Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
We've made it through the long cold days of Lent, through the gathering darkness of Holy Week, the total eclipse of Good Friday and the vacuum that is Holy Saturday...
We've tried, with more or less devotion, to walk the way of the cross and enter into the Passion of our Lord – so that today we can truly embrace the joy of the resurrection.
Except – when you read Luke's account of the 1st Easter day there doesn't seem to be much joy around.
During the 2 weeks when we helped our children to Experience Easter, at the final station we invited them to come up with words to describe how the women might have felt as they viewed the empty tomb. The only rule was that there WERE no rules – that no word was off-limits, provided you could explain why you felt that the women might have experienced resurrection in that way.
Since the children got to write their word in glorious technicolour on the whiteboard, this was a very popular activity, reflecting a wide spectrum of feelings.
There were the positive words: delighted....overjoyed...euphoric...words that showed that the children already knew the end of the story.
There was the one that made me smile inside even as its author whispered it to me to check that I wouldn't be scandalised “OMG”!.....
I'm sure I made it very clear that for me these were the “right” answers - “Brilliant” “Great word” “Yes, I'll bet they felt JUST like that...”
Then there were the uncertain ones “Puzzled....confused....bewildered...gobsmacked”
I was OK with those too. “I'm sure they were...it was so unexpected”
Even the best news may not look that wonderful when it is so utterly baffling, so contrary to everything we think we know.
But there were others.
and reading St Luke's account of the resurrection, I realise that I should have been more encouraging even about these, the words I felt had no place in the story.
Because, you see, Luke offers us no hint of jubilation.
The triumphant alleluias that we take for granted just aren't there .
Instead the women were perplexed and terrified....and their announcement is disregarded as an idle tale, disbelieved even by the disciples.
Perhaps, then, this is the best of resurrection gospels for 21st century England.
While I'd want to challenge the much-reported view of former ABC George Carey that Christians are persecuted in this country, we don't have to look too hard to see that the Christian story is no longer central to our national consciousness. Our faith is but one among many, and though the Church of England retains a privileged position as the established church, this does not mean that our neighbours, friends and families actually know what we believe.
The level of confusion over and indifference to what Easter is is just one example.
When our curate Clare booked little Hetty into nursery for an extra day this Thursday she said something about it being a busy week...and was met by totally blank looks as she stood there complete with clerical collar.
Meanwhile, someone asked me “Are you going away this weekend?”
And a colleague on twitter overheard a conversation in which a child was assured that the Easter bunny would surely take some eggs to baby Jesus.
That might raise a smile – or it might just make you want to cry.
We are here today because we believe that the greatest miracle of all time took place in the garden of the resurrection on the 1st Easter day...the miracle that means that love wins for all time, that death, fear and destruction can never have the final word...that the holy fire of Easter is never extinguished by the darkness of the world.
But unless we demonstrate that reality in our own lives then small wonder that it appears to be an idle tale.
To live resurrection does not mean that we can expect to look like finished products overnight...quite the reverse.
It might, in fact, have more to do with showing that we are open to the possibility of new beginnings and unexpected hope in the face of all evidence to the contrary...in the face of the brokenness of our lives AND the brokenness of our world.
Resurrection rarely comes neatly gift wrapped, with the sort of explanation that can confound the sceptics – but its evidence is around us every day.
Later this morning we'll baptise a brother and sister whose birth parents could not provide the security and love a child needs – but who had the courage and generosity to give them up for adoption. Resurrection for them – and for the parents who'd wondered if their empty arms would ever be filled.
Last week I met with someone who has struggled with alcohol addiction – but has been dry for 5 years. Resurrection for him – and for those who've hung on to him, trying to show love even as he pushed them away.
There's more – so much more – and I'm certain that, if you pause to reflect, you'll know of some everyday Resurrection stories, stories of transformation and hope through which God's glory shines.
For Resurrection happens again and again..though we may neither recognise nor understand it.
It happens whenever we try to live in love rather than selfishness...when we choose reconciliation rather than vengeance...when we seek justice for the marginalised and freedom for the oppressed...in other words, when we try to live like Jesus.
It is his risen life that we celebrate – and his risen life that we share...
His life, given up freely for us on Good Friday but restored so that he might give it to us once again...
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.