Sunday, April 12, 2009


What an extraordinary way to end a gospel reading!

 Here we all are on Easter morning with all the extravagant fun of the Easter ceremonies, spring in the air, the prospect of a good day ahead, and children who can’t wait to get out of church to hunt for those Easter eggs!

 And we hear of St. Mark telling his ancient story of the three women coming to the tomb the morning after the Hebrew Sabbath - and finding it empty, and all sorts of peculiar things at the scene, and the concluding words:

 Terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 Whatever their experience had been in that garden of repose – they were now filled with absolute fear.  And they fled.

 All of a sudden this is a different sort of Easter message!  On a happy morning in April with the prospect of a sunny day ahead of us, with the Easter bunny now happily resting – a message of alarm turning to utter terror does not sit comfortably with Easter ceremonies, joyful hymns, roast lamb, dessert, and the traditions many of us have enjoyed since childhood.

 What is all this saying to us: This resurrection, this Jesus who is no longer where he should be – these fearful and confused followers?

 What is this uneasy Easter message?  Terror and amazement had seized them.

Do we want to talk about fear this morning?  Well we should, because it is the dominant emotion in today’s world.  Fear of the present and the future, in ways that are physical, emotional, political and (or course, perhaps paramount in people’s minds this season) – economic.

 We should talk about those fears, and then confront those fears in the light of Easter. 

 Because Easter drives out fear.  After that first Easter morning those frightened, shattered, failed, cowardly disciples of Jesus could now face the world with the news that Christ had risen – and not just believe that, but demand that the world listen to that news.  And it is that that we celebrate today.

 Easter Day is not just the celebration of easy pleasures – the spring weather and the luxuries of chocolate, delightful though those things are.  Neither is Easter a carefree and unreal optimism that believes that everything will be all right in the end.  Pollyanna has no part in the Gospel message!

 No – Easter is much, much more than these superficial things.

 Easter does not remove us from the realities of life, and the worry, pain and suffering of the world. Neither does it make those things go away. Rather it places us right in the centre of these things.  To challenge them, to face what is wrong, and to stand up for what is right.

And then Easter wakes us up to the wonderful works of God.  What was announced at that first Easter is also announced to all of creation, always, everywhere, then – and most especially now. 

It is the assurance of Shalom.  Peace.  Peace of body, mind and spirit. God’s peace.

We are suddenly, unexpectedly, taken beyond a death on a cross – into something new and vital and energetic.  It is both resurrection and renewal, and as it was totally real for the first generation of Christians, so it must be real for us.  

How one understands that reality is, of course, diverse and complex – but the central truth of it all is that Easter must never be dismissed as mere fantasy or the artistic license of a first century Jewish minority.

Because fantasy does not, cannot, empower a whole generation to throw off their real fears, risk life and limb, and take to the streets announcing that “the Lord is Risen!”

Easter announces that winter is past and the spring is here!  Easter announces joy and hope!  Easter announces God at work.  A God who, in the light and power of the resurrection, now calls us.

God is calling us to live in the world, to love our neighbor, to serve others, feel the pain of others, and bring them healing.  In this renewal God is gathering us all up, broken people that we are, and mending our lives.

God is our peace, our truth, and our joy.

The Lord is risen!  Happy Easter.  

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