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Easter Sermon 2012

Sermon preached by The Rev Dr Sam Cappleman on Easter Sunday Year B 2012

In In the gospel reading from John we see the end of a story that John has started telling at the beginning of his gospel where he talks about a miracle that happens on the third day.

That first miracle is the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana in Galilee.  The old, dead, watery world order is passing away and the new, life filled, wine drenched world order has started. 

At the end of the gospel we see another miracle that happens on the third day, and see the reality of what that really means as the disciples peer into the empty tomb and believe the incredible.  The body they had expected to see is not inside the tomb. 

At this stage it’s not that they believe Christ has risen from the dead, but that they believe the tomb is actually empty and they go back to their homes to ponder what this might mean.  Who might have taken the body, and where would they have taken it?

Mary Magdalene alone stands by the tomb and cries.  And then, first the angels in the tomb, and then Jesus Himself, asks her the very same question.  ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ 

For today well pass over the fact that she seems to have no reaction to seeing two angels in the tomb, something which might have seemed rather out of the ordinary for us had we been her.

Jesus asks her why she is crying.  Assuming he is the gardener she asks where He has taken the body so she can go and anoint it with the oils and spices she has brought with her.

And it’s only when Jesus addresses her by name she sees Jesus for who He is and things finally begin to make sense for her and the reality of the new world order begins to take root in her life.

In this story is almost like a parable in the way different people see and understand Easter.

The reality of the transformation that takes place on the third day is available to all. The reality of the Eater resurrection means sins are forgiven for all who trust in the resurrected Jesus.  The things which had separated us from God have been removed for ever by Christ’s dying and resurrection.

But there are some who, whilst acknowledging that the tomb is empty, that there might be something in this religion thing, just go back to their homes and ponder what it means.  It becomes an intellectual exercise in trying to make sense of the facts without being open to the transforming presence of the resurrected Jesus, which is the only way to ever begin to make sense of the facts.

There are some too, who believe that the tomb is empty, but then make their own assumptions about what that means and make assumptions about how Jesus should act and react in our world today.  And when the Jesus they construct doesn’t live up to their assumptions their faith, if they had any, withers and dies.  They want God to fit into their world rather than wanting to fit into the world of a God who offers life.

And then there are others, who see the empty tomb, perhaps begin to make assumptions about what God might do through Jesus, but ultimately hear the voice of Jesus calling them.  Perhaps, like Mary, through tears of grief or stress.  Or perhaps just quietly in the early morning in the still of the garden, or even through an event in the roar of everyday life.  But once we hear the voice of Jesus calling us, life is never quite the same.

Perhaps like the four sons in the Passover story (Haggadah) there is a bit of each of these people in each one of us.  We try to understand God on a purely intellectual level and leave no space in our rational lives for an irrational God to break through as often as we should.

Perhaps we make assumptions about the way we expect Jesus to intervene in our world, to operate to our agenda and to do the things we would do in His place. Perhaps our faith gets dented when things don’t happen as we expect.

And perhaps, just occasionally like Mary, we hear the voice of Jesus and see the reality of the risen Christ in our lives, and, just like Mary, life is never quite the same again as we begin to experience the new world order for ourselves.

Te reality of the Easter message does not change.  The risen Christ is here among us to transform our old lives into the new.  Through His death and resurrection our sins are forgiven and we have access to a relationship with our Father god through Jesus Christ.

The challenge of the Easter message does not change either.  To be ever open to stand before the Risen Christ, as did Mary, so that He can speak His renewal and forgiveness into our lives. To be open to do more than just ponder and debate our faith at an intellectual level; to do more than make assumptions about what God and His Son and what they should be doing through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our world. 

But to stand before the risen Christ, as did Mary, so that more and more we allow out old lives to be transformed into the new as we become creatures of the New Creation.  A New Creation which is the redeemed life of the Resurrected Christ, which transforms not only ourselves, but through us, the world.