Easter Day (2009) Year B RCL Eucharist
An ‘Easter frame of mind’
In some ways it is quite hard to prepare an Easter sermon, particularly when, as is usual with sermons, one is preparing during the week before. This last week was, of course, Holy Week, and this year we have made special effort this year to observe Holy Week, with services that have focussed on healing, on repentance, and telling of the painful events of the Passion of our Lord Jesus, from his arrest to his crucifixion. In this week we have sought to set our minds on the passion and the death of our Lord Jesus and not on his resurrection. Though we know what happened beyond the cross part of our observance of this week just gone is to call to mind all that Jesus went through to bring us life in all its fullness.
So this sermon was started on Maundy Thursday, after the service of the renewal of Ministerial Promises which I (and various Readers, Deacons, Priests, Bishops and even a few normal people) attended in the Cathedral in the morning. And as I wrote I tried to put myself in an Easter frame of mind. It wasn’t too difficult, just a little odd.
This led me to thinking that perhaps it is too easy to fall into the ‘Easter frame of mind’. Perhaps we too easily skip over Holy Week and don’t really take part in the observance that is perhaps the most important part of the Church’s year. We jump on to Easter, Easter is familiar, perhaps even comfortable. We’re used to Easter, we think about it every week – we refer to our risen Lord, and talk of ‘Christ in Glory’.
How much does our familiarity breed not contempt, but an indifference. For how many of us will have allowed the message of Easter to hit us? To affect us? How many of us are using our heads and our hearts to engage with the wonderful truth of this day? How many of us are feeling something different about our service today? How many of us are feeling as though we are ready to encounter the risen Christ in bread and wine this morning?
It’s true, we celebrate the risen Christ in every Eucharist which we share. It’s true, we should live the life of Christ in our everyday discipleship. It’s true that Jesus is alive in our world, in our lives and in our hearts – but on this most holy of days we should be open to God’s new life being shown and made real again in a new and surprising way. Easter Day is the celebration that defines the very being and nature of the Church. Easter day is a symbolic celebration of the most stunning, surprising, disturbing, shocking, exciting and mind bending event in the whole of history. We cannot take Easter too seriously, and we cannot celebrate Easter too fully!
We must never let ourselves think that this is anything but the entire reason we are here today as Christians. We must never become cold or indifferent towards the events which we celebrate this Easter day, and indeed every Sunday in the breaking of bread and sharing of wine, we must allow ourselves to share in the new life which Easter brings.
It’s Easter! – We should mark it with celebration and excitement. We change the colours of our Church into our party clothes, whites, colour of life, light, and celebration. We have brought flowers back into Church. We have uncovered our statues and brought back our cloths to the Altars. It is party season.
Easter isn’t a festival to take for granted. It’s something that should hit us afresh every year. It’s a time when we can view our faith with new eyes, to hear the story of God’s love for all people with new ears. Easter is a time that allows us to open our hearts again to wonder, to amazement, to the undeserved, unlimited Grace of our loving, benevolent, self-giving, life-filled, life-giving God..
There’s no new message for me to give at Easter – but the old message of God’s love, God’s self-giving and God’s absolute forgiveness should hit us again as if it were new. Imagine hearing it for the first time, try and take a moment to think how the message that we consider so familiar, that we often take so lightly, might sound if we were hearing it for the first time. Think about how you might feel if someone came to you, and you had no knowledge of the Christian faith whatsoever, and told you that this person Jesus had died a most terrible death and was brought to life again – and that he gave us the opportunity to share in that life.
Allow the message to sink in again – come to this table as we celebrate the Eucharist with a sense of the wonder for all that Christ achieved through dying on the cross and being raised to life again by God, the father of us all. Allow God to speak to you in the words of the Gospel – the GOOD NEWS! – and in the prayers, in the words of the Eucharistic Thanksgiving, and in the actions of kneeling, receiving and listening that form our celebration here this morning.
I don’t come to you this morning with any new thoughts, but I hope that the old thoughts, the eternal message of God given through the cross and the empty tomb become more and more real to you today and throughout the new life you share with the risen Christ. AMEN