In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Early in the morning, in the cold early light of the day, some of us gathered to celebrate this Great Feast. Bishop Gregor lit the Easter Fire outside and then we processed into church to welcome the risen Saviour with hymns and confirmations and baptisms and great rejoicing. And afterwards we made our way to the Synod Hall for a splendid breakfast rejoicing in the good news that on Easter Day there are no calories in anything.
I was reminded as we ate our breakfast together of an Easter celebration that took place some years ago whilst I was at college.
It was the custom in that University Chapel for a great basket of Scottish Morning Rolls to be processed to the altar to be blessed. One of the rolls would be chosen to be the bread for communion on the altar and the rest would be put to one side and then these were shared as a breakfast after the service.
One this particular occasion, I remember the University Chaplain choosing the bread roll carefully from amongst those offered to him. It was to become the Bread of Promise after all.
He put it upon the silver paten. He said, The Lord be With You and went on to bid us Lift Up Our Hearts.
It was easy to do. It was Easter and our hearts were all rejoicing.
When he finished the Eucharistic Prayer, he carefully and devoutly took the Bread of Heaven in his hands and broke it carefully. And as he did so, I thought I saw a moment of deep prayer.
He stood frozen to the spot and then a shiver appeared to go through him. It was as though the Holy Spirit has suddenly descended upon him.
We waited a moment and then he said, â€œooohâ€.
We looked at him in anticipation.
â€œOoh,â€ he said, â€œItâ€™s buttered!â€
Now, the truth is, God always surprises us on Easter Day.
Last Sunday we celebrated with a rowdy procession the entry into Jerusalem but our hopes were dashed as the cheery mob started to call for violence against our blessed Saviour.
On Thursday we celebrated the Last Supper as though it was really the last one ever. Friendship and bread and wine gave way all too quickly to the bitter betrayal of Judas. The watching and the waiting only enhanced our sense of dread as to what might come on the morrow.
And on Good Friday itself, we wept with the women at the cross as the beloved one was hanged upon it and cruelly killed.
The Light of the World had gone out.
And yet on Easter Day, the grave is found empty, the tomb is found open. And our sorrows are found wanting. For our hope will not stay beaten. We find to our surprise that hope has not been destroyed. Joy has not been killed off for good.
For the tomb is empty. Our Lord is risen from the grave.
On Friday afternoon as we sat with the dying Saviour we found his crucifixion was going on in our own world all around us.
As I stand here on Easter Day, I say to you, â€œHe Livesâ€. In this self-same world, I say he lives.
He lives and is abroad and alive in the world around us, bringing joy to the sorrowful, strength to the weary and hope in a world that needs the good news of Godâ€™s extravagant joy more, it seems than on any Easter morning ever.
Easter hope will triumph over the grave. Godâ€™s good news beats any darkness it encounters.
This year, it seems to me that there is much darkness to conquer. Much wrong that needs putting right.
Much of what we reflect upon in Holy Week is about civil authority and the relationship of faithful people to power.
We walked in our minds the streets of Jerusalem â€“ the great melting-pot city of faith and one of the great gathering places of the world. As we entered the city with our hosannas a week, politicians from several of our political parties were stirring up suspicion of foreigners in the media. That has the smell of trouble about it and is redolent of the grave. We need politicians to put right our broken immigration system, not thrust fear of foreigners onto the front pages.
We watched Pilate wash his hands of the Jesus problem as those in power prepared for tomorrow morning what amounts to the greatest threat to the Welfare State seen for a generation.
And as the smell of Brasso and beeswax permeated the church yesterday as we got ready for the Feast today, Lord Carey was taking to the newspapers to make yet another unhelpful intervention highlighting supposed Christian fears that we are being persecuted in the UK. This further fans the flames of suspicion leading people to suggest that Christians are being marginalised because of the introduction of same-sex marriage.
The stench of the grave will be beaten by the fragrance of Easter lilies.
Every Christian I know cares deeply about marginalisation but it is the marginalisation of the poor that comes first to their minds.
It is that marginalisation that I believe Godâ€™s people care about. And to speak of the church as being marginalised and under attack because of same-sex marriage whilst the government taxes the bedrooms of the poor and stirs up fear of foreigners is to remain trapped in the grave of Good Friday and be preaching the tired old story of yesterday, not the new life that God promises for all nor the kingdom God urges us to bring in.
Jesus is risen from the dead. And he brings from that grave every surprise needed to turn our hearts to joy and our actions to justice.
Hopelessness is thwarted.
Desperation is destroyed.
And Death, even death itself is defeated.
If God can beat death, how much Godâ€™s people can do to set the world to rights and bring in the kingdom of justice and joy!
Today is Christ risen from the dead.
Today we can begin again bringing in the kingdom.
Today life triumphs over the grave.
Today we find ourselves in the company of friends from every land on earth who know that love, joy, peace and justice will never die.
For today Jesus lives.
And with him rise our hopes for a better world.
For if Christ were not risen from the grave we would not be gathered here. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.