This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
Colossians 3:1-4 Look for the things that are in heaven where Christ is.
John 20: 1-9 The teaching of the Scripture is that he must rise from the dead.
What an alarming moment as Mary Magdalene and the disciples discover the empty tomb where Jesus had laid. Along with all the disciples, and with Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary Magdalene has been through several days of deep grief. The one who had held all their hopes was defeated, killed, destroyed, and along with his death they were experiencing the death of all their own hopes and dreams.
There was no escape from this hellish disaster that had come upon them. And of course that is what life is like for so many people around our world still. There are the experiences of hell that happen to us all, such as an accident, an illness, a disability. Then there are the experiences of hell that we create for ourselves and each other: our addictions, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, work, sex or possessions. There is the hell we create through unfaithfulness, prejudice, and so many kinds of selfishness. There is the hell of poverty and famine. There is the hell of unresolved anger or crippling fear.
Hell is about having nowhere to escape, nowhere to turn, and no one near to help. Hell is having nothing at all to hope in.
This was the experience of Jesus’ friends in these days following his death, and is the experience still of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world. They know more Good Fridays than Easter Sundays and for many their whole life’s journey is dominated by the suffering of Good Friday.
At this time the people of Syria and other middle-eastern countries will know what we are talking about, just as much as someone local in our own community who is stuck in an impossible place of suffering.
The empty tomb, the stone rolled away that Mary and the disciples discover in the gospel story here, is a symbol of hope then. There is an escape possible from the hell of isolation, addiction, fear, anger and poverty. There is a life beyond the pain and poverty which for so many millions of people is their normal daily experience.
The stone is rolled away and Jesus is risen. It takes not only a wonderful sense of humour, but a great great passion to rise from the dead, and for our world to rise above the violence, poverty and pain that dominates most of our news bulletins each day.
It takes a mighty effort, an enormous spirit of hope, and a stubborn belief that life can be better, in order for our world to rise from the dead.
In our first reading, Peter points out to the listening Jewish crowd that while they had had Jesus killed, God had raised him up. The original verb he uses here is “aroused” which is the same verb we use for the arousal of all our passions, our political energies, our protective instincts towards our families, our sexual energies. In fact all that makes life worthwhile and worth fighting for, is embodied in this word that Peter uses. Jesus is “aroused” from the dead. In other words, his resurrection is a passionate claiming of the things of life and a refusal ever to let the hellish things of death have the last word.
So what’s that got to do with all of us?
Well, we can respond by simply sitting back, enjoy the Easter break, admire the story of Jesus and crack another bottle of champers!
We could listen to the stories of this Easter celebration and be glad that there is hope of eternal life for us because of Jesus’ resurrection.
We could decide to come to Church a bit more often so that we can be a bit more sure of being in God’s good books.
On the other hand, we could decide to do something about the hell that our world experiences every day. With the talents, the financial resources, the material resources, the education we have, we could decide to touch a part of our broken world with our own dose of passionate hope and enable a little rising from the dead to happen in the lives of people who would otherwise remain in the tomb with the stone covering the entrance and with no hope of escape.
We could stretch ourselves a little beyond our own comfort, our own survival, our own convenience, and rise to new life ourselves by entering the pain of another person’s world and rolling back the stone of their loneliness, despair or isolation.
Let’s make this Easter a bit more than a friendly party. Let’s make sure that the presence of the Risen Jesus is something we carry with us when we leave here today.
It’s certainly the surest way for us all to have a truly happy Easter and that is what I wish for all of you here today. Happy Easter everyone!
Song: Easter Expressions