Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
If you are able to, do find a seat.
You won’t have been able to avoid the fracas over the National trusts advertising of their Cadburys Egg Hunt this year. Now, I live next door to a National Trust property, and I’m very pleased to say that there at least the word “Easter” is displayed on a banner across the front of the property, so should Theresa May visit the Cathedral Close this weekend, she should go home appeased.
Now I have to admit that I find this whole debate rather more amusing than anything else, and really not that worried for the future of Easter, regardless of what Cadburys or the National trust decide to put on their promotional material, but it has spawned a number of highly amusing videos on social media. Many of you might’ve seen the one of the little girl and her father, as she tries to unpick the complex theological relationship between Jesus and the Easter Bunny. Do they know each other well? Do they go on holiday together? And perhaps most theologically challenging of all, given that he is both fully human and fully divine, does Jesus already know where all the Easter eggs are hidden before he goes on the egg hunt? You could write essays on that at theological college.
There are of course lots of things that Easter and eggs have in common. There is a symbol of life, of creation, of the breaking out into the light from inside a dark place (which is of course symbol rather better demonstrated by an actual egg than a chocolate one!), And it is not without reason that many religions, including the ancient pagan religions of our own country, keep feast of life and hope at about this time of year in the spring as the days lengthen and the daffodils bloom and everything feels better.
And all of that is good, and to be celebrated, and speaks of the promise and the potential of creation.
But something more than that stirs in the Easter bonfire. Something more than that flashes and flickers in the light of the Paschal candle, and something more than that waits in the water of the font. What happens at the glimmer of dawn on Easter morning is that God completely rewrites the parameters of the world. As the playwright and performer Justin Butcher put it in his extraordinary drama the Devil’s Passion here on Wednesday evening, the gates of pride, suspicion, envy, death and hell itself come crashing down as Jesus rises from the dead, and we find ourselves blinking and amazed, in an entirely new world.
What we find on Easter morning is not that the world has been tweaked or modified or adjusted a little bit to make it better, not that we’ve been given a treat, or stumbled upon a chocolate egg two or three days after we thought we’d found the last one (though it’s lovely when that happens isn’t it!). Resurrection is not about the world getting better. Resurrection is about the world changing completely.
Those of you who are about to be confirmed, the Bishop will say to you “God has called you by name and made you his own.” God has called you by name and made you his own. The resurrection of Jesus is the moment where God reaches into creation, into our world and perhaps countless others, who knows, reaches into your life, into the brokenness, into the sin, into the inadequacy, into the disease, into the very darkest places and by the breath and the kiss of the Holy Spirit turns it all into light and glory.
And I don’t know how he does that. I don’t know how it works. And the whole point of faith is that we don’t know most of the answers.
But the clues to the promise are here. God has called you by name. And that calling of us, that promise that God knows who we are, that he loves us, and indeed that he loves us so much that he would reach down into the depths of hell, into the awfulness and complexity and failure of our broken promises and broken relationships and kiss them into new life, that is resurrection. The defeat of the darkness, of death and of hate, not by force or power but by the strength of love, by the kiss of the Holy Spirit.
Look at the Easter garden. There are no half measures here. The tomb is open, the grave clothes are empty, and Christ is risen. Look at the font. There are no half measures here. The font is full, the water is lapping at the edges, and in a few moments time it will begin to flow again for the first time for three days as our candidates approach the place where Jesus meets them and calls them by name.
The resurrection is not an extra. The resurrection is not an added bonus. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead resets the world. And it resets it in a way where the promises of life and hope and light and growth are personal, they are intimate, and at the same time they are generous.
I don’t blame you if you smash your way into an Easter egg later on today. I will, and I will thank God for new life. And for chocolate. But before you do that pause for a moment at the Easter garden and wonder at the stone dragged aside, pause at the font, stick your hand into it, and imagine yourself bursting through the surface and out into God’s resurrection light. Feel the world change around you as Jesus rises from the dead and dare to believe that God has called you by name and made you his own.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!