Theme for Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020

Scripture for Easter Sunday: Acts 10.34–43; Matthew 28.1-10

There is a Jewish blessing, which is used whenever something is done or received for the first time during a year. Jesus would have known it.
Called the Shehecheyanu blessing, it is a common Jewish prayer said to celebrate special occasions. It expresses gratitude for new and unusual experiences or possessions.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

It seems particularly appropriate to say this prayer today, because we have experienced a Lent of a very different kind from whatever might be usual, and a Lent very different from our expectations. But we have arrived at Easter.

And it is a very different kind of Easter Sunday.
In fact, with us secluded in our homes, perhaps what we are presented with is an opportunity to understand the way the disciples experienced it, secluded in an upper room, fearful and wondering what would happen to them.

Perhaps this is the time not to take Easter for granted.
Perhaps it is the time to reflect upon Easter in the light of a world that is almost certainly going to be different. And perhaps it is the time to reflect upon the ways in which the world can be – and needs to be – different.

One of the lessons that we have been learning during the last couple of months is whom we should be valuing in our world. And what we should be valuing.

I read this in one of the books that I have been reading during Lent:
When we arrive at the gates of heaven we will be asked one question: “Have you found delight in my creation and delight in each other?”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps we have become fonder of God’s creation and more open to finding delight in it, having been restricted in our ability to be in it.

We have also woken up to the fact that we are communal beings, and to be isolated from one another is disturbing and sad – we are missing delight in each other.

Thomas Merton once wrote about a revelation that he had of union with all of humanity, as he stood on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, Kentucky. He saw people as they really were, in all of their luminous God-given glory, each person “walking around shining like the sun.”

We have all seen those paintings in which God is shown to be present in rays of sunshine, in rays of light. If we can see God in the light, and if humans are made in the image of God, then like Thomas Merton, we might, after prolonged seclusion, be more open to seeing the light in humanity – as God sees us.

Easter is about new light that shines upon the world as the resurrection of Jesus changes things. It’s about the new life that it brings. There was a death. There was new life. Things were not the same afterwards.

This Easter feels very different. The celebration of new life seems muted. There has been death – in fact, the death of many people, because of a viral pandemic, one way or another. But also there has been the death of a way of life. And that is where we may be able to see resurrection in a new light, and where the disciples’ experience is relevant.

The resurrection of Jesus is not primarily about what happens to us when we die. It’s about a new way of life for the disciples and more importantly for the world.

The former bishop of Durham and esteemed Christian writer Tom Wright has written this:

“Easter is the start of something. It isn’t the ending. It is the beginning of the new creation which has been made possible by the overcoming of the forces of corruption and decay in the death of Jesus.”

In other words, there will be new life. But it won’t be the same as before.

Coming through this unprecedented pandemic and global shut-down, we cannot un-experience what we have experienced – what we are experiencing. I suppose that we could try to ignore it all – but that’s almost impossible. We can and should be shaped by and learn from what life has been like.

And that is why we might take the opportunity to be in solidarity with those disciples, locked in their upper room, wondering what comes next, fearful and uncertain. They did not find out in an instance. It took time.
“Go to Galilee,” said Jesus. There was to be a season of learning ahead for the disciples. Let Easter be a season of learning for us, disciples in new ways of being together, new ways of being the church.

Meanwhile, let us be thankful:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes