John 20: 11-18
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
There is one problem with Christmas that is never one at Easter. After a few years in my first Charge, I was discussing Christmas with the Sunday School leaders. What are we going to do this year? One said she didn’t know but we had to come up with something new as the story was so well known. I replied, and still hold to my viewpoint, that for her and her fellow teachers who were coming up for their twenty fifth or even fortieth Christmas, the story might be so well known, but they should remember for many of the Sunday School members it was only their seventh or eighth; the magic was still there.
At Easter though, that is not a problem. There is so much in the story that every year I as minister can concentrate on an aspect that has not been explored for several years. I am amazed every year how I notice something I either had not seen before or had paid much attention to. Between the feet washing on Thursday, and breaking bread at Emmaus on Sunday evening, there is so much going on its impossible to explore every aspect every year.
What then of this strange Easter, hunkered down in isolation, worried if the Covid 19 will develop into a full scale tsunami that will overwhelm all our society and communities? Well, the message of Easter speaks directly to where we find ourselves.
All seemed lost to the two men walking to Emmaus, just as several hours beforehand all seemed lost as the women walked out into the pre-dawn murk to go and dress Jesus’ dead body; all seemed lost as the two disciples rushed into the empty tomb; all seemed lost to Thomas, who had not been there to see Jesus’ wounds for himself; all seemed lost to Peter, as he heard the cock crow and realised he had indeed denied Jesus thrice.
And yet, all was not lost, far from it; all was won. Jesus had achieved the victory God had called on him to deliver. The men at Emmaus realised that, as they broke bread with Jesus; the women realised that, when Jesus spoke their names; the two disciples realised that, when they saw the redundant grave clothes could not hold Jesus; Thomas realised that, when he eventually saw the wounds for himself; and Peter knew that when Jesus told him to feed his sheep.
This Easter, we are indeed going through hard times. It may even seem that the game is lost, but when God is with us we can never be defeated, for with him we can, and will, overcome. This pandemic will pass, and life will return to near whatever normal is for us all. We may well have a different viewpoint, we may well have different values, we may well be more appreciative of what we have, but that is the true message of Easter that God can, and does, make all things new.
An Easter hymn says:
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
As the green blades rise again, let us also rise in worship of our God and King who delivered the greatest of victories for us all.
Lord God, our loving Father in Heaven, in our fear we come to say thank you for the victory you have delivered for us. We praise your mighty name today, the day of resurrection, the day of new life, the day of promise of better times to come.
Help us to hold on during the dark days, so that we might emerge into the glorious dawn that is coming.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,