Introduction and Call to Worship
Alleluia! Christ is risen! We may be struggling, in isolation, to find the meaning of Easter, the hope of new life, light and spring. But we are called by the angel to declare that Jesus has risen, even in the face of challenging and changing times. The world around us may have changed dramatically in just a few weeks, but the message of Easter is eternal. We open our hearts to spiritual worship as we virtually connect to be the risen body of Christ today.
First Reading Acts 10:34-43
In the house of Cornelius, Peter proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour. In the face of massive challenge to his personal safety, he proclaims Jesus as Lord.
Second Reading Colossians 3:1-4
We are called to live as those whose lives are bound up with the risen Christ, the Lord of life!
Gospel Matthew 28:1-10
The two Marys meet the risen Lord Jesus. They are sent by an angel to tell the other disciples.
HOMILY “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)
A parishioner was leaving the church on Easter Day when the Vicar stopped him and shouted: "You need to join the Army of the Lord!" The parishioner replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Vicar." "How come?” questioned the priest, “as I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?" The parishioner whispered back, "Well, that’s because I’m in the secret service." This year everything feels different. I won’t get to wish you a Happy Easter at the door of our Church. I love passing out the Easter eggs and watching the children darting in and out of the gravestones on their annual Easter Egg Hunt. This year we may just be finding Easter Day a little harder to enjoy, indeed for many of us we are probably still at the foot of the Cross, stuck as it were in Good Friday. The Coronavirus epidemic feels like a darkness.
These are challenging times for all of us to live through. There are no easy words or platitudes that can cover the real anxiety and fear that many of us feel and the deep sense of bereavement within the Christian community, especially in Thorpe, at the way we are prevented from sharing in the receiving of Holy Communion at Easter. At this time of international crisis, we are all called to continue carrying our cross for a bit longer, as we continue to stay at home. Our prayers must be with those who are unwell or suffer and all working so brilliantly to care for them. It is there, in hospitals and converted exhibition centres, that the resurrection light of Easter is breaking in the dedication and self-less acts of so many key workers and carers.
The Easter story should leave us in no doubt about that, because in today’s Gospel we see something quite remarkable. New life, light and hope overcome the darkness of the time. In Matthew’s account we find the disciples are shut away and fearful for they have doubts. They are wracked with grief, as it were, in darkness and they are trying to come to terms with what all this sudden change means for them, for their faith, for their future and survival. They want to be joyful, worshipping and obedient but they are struggling with what they are living through. The women seem to be more willing to believe the impossible, that Jesus is alive. Remember how after Jesus’ burial the chief priests and Pharisees persuaded Pilate to provide soldiers to watch the tomb, because they feared the disciples might steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead – as if those disciples were in any fit state to do that! They were too full of anxiety, bereaved and bereft. So, soldiers are there at the tomb with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when an angel appears, “Jesus has risen!” The soldiers become like dead men (Matthew 28:4) because they are utterly terrified. They report what has happened to the chief priests who, rather than admitting that they are wrong about Jesus, now prepare another plan, bribing the soldiers to say that while they were ‘asleep’, the disciples stole the body! (28:11-15). Lies upon more lies, more darkness, but the truth, the light of that first Easter morning, like the joy of spring and the new life that bursts forth from an egg in the form of a living chick, is always much stronger than death. Life lives, light shines, Jesus is risen – Alleluia! Easter always follows Good Friday, as spring follows winter, just as in creation light does overcome darkness.
The female disciples are devoted to the Lord but now they are charged with a mission. They are sent by the angel to tell the other disciples that Jesus is alive. The angel tells them that they will see Jesus in Galilee, but he meets them almost immediately. Their response, hopefully like ours, is to worship Him. In this time in our lives and the life of our community wherever we live, we must, more than ever, be those people of light and faith who make time to worship Jesus. That is not easy, because over the past few weeks what we know to be Church has been totally turned upside down; well, at least it seems like that. What we believe has only been strengthened, even if this place of worship is really just a study, and our physical communion is impaired by separation. What we believe and know to be true hasn’t changed at all. I actually think it may be growing stronger as we learn how to carry our various crosses beyond the darkness of Good Friday into the light of that resurrection new dawn! The Church is the body of the risen Lord. Yes, today we are separated, for our own good, for a time. It is hard, painful and it feels like we are in a dark place, but we are no less disciples. Now more than ever we are called to proclaim that spring has sprung, that we are an Easter people and offer the light and hope for the risen Lord Jesus to others. We have work to be doing – prayers to be praying – yes NOW from home! Like the two Marys, we are sent to be disciples of the Lord, to proclaim a message of hope, of life which overcomes the darkness of this present time. Now we can do so virtually, among our social media connections on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Yes, among family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Now is the time to share faith – to share the story of our Church, re-imagined for this time, very much alive and growing in the light of the risen Lord of all life.
And as people of faith, St Mary’s Church in Thorpe, we have very quickly had to learn new tricks; yes, our technology is basic but look what we have already achieved, and we have over 600 people watching our Sunday 10am services – brilliant! (Remember, we can only fit 250 into our church!) We may feel a pressure to do even more but let’s just take a breath. At Easter of all times, we affirm again that there is a Saviour, our Lord who is the light that always overcomes the darkness for it is Christ Jesus alone who redeems. Our task as disciples today is to point to where he is – spiritually among us, present now, renewing and transforming us, His Church just as He called those first women to proclaim the truth of Easter two thousand years ago. Like those first disciples, we have our doubts and fears but as we worship the crucified and risen Lord together we are drawn into the reality of his new world, where we will start to feel at home and where, with all the faithful, we will take our part in his work and share his life, for ever! Friends, salvation doesn’t depend on us because it is won for us by our Lord and Him alone, who is new life and light. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
We may feel stuck at Good Friday – in the darkness of separation – winter – isolation.
The angel sends the women to tell the other disciples that the Lord has risen. They are to walk in the light of the risen Lord.
This account of Easter challenges us about how willing we really are to live in the new world opened up by the resurrection of Jesus.
This time of great challenge is an opportunity for discipleship and evangelism, with love.
Father Damian Miles, Easter Day 2020