Sermon for Easter Day

 

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Shining brightly in the sanctuary, surrounded by flowers is the light of Easter – the Great Paschal candle. The fire that we kindled as day began and brought into church.

It shines at the significant moments here in church – when someone is baptised or is buried or is ordained and at all the big feasts that we have. The light of Easter touches them all. That’s just the way it is.

I have to confess that the Holy Easter Fire did seem to reach me a little early this year.

As I was coming into the church for evensong last Sunday evening, I picked up some dud batteries and put them in my pocket. And processed into church.

That is one of the most solemn services of the year. The choir sing Bairstow’s achingly beautiful lamentations.

As they sang the sorrowful words about the destruction of the city, unbeknown to me, one of the servers was lighting charcoal in another part of this place in order to burn incense later in the proceedings.

At just that moment, the batteries in my pocket must have made contact with the large bunch of keys that were already in there.

They don’t teach you when you are training to be a priest what you should do when you are conducting worship and can clearly smell burning and feel your loins suddenly getting hotter and hotter and hotter.

This led to a curious liturgical dance in which I began casting the contents of my pockets to the floor whilst the choir sang on and the smell of burning increased.

Nothing seemed to dislodge the batteries from the keys.

At this point the verger started to look at me for an explanation. He probably knew that I liked the Bairstow Lamentations but knew that I wasn’t jigging about because I was getting into the rhythm of the music.

I just looked at him and handkerchiefs and pens hit the floor and pointed to my nether regions with the word, “Fire”.

I’m not sure whether it is the mark of a well trained server that his reaction was merely to raise his eyebrows, close his eyes and return to his devotions.

Eventually I realised that I was not spontaneously combusting and that the hopes of all those who occasionally hope the fire of heaven will come down and consume me when I say something outrageously sensible were not coming to pass.

Holy Week had begun.

And the flames continued.

The particular pathos of the sight of Notre Dame burning in Paris in Holy Week is one that affected the world.

The striking image of a metal cross shining through the rubble was particularly poignant but it was a picture taken by a drone that particularly caused me to feel the agony of the situation.

The whole roof was burning. (At the time it seemed as though the whole of the interior was burning, though that appears not to have been the case). From above, the cross form of the cathedral was apparent. A cross shaped building all aflame.

Perhaps it was because of where we are right now in our local, European and world political situations, that it felt as though the whole of Western Culture was burning.

And yes, it was burning at the same time as there was a fire in the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and shortly after a number of black led churches had been torched in the USA.

God doesn’t plan these things to happen together. But God does give us the intelligence to recognise significant things happening before our eyes.

We are all in this world together. We are all in this fragile world together. And so much can be lost in the spate of just a few hours.

I found the sight of Notre Dame burning extraordinarily upsetting. I’m sure that people across the world who are in the cathedral business were affected the same way.

The fact that we are having Parisian music this week and next is a mere coincidence, but surely it helps us to pray for those whose place of worship today is the open air because the flames have deprived them of their holy space.

The talk is already of rebuilding.

What might this generation accomplish that faced with its destruction in nearly a thousand years, people would come out onto the streets to sing and to pray?

What made the chaplain to the firefighters in Paris run through fire to save the Blessed Sacrament and a relic that has been kissed by the faithful for the last thousand years?

And what did one man do two thousand years ago that brings us out of our beds and into this and another 37 million churches all over the world to sing and rejoice and proclaim the extraordinary news – “He is not dead but is risen”.

The answer to this worlds trouble does not lie in the fire of the bombers in Sri Lanka or the bullets of the terrorists in Northern Ireland.

The answer lies in the holy fire of Easter Day. That fire we kindle as we proclaim to the world the truth that we have found in Jesus, that new life isn’t just something for believers but is the way the world really is.

Light, life and love. These are the true way of the world. Death and destruction won’t win. Violence will never conquer. Death will never have the last word.

Every year as a Christian I see new life in new ways. Every year that passes I see something which confirms the faith I already know in my heart in the reality of the world.

It might be in courage, kindness or wisdom. Today’s proclaimation from the church calls all Christians to look out for resurrection. For it is the way the world really is.

Last year, I took a holiday in Istanbul and it was whilst I was there that I spotted something that made me know a new truth about Easter Day. Right in the middle of one of the more traditional Islamic parts of the city there’s an old church called St Saviour’s and in it there’s an ancient fresco that’s quite well known.

It depicts Easter. Jesus stands in the middle. Though there’s astonishing energy and movement to him as though he’s about to dance. And he has his arms out to his sides I the way people dance in Greece or Turkey and across the Middle East.

And his hands are indeed held out to two figures on either side – Adam and Eve, whom he’s hauling up from their graves.

The whole of humanity is rising. In that vision of Easter, no-one is going to be left behind.

And he’s not reaching out to them with a wee divine spark like God touching Adam on the Sistine chapel roof. No, he has them by the wrists. They are being raised up from the grave by a saviour who seems intent on making sure that no-one is left out of the great cosmic ceilidh of resurrection.

No matter what burns, our hearts are aflame with the news that Jesus is risen from the dead.

No matter how lost we might feel ourselves to be, our Saviour reaches out and grabs us and keeps us dancing.

No matter what… he is risen from the dead. Alleluia.

For, Alleluia – resurrection is the way that things really are.

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

Comments

  1. Meg Rosenfeld says

    Kelvin, I loved your sermon–and devoutly (so to speak) hope that your mishap with the batteries and the keys didn’t create any lasting damage.

  2. Steven says

    Oh Kelvin – you knocked that out of the park! Thank you – this was just the sermon I needed. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

    S

  3. Alleluia!

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