Christ is risen from the dead! He has crushed death by his death and bestowed life upon those who lay in the tomb!
Words from the Orthodox Easter service. Since I last stood here at the Easter Vigil I’ve celebrated Easter again in Greece with fireworks and all!
We can’t get enough of Easter. It’s the Queen of the Church’s year. The Paschal Candle standing proud in the sanctuary, alleluias galore and an especially joyful repertory from the choir over these great 40 days - for we read in Acts 1:3 how after Christ’s suffering he presented himself alive to his disciples by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days speaking about the kingdom of God.
As some of you know I spent Lent preparing 40 pointers to Christ’s resurrection to release in Easter Season via a daily blog on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, address on the back of the readings sheet. https://40resurrectionpointers.blogspot.co.uk/
People get intrigued into church as much as they get persuaded by good fellowship, intelligent preaching and sound liturgy - and there’s nothing more intriguing than resurrection - and social media is one way to intrigue people on this, especially as I’ve attempted using 40 or so paintings of the risen Lord each with a 100 word caption setting forth evidence for the truth of Easter. As former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, Lord Darling, observed about Christ's Resurrection: In its favour there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the Resurrection story is true.
Let’s go back to the readings for this third Sunday of Eastertide. First the passage from Acts 3. It follows on from the apostles’ healing of a lame man who went leaping and bounding into the Temple. How intriguing that must have been! Something worth following – someone worth following! Let’s read what’s actually v16 on our sheet: we are witnesses… faith in the name of Jesus hath made this man strong, whom you see and know; yea, the faith which is is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of all of you.
When God is at work people get drawn in - and God’s at work here at St Bart’s! People are talking of him being with them, sometimes through their trials, as they live with health or relationship or employment challenges, other times as they go leaping and bounding forward into a new future.
It’s always heartening to me as a priest to hear of resurrection occurring, of the risen Christ coming to bear on the lives of parishioners, very often uplifting them and carrying them through suffering and humiliation into God’s best future.
Moving on to today’s Gospel reading from St Luke’s Gospel Chapter 24. Our Lord provides here an an intriguing demonstration of the physicality of the resurrection, showing his wounded yet glorified hands and feet and eating a piece of broiled fish.
Those who were at the Easter Vigil two weeks ago will recall that when we blessed the Pascal Candle we placed four nails in its side to represent the crucifixion. As we read in today’s Gospel Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The point Our Lord makes is the same point St Peter makes in the first reading: it is written, that the Christ is to suffer.
The atheist writer Albert Camus once debated the resurrection with French Dominicans. He complained that the resurrection was an unreal and unsatisfactory happy ending. They answered by pointing to this text. God came to share our suffering which served to expiate the sin of the world. No suffering we have to endure is now strange to God. As one of Wesley’s hymns puts it: Those dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears. Cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshippers. With what rapture gaze we on those glorious scars.
Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.
This morning the risen Christ invites us once more to repent, to turn to him for forgiveness, so that his light may shine in us and through us.
St Barts as a light house? Maybe, if you and I become lighthouses, little candles lit from the Easter Candle? Lit with this faith – that the most meaningful thing in life is what conquers death.
In Jesus Christ we gain not ideas, doctrines, rules but Life - and where that life is to be found – as I believe it is here at St Bart’s – people who possess it will intrigue and infect others who’ve yet to find it!
The source of false religion is the inability to rejoice, or rather, the refusal of joy, whereas joy is absolutely essential because it is without any doubt the fruit of God’s presence. So wrote Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann.
So then - let our focus this Sunday in Easter season be on rejoicing for eucharist and Christian life itself means no less than thanks and praise.
Christ is risen! ‘In his, in God’s presence is the fullness of joy and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ says the Psalmist.
Alleluia Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!