Three years ago, many of us were in lockdown for Easter. Many churches were closed. In a mirror of the Gospel stories, if two women had gone to the church early in the morning, around sunrise, they would have found it empty.
Perhaps they would have seen a bright white page of paper beside the door, bearing the message: “He is not here: for he has been raised. Go! He goes ahead of you …”
Being unable to access Church buildings that Easter was hard and yet we get more perspective when we consider the 500 churches and religious sites that have been destroyed in Ukraine over the last year. We grieve.
The gospel story of Easter is hard. Jesus died, and neither God nor humans stopped it. We grieve.
We grieve the day of Jesus’ agony and death, to which he went with steadfast faith and integrity, never bowing to retribution or violence; trusting God.
We grieve the silence that meets us after death; the silence of the Saturday. The time when the bombs have stopped and the floods have abated is, firstly, an awful time of silence.
Sunday does not take that all away. And yet, there is a sunrise which alerts us to new presence, a new hope, for all who follow the faithfulness of Jesus.
Unconfined to a tomb or a building, he is raised, and goes ahead of us.
In Matthew’s gospel, we hear of Jesus going ahead to Galilee, where he commissions the disciples to keep on going with mission and ministry in his name. He repeats the promise which is woven through all of Matthew’s gospel: I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Through it all, you are loved; through it all, you are accompanied; through it all, you are invited to follow the way of Jesus as agents of hope and light and faith in the world; and whenever two or three are gathered in my name, Jesus says, I am there.
There is a certain clarity about Easter, notwithstanding some of the mystery. There is clarity about sin and violence and death, but through Easter we bear witness that God brings something new. The women are invited to “come and see” that he’s not in the tomb, and to bear witness to his life-made-new. We are called to bear witness to his hope and life, beyond the pain of Good Friday, and to receive and respond to his hope of life-made-new.
May that hope and life flow through us all, to the glory to God.
The risen Christ be with you.
Rev David Fotheringham