations people watching.


I am aware other people here and, in our community, and across this country saw and felt very different things when they watched this. I have listened to expressions of fear, anger, despair and shame. This too has broken my heart.


I am also aware that people have very different opinions to me about where and with whom the problem lies.


I do hope that somehow we as a community can find a way to respectfully listen to each other, to care for each other across our different reactions.


I hope that that light too can shine in this darkness. That new life and hope can rise up from what appears to be emptiness.


I am going to finish with Nadia Bolz Weber again. Her sermon titled, “we could use some resurrection” has been the voice of God to me this week.  I have shared so much of it with you in the hope that it might be the voice of God to some of you as well.


“Right now, I need stories of resurrection. I mean, I’m sort of desperate for them. I know of all the stories in the Bible that are hard for us to believe, stories of people rising from the dead can sound especially crazy. But I love them. I love stories of resurrection. I love stories of resurrection because I’m someone who’s desperate for second chances and third chances and really just like all the chances. I love stories of resurrection because they’re messy and they’re weird, and they sync a hook of hope into me like nothing else can. And we could use some divine hope right now, could we not? We could use some resurrection up in here. We could use something a little more powerful than our virtues, a little more reliable than our wokeness, a little more hopeful than our attempts to just try harder. I’ve tried trying harder. It doesn’t make me free. It just makes me tired.”


And so I pray this Easter Sunday that the God who rose in the darkness will come to us in this place bringing new life, new light, and new hope.  That no matter how despairing and confused and tired we are, we might encounter him in the seemingly empty places. That we might hear him say our name and we might yet declare I have seen the Lord.


Glory be, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen. Hallelujah.

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