The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
4 April 2010
A sermon by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Deacon Paul talked about it on Maundy Thursday and I talked about it on Good Friday. Throughout assiontide we live in tension. We journey with Jesus and his disciples from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm unday right down to the foot of the cross, experiencing—minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour—all of the triumph, pain, and suffering of those moments. In this Passiontide, we know not what comes next and we are left after the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday wondering in desolation if all our hope in Jesus was for nought. In this Passiontide, we share with Jesus’ first followers the sense of uncertainty as we wait throughout Holy Saturday only to be brought back to life, back into hope, as the Resurrection is proclaimed. At the same time, we have a gift that those first disciples did not have. We know the whole story. We know that Good Friday is not the end of the story. We also live through Passiontide, right up through the whole of the Great Vigil, knowing what comes next, knowing that Easter Day came and will come again.
This is the tension of Passiontide and Easter for us. As we walk the way of the Cross and try to hold on to those painful and difficult feelings—the painful and difficult feelings that help us know in our own darkest moments that we have a brother in Jesus who knows what it is to suffer—we are always aware of the triumph of Easter, the triumph of love over all that pain, suffering, and, yes, the hate (our hate) that put Jesus on the Cross.
Within the Christian story, therefore, is always contained the whole of the Paschal Mystery, the whole of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Indeed, the earliest Christians recognised this and for several centuries after that first Easter Day, marked Good Friday and Easter in a single commemoration, a single celebration that summed up the whole of the Paschal Mystery. They knew that one part of the story always contains the other. They knew that you can not talk about the Cross without Easter and that you can not have Easter without the Cross. They knew that we are always carrying with us the whole of the Paschal Mystery.
This year, as we marked the six Fridays that fall between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday by walking the Stations of the Cross and celebrating the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, I found myself contemplating this reality. Now for those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise to learn that neither of these liturgies is particularly a favourite of mine. This year, however, I found spiritual nourishment I had not experienced before. I kept thinking about the way in which the liturgy of the Station ends over in that corner, contemplating Jesus being placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and meditating on the sorrows of those whom Jesus left behind. We are left gutted as we return to the chancel for our final prayers. We are left shocked and stunned by the way in which Jesus ministry of hope and love ended in a borrowed tomb. And yet, while the one liturgy of the Stations ends, another one begins. This liturgy of the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament begins with my going to the tabernacle, going to the place where we have placed the Body of Our Lord, and taking it from the locked receptacle and placing it upon the altar for all to see. The liturgy begins with the exposition of the Sacrament, of Jesus risen body for all to see. We have come from the image in the nave of the sealed tomb up to the altar where Jesus stands before us, veiled (as Saint Thomas Aquinas would have said) in the form of bread and we make our reverence before his splendid and transfigured form. I then come forward and take up the risen body of Our Lord and show him to the people by tracing the outline of that cross that had sent him for just a moment into that tomb.
Each Friday in Lent we remembered not simply the dark and frightening way of the Cross. We shared with all those assembled the Good News of the whole of the Paschal Mystery, including the Resurrection, of Jesus resurrection on Easter Day and his continued presence with us, day in and day out, week in and week out, in the Sacrament that we celebrate, share, and reserve here in this parish church. In February at the Feast of the Dedication I talked about the church building itself being a symbol of Christ’s very presence in the city and indeed, how the Church is a monstrance of Jesus broken and risen body presented to the world as an invitation.
On this Easter Day, having walked the way of the Cross from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to Calvary and the tomb, it is indeed an invitation to take Christ’s risen body into out bodies, leave this place, and ourselves become monstrances of Jesus’ resurrection and of God’s love into our broken and sinful world, into a world that needs the love of God more than we can know or imagine. Tonight, following Solemn Evensong, we will take the Sacrament from the newly filled tabernacle, place it once again in the monstrance, and make our way through the church. The Risen Body of Our Lord will make its way past those carved stations that depict the worst that humans can do to each other, that humans tried to do to his human body, as a sign of the triumph of God’s love over that hate. We will once again gaze upon and venerate the Risen Body of Our Lord in full knowledge of the whole of the Paschal Mystery and make our way out into the world.
Let us now, in full knowledge of the Paschal Mystery and living in the joy of the Resurrection, recommit ourselves to lives of Christian service, to lives as monstrances of Christ’s body, to lives as bearers of the love of the Risen Lord, proclaiming “Alleluia. The Lord is Risen!” [The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia.] And to that Lord be all honour and glory, this day and evermore. Amen.
Andrew Charles Blume+
Easter Eve, 3 April 2010
©2010 Andrew Charles Blume