Sermon preached by
Only God can make things grow, with the help of gardeners and farmers! But we see and marvel at the cycle of growth. A seed goes into the earth, and spends the whole winter laying in the cold and dark, when the time is right, it grows and grows, until it flowers beautifully. This time of year we see all nature bursting into life. God made the whole of the created world and we praise God for its beauty, for its amazing variety. We thank God for his generosity in giving us such a world to live in.
When I was a school girl there were several books around which tried to show that the Resurrection was either a conjuring trick or that Jesus had only seemed to die and had merely been in a coma like state of suspended animation. I used to like puzzling over such books, but now I feel if we dwell too much on the mechanics of miracles we miss the point. Let us not ask how they happened but why they happened and what they mean.
Resurrection is right at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. I see evidence of the Resurrection all around, in God’s endless ability to restore broken lives and damaged hearts. I see Resurrection in forgiveness and the rebirth of severed relationships.
Spring is a powerful way of thinking about what Easter means. It is a metaphor for it. After the sorrow and coldness of Jesus’ death and burial, He has come back to life for us. Jesus’ power can bring us warmth and light in our lives even when we are experiencing the most deadening and depressing times. He comes into our lives with transforming power, bringing us to a rebirth, in hope, in faith and in love. There is nowhere we can go to put ourselves beyond the reach of Jesus’ love and compassion, and nothing we can do which can separate us from his love. Sometimes we do bad things and think, well Jesus couldn’t possibly love me now! But it simply isn’t true. If we are truly sorry, if we properly repent, Jesus will be there with us - filling the dark places with warmth. You will see on the sheet that I have put a quotation from my favourite poet, John Donne. He was also a priest and wrote these words in a sermon, four hundred years ago. .
"God…can bring thee summer out of winter though thou have no spring. Though in the ways of fortune and misunderstanding, or conscience thou have been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, cloudy and eclipsed, damp and benumbed, smothered and stupefied, now God comes to thee, not as the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of spring, but as the sun at noon to banish all shadows…."
The power of God’s love in our lives can be slowly emerging like the coming of spring or it can be overwhelming, changing darkness to full sunlight in a moment like St Paul on the road to Damascus.
There is no holding back within God’s love, no mean minded judgments, no half-measures. We must think of Jesus’ story about the son who went astray, who was prodigal and silly. The story is about all humans when they stray from God. Like the father in the story God comes to meet us, not with arms judgmentally crossed and frowning brow, but running to sweep us up in a hug, with arms flung wide to embrace us.
But sometimes it is necessary for us to experience the feeling of absence from God before we can really appreciate the powerful warmth of His saving grace. Perhaps we need the dark winter of the soul, before we can come to spring ?
Bible Readings and Notes for Easter Sunday, 20th April 2003