Easter Sermon 2016

I never know whether he will rise.

Plenty of people who know better than me tell me not to be so stupid.

Of course he will rise they say – it is Easter.

But there’s a part of me which is never entirely convinced.

Before we get to Easter Day you see, I’m just not that sure.

Indeed, I’m not even sure that I want him to.

After the kind of holy week we keep here, you could be forgiven for hoping for a quiet weekend. And it is remarkable the number of people I know who, even knowing what I do for a living ask, “So, what are you doing for Easter?”

We live the whole drama here. From processing with our protest palms last Sunday to the betrayal of Christ in the garden on Thursday; from the cries to hosanna to the cries of crucify; from the lush intimacy of the last supper to seeing him stripped naked and led to a cross.

I end up exhausted.

By late on Good Friday, that day when the light of the world goes out, I find that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m wondering whether or not it wouldn’t be better this time if he would just stay dead.

Such is the reality of Holy Week to me.

And we didn’t need to look far to find the cross this Holy Week either. In the news from Brussels we saw innocent people attacked and targeted. We saw people killed. We saw an attack on the hopes and dreams of all who wish for an integrated peaceful world.

People’s hopes were crucified.

People’s dreams were being tortured by wicked men.

It is easy to believe that Christ will never rise from the dead.

And on the streets of this city, two horrific murders.

All too easy to believe that there will be no resurrection.

Yet disappointment, bitterness, sadness and betrayal are the very ground in which the seed of faith flourishes.

Earlier this year, I had to attend the funeral of someone I knew who had died very suddenly and unexpectedly.

I found myself going to a funeral in Clydebank Crem as a mourner rather than someone taking the funeral.

Now, I’ve been there so many times.. I’ve stood at the front of that building leading services plenty of times. But I never realised that above my head when I stand there, there is a window.

Well, there’s what used to be a window. It is a stained glass window and it is one of those that needs to be illuminated by an electric light, like those on the north side of our cathedral.

This one is left unilluminated.

Crems these days tend to be rather ambiguous religious places. Spiritual but not religious is, after all, becoming the dominant religion if people are asked to tick boxes.

I sat at this funeral, which was for someone who didn’t seem to have had an explicit faith of their own and as I sat there I saw this window that had always been hidden from me when I’d been stood at the front.

It was all dark glass. Dark shapes that didn’t seem to make sense.

And then as the service went on my mind started to see the way the glass was shaped and seeing the outlines of the pains I could suddenly see that it was a representation of a resurrected Christ, wearing a crown of glory and by his feet the word – “I am the resurrection and the life”. Though the glass was still dark it was as though a light had come on. “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Even when we don’t at first see it; even when we’d prefer him to stay dead and quiet and buried, the risen Christ is already dancing down the road ahead of us.

In the first light of dawn I came to this church and the bishop kindled a fire from which we lit the paschal candle.

And a fire was kindled in my heart that burned away the cynicism that made me wonder whether I’d prefer him to remain in the tomb.

For fires need to be kindled.

Candles of hope need to be lit right now.

The light needs to be shared.

As the light was passed around here in the first light of Easter Day, I remembered that the light of Christ will conquer any darkness.

The faith that we proclaim here is simple

We believe death is ultimately beaten.

That means that tyranny will not win.

That means that terrorism will not win.

That means that prejudice will not win either.

For love wins in the end.

We Christians have a candle of hope to share this Easter day will people of goodwill all over the world, those of faith and those who have none. Every one of us is called by current events to make the light shine. Every one of us is called to bring hope and justice and joy and peace to the world.

In this city, I think we have a message to proclaim at this time.

A Muslim man in this city was killed this week soon after wishing Christians (that’s us) a happy Easter.

Let the news go out that the wickedness of such a murder will not define us as Glaswegians. Such wickedness has no place in our city.

Death will not have the last word. Let the love of God warm every heart in this city, Muslim and Christian Glaswegians alike. And let that love show forth in new ways, that this city may flourish.

Warmed by the Easter fire, I know that Christ is risen.

Risen and working through attempts to tackle poverty.

Risen and working as prejudice against gay people gets less and less respectable each year.

Risen and working through the urgency of new interfaith initiatives.

Risen and working in lives set alight in this and other places with the love of God.

Risen and working because there’s no other way to live than believing that love wins in the end.

For if Christ were not risen, we would not be gathered here, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Good Friday Addresses 2016

Here are the Good Friday addresses which I preached with the Rev Cedric Blakey today.