Easter Words

Easter Sunday Podcast: 12 April 2020.

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Transcript of the Diocese of Norwich
‘Sunday Hope’ Podcast

The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn.

Bishop: Hello, Hallelujah! Christ is Risen.

All: He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

Probably at every Easter, there will be those amongst us, for whom it is still Passiontide. Those held still in the grip of suffering; those still waiting in darkness beside the tomb, whose heavy rock is still firmly in place. Many people have observed that this year that is so for all of us in a very particular way.

I found watching a mother, unable to comfort her weeping sons with a proper hug after they had been there at their grandmother’s cremation service, which I’d just taken, but being separated physically — that moment was unbearably sad.

But yet the truth is that Easter is here, with its message that even in seemingly impenetrable darkness the new light of Jesus’s resurrection has dawned, and with it the hope that is given to us all, the hope that light and love and new life are blossoming again – the promise that we will share in this resurrection.

Rebecca my wife, who is here with me, Jonathan, Bishop of Lynn, in our home in Castle Acre, now lights the Easter candle:

May the light of Christ, rising in glory 
banish all darkness from our minds.
The light of Christ – thanks be to God.
The light of Christ – thanks be to God.
The light of Christ – thanks be to God.

So let us pray.

“My dear Lord, the church is locked, but let my heart be open to your presence, there let us make, you and I, your Easter garden, planted with flowers – and let the heavy stone be rolled away.” Amen.

(Alan Amos)

Let us hear Matthew’s account of that first Easter morning (Matthew, 28:1-7), which Rebecca will read for us.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow, for fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men, but the angel said to the women:

“Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. This is my message for you.”

So, they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said. “Greetings.” and they came to him to fall of his feet and worship him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. There, they will see me.”

Hymn: Jesus Christ is Risen Today

Homily

A little less than 450 years ago, an Elizabethan courtier, poet and playwright, called Edmund Spenser wrote this sonnet for Easter Day:

Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrow’d hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!

And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

It’s one of the pieces of writing that comes to my mind every Easter. It says three simple things to me, each of them key to Easter, I think.

Firstly, it has a real ring of joy about it. And that’s at the heart of my Easter faith, the lifting of gloom and depression, the freeing of my spirit to soar again with the carefree joy of a morning lark.

Secondly, it talks eloquently of what it is that Jesus’s resurrection does for me. Washing me clean, and making a prisoner of that part of me, which was itself imprisoning me, and preventing me from soaring to the heights I was created to reach.

Thirdly, it speaks very simply of what I can do in return.

That we, with love may one another entertain. Love is the lesson which the Lord has taught.

Joy is one of two immediate reactions from the two women, both called Mary, that Matthew says were at the tomb when it opened to reveal Jesus gone. Mary Magdalene was one of them, identified as such in all four Gospels. And the other may have been Mary, Jesus’s mother, for some reason, referred to only obliquely, but joy is not their only reaction, fear is the other. Mark tells us in his gospel that this was the dominant reaction.

Not surprising. There must have been a huge amount of fear around on that first Easter. Just as there is now. Holding the joy and the fear together is very much part of our Easter this year, fear and uncertainty. When will this all end? Who else will it claim? How are those I love so far away really coping? How can I show love, when I can’t touch them?

Matthew goes on to tell us that these women were then met unexpectedly by the risen Jesus, who calm their fears and cause the joy to deepen. “Go and tell,” he said to them. “Don’t be afraid. You will see me in Galilee; so will my disciples.” The place where you live and work, where the ordinary stuff of life is lived out, I will be with you there.

And from there, I will send you to spread my love. For us, as indeed it was for them, this isn’t quite immediate; Luke will tell us that they had to do a fair amount of waiting. And we are in that waiting phase this year. Still with fear and uncertainty around us.

As Alan Amos’s prayer, which I used at the beginning of this service puts it: in many of our hearts the heavy stone that blocked in the body of Jesus is still there.

Much of all this is captured in Psalm 27, which we were given as a psalm to say earlier in the week leading up to this Easter weekend, “wait patiently for the Lord,” the Psalmist says, “I will put my trust in Him for him the day of trouble. He will hide me in his shelter, He is my light and my salvation.”

So, may you find the deep joy of the resurrection, beyond this current darkness. This darkness, which will pass, which will be pierced by the shafts of pure light, by the renewing of our hopes, our lives, and the love we are called to share with one another.

Paul, writing about 25 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection describes his Easter faith, his creed, like this:

Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures. He was buried. He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He appeared to Peter, then to the 12, then to more than 500 brothers and sisters, then to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, he also appeared to me; for trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

And now, Susanna Gunner, our Diocesan Advisor in Spirituality, from her home, leads us in prayer.

Let us pray

Most glorious Lord of Life
like the two Marys,
restless with grief and fear,
we yearn for you.
Come into our tomb-like places, we pray,
meet us in the homes and hospitals,
of your changed and broken world,
console us with your risen presence
and turn the darkness of our distress
to a new dawn. 
Amen.

Risen Christ,
on the first Easter Day,
you said to the women: “Do not be afraid”.
Speak these words to us now.

Risen Christ,
on the first Easter Day,
you said to the women: “Go and tell”.
Embolden us to share with others
the news that Love is stronger than death.

Risen Christ,
on the first Easter Day,
you said to the women: “They will see me in Galilee”.
Give us fresh hope to wait for you,
eager eyes to find you
and renewed love to serve you – in all our Galilees.
Amen.

Let us pray together as our Saviour taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Hymn: Thine be the Glory

Blessed are you Lord God of our salvation. You bring life from the darkest valley of death; as we wait still in isolation, in pain and sorrow for the hurts of all to be healed; in desperation for those who are dying or grieving alone; as we are overwhelmed by the wasting world, by the ravages of the COVID disease, gather us again we pray, and renew us, speak your word to your broken people that we may stand again confidently before you, knowing that we are raised to new light and love and life, held in the hope of your Son’s resurrection.

Blessed be God forever.

And so, may the God of Easter life, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bless you and all those whom you love, now and forever.

Amen.

Listen and download the transcript & prayers here: https://www.dioceseofnorwich.org/news/podcast-sunday-hope/ and subscribe from any podcast app #LivingHope