Reflection for Sunday 25th April 2021
(Revd Jeanette Hamer )
(Related readings can be found here)
The First Easter Morning
( Based on John 20:1-18)
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
How has it been for you this time, then?
To be in Lockdown for the second Easter in a row.
To have felt as though the period of Lent would never end
and that we were trapped in the Desert?
I admit that I found this one hard,
a real time of desert for me that has stretched for many weeks
The words of so many psalms have echoed my despair about how I felt so far from God,
or indeed thinking God was so far from me.
Psalm 10 for example,
‘Why O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’
Or Psalm 13
‘How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
Or Psalm 42
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My Soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While people say to me continually, where is your God?
I can probably guess what you are thinking right now.
This is not what the Vicar should be standing in the pulpit saying!
She should be full of positivity, telling us that it is wrong to feel like this,
that turning to Christ makes life rosy, perfect and trouble free.
She is super woman, nothing ever troubles her,
she is strong and faces every problem head on with a smile and a song,
just like Snow white and the cuddly animals in the Disney film!
I’ve got news for you, I’m human just like everybody else.
My walk is no different from yours, with its problems and despairs,
its joys and celebrations.
So, this morning, as we think about that first Easter Morning,
I feel that my own Desert Journey over the past months
has given me more of an insight into the Gospel reading,
and especially into the experiences of Mary.
Into her sadness and despair and her longing for Christ’s presence close to her.
We saw her taking her lonely walk to the Tomb.
She had seen all her hopes and dreams for a glorious future crack and crumble before her eyes. The teacher she had followed- and would have continued to follow
to the ends of the world had gone.
To her mind, the man of so many miracles, the one who had helped so many,
had not been able to help himself. Even the crowds that had gathered around him like a flock of cawing carrion birds had called out their mocking cries in derision,
‘If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.’
He had gone, leaving a huge void in her life.
A candle snuffed out, leaving only a mere suggestion of what might had been,
curling like smoke around the memories of the past two years.
I imagine she had walked hesitantly that early morning,
not wanting to face the reality that he has gone by seeing his tomb.
As she walked nearer to it, she saw through her tears that the stone had been moved from its entrance. The cave mouth was open and her Lord had gone!
Someone had taken him away!
The utter despair that he had really gone, his body had been removed, but by who?
What further could they do to him, now he was dead?
How could they humiliate him further?
This feeling of emptiness, of not knowing where Christ was,
to not have him close and almost visible is a feeling I could identify with.
The places I expected him to be, in the words of the Bible, in the uplifting words of hymns and songs, in the beauty of nature all around me were there,
but they were not touching my soul.
I could understand Mary’s despair.
I could feel her emptiness, I could feel her pain, her confusion.
And in my case, in Lockdown, I could also feel such a sense of guilt,
as if I was betraying him by feeling such a separation.
But the good news is that the passage doesn’t stop there, does it?
And this is important for all of us, because Mary is not left in despair,
weeping at an empty tomb.
As she turns away, she feels rather than sees the man who is standing behind her. Thinking it must be the Gardener; she asks if he knows where the body has been laid.
Don’t we feel sometimes that someone is reaching out to us in our emptiness?
Maybe in the words of a phone call,
or in a morning bible reading a phrase or a word leaps out at you?
Is Jesus trying to talk to you now?
We hear the voice close by too sometimes, don’t we, just as Mary heard the voice?
The voice is kindly, showing concern for our distress.
It is a voice we know, and he is calling our name in tones of love.
‘Mary.’ He said to her.
Just the one word, her name, and that was all that was needed.
And her heart and very soul filled with love, awe and praise.
‘Rabboni!’ she cried.
Let’s just sit and savour that moment.
The beauty of the Garden, and the despair and problems within us.
Let’s just sit in silence, close our eyes and feel his presence close to us now.
Listen, he is calling your name. Listen to him.
Can we say with Mary,
‘I have seen the risen Lord’?
To know that he has transformed our lives and our outlook forever?
The words of Mary, on that glorious first Easter Morning.
What an experience, the thrill of seeing him standing there;
breathing, smiling, welcoming and regarding her in love.
I believe that at the moment of his death, Christ carried all the pain and suffering,
all the sorrow, bereavement and hopelessness upon himself.
This helps me as I look at a world that sometimes seems to be in darkness, pain and suffering. The resurrection gives me hope for a better future, a future with him beside me.
The fact that Jesus has triumphed over death and promises to those who follow him,
that he will be with us and help us through the ups and downs of life
gives me comfort and peace.
I do not feel alone, I feel him in my life, guiding me in my daily life.
Mary was one of those chosen to witness his resurrection,
along with others that had been his close followers to the end.
Paul mentions these witnesses to the resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians, our Epistle reading. Paul, who once hunted down the early Christians now stood amongst them after his own meeting with Christ on the Damascus Road.
His encounter here with the risen Christ has changed his life forever.
He knows and experiences the truth of Christ as the Messiah,
and it is now important to him that he brings others to the truth.
We are reminded by Paul of the evidence that Christ is alive.
He who was such a sceptic and has his life turned around realises that it is all there.
Paul sets it out.
We should not struggle with doubts, it is all there before us.
There are the prophecies, the lives and witness of the Disciples and Apostles,
the Saints and believers through two thousand years,
right down to those witnesses who led us to faith in him.
Jesus rose from the dead, and the truth of the Gospel is there for us to see,
to hear and experience.
My Grandmother used to recite a poem to us when I was small.
Over Lockdown the words came back to me, and thanks to my friend Google I was able to find the words again.
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labourer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love
Whenever we have doubts,
whenever our world seems to be closing in with darkness,
let us hold on to this truth.
Let us return to that Garden Tomb,
yes, let us shed our tears and release our despair
but let us also become aware of his presence close to us
and his calling of our name and with renewed joy in our hearts, cry out
And having recognised the risen Christ,
let us move forward in the crowd of witnesses to tell others.
For there is no other name that is higher
There is power in the name of Jesus
Like a sword in our hands
We declare in the name of Jesus
We shall stand! We shall stand!
At His name God's enemies
Shall be crushed beneath our feet
For there is no other name that is higher
© 1989 Kingsway Thankyou Music