Readings: Acts 10, 34-43; John 20, 1-18
Hymns: 77. Jesus Christ is risen today; 75: The day of resurrection; 200 Fill thou my life; 80 Alleluia Alleluia
Christos Aneste, Alithos Aneste! Christus ist auferstanden, Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden! Christus sudah bangkit, Dia banar sudah bankit! Alleluia, Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. Alleluia! Christ is for all, in all, with all, so let all the world rejoice in his resurrection!
Divya carried the Easter candle today, representing those who will be confirmed this year, and she and all the children sang the candle song: This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine!’ And as they agreed, we have candles at Christmas to celebrate the Light of the world, Jesus, born for us, and the massively heavy Easter Candle to celebrate Jesus’ dying and living again for us. And once I’ve stopped speaking, Evy’s parents and godparents will bring her forward to be baptised into the family of God, and the watching children will sing that same candle song for Evy as the Light of Christ is symbolised in her own candle. So much light! Jesus the Light of the world and the Light for the world: ‘your Word is a light to my feet and a lantern to my path,’ says the psalm, and we need that Word to light our way. So what might we have gleaned in this past week to help us know where to go, and what to do?
The daily liturgies constructively moved us through Holy Week, through the envy, ignorance, self-seeking, direct and indirect violence of the disciples, the state authorities, the crowds in Jerusalem. There was a pause on Friday afternoon, seemingly a dead end. And how shocking that must have been for the disciples, many of whom are renowned for failing to grasp much of what Jesus had been teaching them, though they got it in the end. But all of whom, including Judas, loved him. Horrifying too for his mother and the woman like Johanna, Mary and Susannah who had followed and paid for him, Mary and Martha who fed him, the many men and women who knew that of God in him. The heaviness of those days is expressed in the German ‘Karfreitag,’ care, weighed down, mourning Friday, preceded by Gruen Donnerstag, groaning Thursday, when those expelled from church for a while came back, sighing with shame. The voluntary death of Jesus can all too easily leave Christians facing a black hole of blame: he died for such a slob as me?
We who come after, who know the end of the story, can tilt our heads high, knowing the start of the sequel to this week, knowing the empty time from Friday till this morning was just a pause in the tale of God’s journey to us and with us. We know Jesus was born, lived and died to enable us, without exception, to experience the loving forgiving welcome of God. Not some God way off in the clouds with no interest in humans; not some ‘once upon a time’ God who made the world, organised the move from chaos to culture with Adam and Eve or their like, and then lost all interest. Our God came to earth to play and eat, teach and sleep, get a headache and enjoy a meal. Being God, he stuck to what he knew was the right way, even when it was hard, even when he’d made friends he didn’t want to leave. He accepted death on ‘Heavy Friday,’ though he knew, and we know, that he would rise again, live again, and be with us in the Spirit. But his poor friends didn’t know until Mary Magdalene came running to them, and many people still don’t know, that Jesus died and lives for every Christian anywhere: not once single person is lost to the love of God!
Now if we use English, rather than German, and thought about words, we might have a clue to a further outcome of these days. Maundy Thursday doesn’t mean mourning or mardy Thursday, but is linked through French to the Latin mandare, to mandate, order, command, which is precisely what Jesus did at the last supper, commanding all there to ‘do this is remembrance of me;’ which I shall say on your behalf later in the service. He commands us to go out and tell God’s story, commands us to live out God’s story in our lives. So Good Friday makes perfect sense. Accepting pain and darkness exist, it was Good in that it enabled the showing of God alive, it enabled the resurrection which irrevocably witnessed God’s love for all people for all time.
Mary Magdalene, in Janet Morley’s poem, tore herself away from the resurrected Jesus in the garden, resolutely saying: ‘I have a gospel to proclaim.’ Yes, she had a gospel to proclaim, that of Christ risen, Christ for all, Christ in all! Christ through dark and sombre days, those Gruen Donnerstag and Karfreitag days which much be accepted as such and not wished or white washed away; Christ through sunny days of laughter and joy, through success in little things: that is Easter. Christ didn’t die and live again, live on, so we might grovel in shame at our inadequacy! Christ died for you and me and everyone who hears his word that we might know we are loved and loveable, accepted and worthwhile, forgiven when we examine our hearts and repent, and embraced in God’s love always and forever.
That is indeed a Gospel, our Gospel, to proclaim, so let that, shown in the Easter and the Baptism candles, be our Easter!