Easter Sunday Celebrations
You can also see John delivering this message by clicking on the following link https://youtu.be/j84GxOig4L8
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
(1 Peter 1: 3)
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Good morning on this Easter Sunday morning – and a very happy Easter to you all! This is the day when our Lord Jesus Christ passed from death to life. Throughout the world Christians celebrate the awesome power of God. As we hear his word again and proclaim all that God has done, we can be confident that we shall share his victory over death and live with him for ever. So, why not, perhaps, light a candle as you say this:
May the light of Christ, rising in glory,
banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.
Well, this is certainly an Easter like no other and that’s for sure! We can’t gather as a family in the church building...so as to celebrate the good news together. We can’t share those traditional cries of Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia (but we can still shout them out loudly at home!) We can’t join together in singing those great Easter hymns - ‘Thine be the Glory, risen, conquering Son’. We can’t even listen together to the Word and so hear together of Christ’s resurrection.
We can’t offer one another the peace that Christ alone brings. We can’t gather together at His table to remember with bread broken and wine outpoured that Jesus Christ died to save us all. You know, I’ve quite lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the word ‘unprecedented’ used in recent weeks. It’s the word that’s on the lips of every politician, newspaper columnist, commentator, even supermarket checkout operator! But this Easter. this Easter is...well...this Easter is...unprecedented!
But you know, the more that I think about it, I think that perhaps, there is still a special grace even in all of this. A special grace in this strange, unfamiliar Easter. Perhaps at this moment when the world is so much quieter, when the busy-ness of life has really slowed down, perhaps now we really can pause and be still. Just stop in a moment of reverent silence before the empty tomb to breathe and to remember at this time of global uncertainty, at this moment of national anxiety and grief, that the resurrection is also beyond compare. That the resurrection of Jesus Christ is truly extraordinary. It is unquestionably unique. It is certainly unmatched. It is without doubt unparalleled and yes, yes, it is positively ‘unprecedented’.
Today, we have the chance to stand with those women in Matthew’s Gospel, with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to stand with them at the empty tomb and to ask Jesus to make himself known to us. To make himself known to us once again. At this difficult time.
To reveal himself as the one who died for me, for you, for us all! And so, as the one, the only one, who rose from the dead offering to all that will receive it the bread of life that alone can truly satisfy our deepest, deepest hunger. This Easter Sunday like no other perhaps is an opportunity to just pause in front of the empty tomb so as to allow it to remind us of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ alone.
Read through now what Matthew has to say to us in his Gospel about the resurrection of Jesus. This is Matthew 28: 1 – 10;
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
What do you ‘see’ as you pause in front of the empty tomb? What do you ‘see’? Because it’s what is ‘to be seen’ I think, that matters, to Matthew. What is important to him was that those women came to ‘see’. They came to ‘see’ the tomb. They came to ‘see’ a grave.
They were ‘looking’ for Jesus and they encountered an angel. They ‘saw’ an angel who invited them to come and ‘see’ the place where his body had laid. And just notice that he didn’t say “Don’t look in here!”. He didn’t invite them to ‘take it on faith!’ He didn’t say “Don’t ask any questions!” No. He simply invited the women to check it all out with their own senses. Look and ‘see’! In other words, use your eyes and use your minds: “See if what I say is true!”
I think that for one thing, this tells us that those women were in the right place, at the right location, at the right tomb, at the right time. But it tells us too, I think, that this was something that could be ‘seen’ with the eyes. So, not a dream. Not a psychological vision.
Not an ecstatic hallucination. This happened in real time. On a real day. In real history.
And these two women were real people. Theirs were real human eyes. And so, this was real physical ‘seeing’.
And make no mistake, make no mistake neither that earthquake nor the angel was involved in rolling the stone away – you know - so as to let Jesus out. I mean, neither stones nor locked doors can prevent the risen Lord Jesus from leaving or entering anywhere he chooses to be! No. All of this made it possible for the women to ‘see’. To ‘see’ that the tomb was empty. Jesus wasn’t let out, the women were let in. Let in so that they could ‘see’ that the resurrection had already happened.
Later, these two women both ‘saw’ and touched Jesus. They were witnesses to him in the flesh. In real-time once again. And in a real-place. Near the tomb and then again in Galilee.
You see, the call here is for us to open our eyes and to use our minds. And so, to see the Risen lord Jesus Christ. Of course, There is no overwhelming proof of Jesus rising. He didn’t appear to his enemies, to the Chief Priest or the Roman Prefect and bowl them over with a manifestation of his glory! No, he only appears to his friends. Jesus’ power isn’t coercive, he makes himself known through faith to faith, so, the choice remains for us. Do we listen to those who like to suggest that all of this is basically a lie? Or do we accept his offer of friendship and in faith admit as we stand this morning at the empty tomb, that we are standing before a miracle. A real miracle. That out of this ‘unprecedented’ death comes a new life which totally shatters all that has gone before and brings new life to us and to our world.
At the start of that first Easter Day there was discouragement, there was defeat and there was fear. And they’re all feelings that may well be swirling around us right now and in our life for whatever reason, just as they are swirling around a terrified world, cowering in the face of an unseen viral enemy. But all those feelings began to change when the women were told by the angel that Jesus is risen. Then, they were filled with joy we’re told. You see, the resurrection brings great joy.
So, what about you? Can you see in this different and rather strange sort of Easter celebration a moment of special grace? And so, will you stop? Stop for a while so as to stare into that empty tomb and ‘see’ where he was laid and accept that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead? And in that knowledge and at this O so difficult a time, can you then cast aside fear and doubt and despair and allow the joy of the resurrection, the joy of the Risen Lord Jesus to overwhelm you today?
My friends, today, we need to ‘see’ and to believe and so experience for ourselves that same heart-transforming experience that Mary had on that first...truly... ‘unprecedented’ Easter Sunday morning. And then we need to shout aloud for all to hear: Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes, where Thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.
Bible Quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayers and Liturgy: copyright © The Archbishops' Council of the Church or England
Empty tomb image: free to use clipart