Two homilies (2) Easter Day

Easter Sunday | Year A | Acts 10.34-43 | Colossians 3.1-4 | John 20.1-18


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Alleluia.

Praise the Lord.

There, that’s better.

Six weeks of not being able to say Alleluia – and here we are.

Easter Sunday.

We can say joyfully and loudly say “Praise the Lord” because Jesus Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

We will say that again during the Eucharistic prayer.

I will say “Great is the mystery of faith.”

And you will respond “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

Great is the mystery of faith.

We’re gathered here today in worship and praise and rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

Christ died.

Christ is risen.

And if you are sitting thinking “resurrection is a pretty odd thing,” then you know what – that’s OK.

Great is the mystery of faith.

And strange is the resurrection of Christ.

In today’s Gospel account of the resurrection, the familiar elements are there – the empty tomb, the grave clothes, the bemused disciples and the witness of a woman.

Like the whole of John’s gospel there are images and echoes backwards and forwards internally and to scripture.

Perhaps the grave clothes are mentioned so specifically to show they are different from Lazarus’ – Lazarus, whom Jesus had already raised from the dead. But Lazarus was still wearing his grave clothes when he was raised.

Jesus, the one who had the power over life and death, was different.

And Peter.

Peter – the favourite disciple of so many of us, because he just so often gets it wrong – went home.

There’s nothing different yet about Peter.

Peter went home.

I wonder why.

I wonder if he was tired. If he was burdened with the guilt of having let down his lord, his rabbi, his Messiah.

Did his ears still ring with the sound of the cock crowing, trumpeting his failure?

Peter saw the grave clothes, but he did not understand.

The other disciple saw the grave clothes and he did believe.

Seeing and believing are strong ideas in the Gospel of John.

In John 1, in the prologue, we read “the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.”

John the Baptist says “I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The first words that Jesus speaks in John’s gospel are “what are you looking for?” and his first statement is “come and see.”

But Peter, and the other disciple, go home, leaving Mary Magdalene to see Jesus.

To have him ask her practically the same question as he asked in the beginning “whom are you looking for?”

And calls her by name.

Just as Jesus in John 1 names Simon Peter.

You may all by now be familiar with my desire to highlight the things that women do or say in the Bible that are so easy to miss.

This is one of them.

This is not just a trivial conversational exchange that the gospel writer has scripted.

We are also reminded of the image of the good shepherd in John 10.

He calls his sheep by name, and they know his voice.

And I wonder why Mary Magdelene thought Jesus was the gardener.

Was that the most logical explanation for seeing someone else in the early morning?

Was Jesus tidying up the shrubs?

I don’t know.

But it’s an image worth thinking about.

Is it an echo back to that first garden, Eden?

A reminder of the creation story.

You may have heard before that the name Adam is a play on words.

The Hebrew for ‘ground’ or ‘earth’ is adama. In Genesis 2, God puts the man in the garden to tend and till it.

Perhaps we have this link with the warden of the garden.

Echoes of the creation of the world in the re-creation of the world through the resurrection.

The resurrection changes things.

Peter’s simple statement in Acts shows the change in him.

This is the post-resurrection Peter.

The Peter that has been forgiven by Jesus for his denial.

The Peter that has been inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Peter who seen the persecution of the fledgling church and is on his way to leadership – and his own death.

The resurrection changes things.

This morning at the beginning of the service we renewed our baptism vows.

In baptism, we sign the candidate with the sign of the cross using holy oil.

When I explain this to the children visiting from schools I talk about the identity that it gives us.

I say that they wear a school uniform to show they are part of that school community.

And that even when they’re not wearing the uniform, they’re still part of the school.

And the cross is like that.

It’s the invisible mark that we died and been raised with Christ in our baptism.

Our identity in Christ.

The resurrection changes things.

The resurrection changes us.

We belong now to God’s new world.

We are a new creation.

Paul wrote to the Colossians talking about this new life in Christ.

He tells us what the implication is.

What we need to do, if we have been raised with Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

What does that mean today, tomorrow, when we’re back at work in the thick of life after a holiday weekend?

In baptism we say ‘Christ claims you for his own.’

We recognise Jesus when we are called by name.

Mary recognised Jesus when he called her by name.

Peter was called by name.

I think we need to look and see for those signs of the things from above.

The things that are of God, not of the world.

And we might have to look quite hard.

Because those things of God might come disguised.

Christ might look like a gardener at first glance.

The grave clothes might just look like any other linen.

Love might look like duty or hard work.

The mystery of faith might look like something to be laughed at.

We might fear faith for not understanding, rather than welcoming a mystery to be explored.

The other disciple had a chance to take a breather after his run to the tomb.

He went second into the tomb, and he saw and believed.

Perhaps for us to see and to believe we need to take a breather from our busy lives.

Time in prayer, in study, in fellowship.

Time to hear Jesus calling our name.

Time to become a disciple.

A lifetime’s commitment.

The resurrection changes things.

Will we let it change us?

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.


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