‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’
That great acclamation will be echoing around the world in countless languages as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They will already have said these words in Australia and New Zealand. They will have a particular poignancy for those Christians persecuted and chased out of their ancestral homes in Syria and Iraq. They will feed the faithfulness which gives energy to the dwindling numbers of Christians in Palestine, the land of Jesus birth and life. Hopefully they will bring comfort to the families of the 45 Coptic Christians slaughtered in Egypt last Sunday, Palm Sunday. They will bring hope to our sisters and brothers in our link dioceses in Zambia who will be celebrating at about this time. They brought terror and amazement, a mixture of emotions, to the women who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning. What do those words, and the reality that lies behind them, bring to us, here today in Rodhuish?
Of all the Gospels, I believe that St. Mark, whom we heard today, provides the most vivid account of the resurrection – with that mixture of emotions: disorientation, terror and amazement. There is also, the encouragement (not the command but the encouragement) to the followers of Jesus Christ that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee and that they will find him here. The followers of Jesus can’t stand still. These were the words spoken to the women,
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him, just as he told you.
In other words, go back home and it’s there, in your everyday life, not in some remote, distant, ethereal and other-worldly experience, but in your everyday life that you will find the Risen Christ…..if only you look and are prepared to move out of your comfort zone. The women were being encouraged to move away from the empty tomb. The empty tomb is not proof of the resurrection. It never has been. The empty tomb is evidence of the resurrection.
The proof of the resurrection is you and I gathered here, nearly 2000 years later to celebrate this amazing event.
The proof of the resurrection is millions of Christians across world, many of whom have faced unspeakable persecution, celebrating the Risen Christ in millions of Churches.
The proof of the resurrection is not to be found in a tomb with the stench of death. But it is to be found in people taking the risk of faith whose lives are constantly being touched and transformed because they know that this beautiful and broken world does not, on its own, have the key to what makes us truly alive and what makes us truly human.
Let’s look back for a moment to those first followers of Jesus. The resurrection released the full potential of the disciples, enabling a group of very ordinary men and women, fishermen, and tradesmen and housewives, to go to places and people they would have considered inconceivable before the resurrection. They were no longer held back or restricted because of their background or their family upbringing or the expectations placed on them by society or the fears of how others would think about them and so they were able to grow and flourish in ways they could not possibly have imagined. The result of this is that they made a difference to the world, both the world in which they lived and to our world today. Of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. There were challenges, there were struggles, there were disagreements, there were mistakes and for some there were persecutions and martyrdoms.
So it is with us today. The Risen Christ, the proof of the resurrection, is to be found, not in some distant experience, but in our everyday lives….at work, at school, at home, in our families and among those that society turns its back on….and who are they in our communities? At the same time, we are encouraged to look for the one who always goes before us and calls us forwards, often out of our comfort zones. As we seek him, the disorientation, terror and amazement experienced by the women at the tomb, may be our experience too. But so too will be that sense of liberation, liberation from all that holds us back from growing and flourishing in ways that we cannot possibly imagine. Our lives may not be as dramatic, high profile or as public as the first followers of Jesus, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ is for each one of us here as it was for the earliest followers of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago…..and like them, we will make a difference to the world around us.
‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’
Readings: Acts10.34-43; Mark16.1-8
St. Bartholomew, Rodhuish, Somerset. 16th April, 2017.
Images from Rodhuish Church. The second is Rachel Reckitt’s Jacob wrestling with the Angel which is inside the Church.