Easter Sermon

A number of years ago, I was put in charge of the Information and Communications Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

This meant that I was in charge of trying to formulate the church’s internal news and helping to work out our message to the outside world.

I think it was fair to say that there were one or two people who thought this might be just a little risky.

In the end, I did what I could and for much of the time I set about commissioning things from other people and getting them published and with the help of many others worked very hard.

Unfortunately though I had a weakness. I could cope with being serious and good for 364 days of the year (well, more or less) but there was always April Fool’s Day.

There were a number of articles over those years which I wrote myself but which I probably shouldn’t have published in the name of the church.

Amongst them was the one in which I announced that a committee that had never existed had come up with a new corporate image for the church. I changed the slogan from “The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You” to “The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You on Sunday”. Silly though that was, it didn’t seem to bother most people. Rather more startling was that I published a new version of sign that hangs outside all of our churches and in the middle, instead of a bishop’s mitre, I put a kneeling Buddha with the stated hope that this would improve interfaith dialogue.

I think that it would be fair to say that this venture did not particularly improve anyone’s dialogue.

I still treasure one response that I had to this in which someone never mentioned the slogan or the picture but remonstrated with me at great length for choosing colours that were not good for those who are colour blind.

Similarly the next year when I published an article advertising in the name of the College of Bishops that henceforth we would be using a new algorithm for calculating Easter and that Easter would align with Easter in the Church of England only every other year and on the alternate years we would keep an entirely different date in company with the American Episcopal Church.

Again, I got some correspondence about this. The only advice that I have for anyone wanting to go into church communications is never to publish something thunderously stupid in the name of the College of Bishops. The danger is, people believe every word.

All this seems a little redundant in these days of Fake News. Every day is All Fools Day and everyone has trouble working out what is true and what is false.

Carefully constructed April Fool’s day absurdities seem rather inadequate in the face of international politics in which the most outrageous candidate anyone could imagine became the leader of the free world and suggests arming teachers as a way of keeping gun crime out of schools; and domestic politics which seems to be carried out as though food banks are a normal part of the welfare system and not a daily crisis of people crying out for bread.

These things are not jokes. But they make fools out of us all.

As it happens, it is surprisingly rare for Easter Day and April Fool’s Day to fall on the same day. It is sixty years since it last happened and it won’t happen again for another 21.

But must not that first Easter Day have seemed like a day of utter foolishness?

The first witnesses to the resurrection were women, whose testimony was not taken seriously. Not simply because they were women, I suspect so much as because of how everyone had seen him die.

Here in St Mary’s we go through the story of the crucifixion four times. Firstly in the readings on Palm Sunday and then three times on Good Friday.

People are shocked when I say it but the honest truth is that by the time I get to the end of the fourth time through, I really want him to stay dead.

After all, Jesus is far easier to deal with if we think he is safely buried away not making any more demands on us.

But the news of Easter Day is that what seemed like the greatest foolishness is the greatest wisdom. What seemed like the greatest defeat is in fact the greatest victory. What seemed like the ravings of mad fools is in fact the great truth that will help us to defeat the foolishness of homelessness, war, violence and social exclusions of every kind.

For no matter what you do to people, hope springs up.

No matter how bad things are, the news that love conquers death is still true.

No matter what you say to people, someone will always sing Alleluia. And alleluia will always win in the end.

Over the course of Lent, the cathedral clergy have been giving Lent addresses on a Sunday evening in which each person has been asked to address the question – why am I a Christian?

Let me tell you why I am a Christian.

I am a Christian because of Easter Day.

I am a Christian because we are an Easter people and our song is alleluia.

I am a Christian because the utter foolishness of the first news of Easter turns out to be the truth.

The women were the first to spread the news and it was greeted as foolishness but that is now the faith to which I cling. For I can make no better sense of the world.

The first person to wish me a happy Easter this year was a Muslim writing on behalf of his community not just to me but to all of us gathered here to wish us a happy and joyful day.

And in a land riven with Islamophobia, that makes my heart sing.

Easter is about those moments when your heart sings. When you know for sure that love will make a fool of prejudice, will make a fool of sorrow and will make a fool of death.

Jesus Christ is risen.

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.

AMEN

Comments

  1. Tony Wesley says:

    Wow! What a succinct and powerful statement of faith — in so few words. In this early very gray and cold morning the Saturday after Easter in Cleveland, Ohio, I sit quietly to absorb this before husband and child awake. My heart and spirit felt a start when I read and re-read these words. Thank you.

  2. Steven McQuitty says:

    Hi Kelvin, I also enjoyed this Easter sermon. Will the Lenten addresses (“Why I am a Christian”) be available, even in text format? I’d be intrigued!

    Yours

    Steven

    • Thanks for the enquiry, Steven. Glad you liked the Easter sermon. I’m afraid the Lentan addresses were not recorded and nor do we have a complete set of texts for them. On this occasion, they are not going to make it online.

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