Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Down through the centuries, that Easter Acclamation has rung out on Easter Day, from first dawn, to the evening light, proclaiming the end – not just of the night passed, but of darkness for ever. Death is defeated, and the Light of Christ has entered the world, never to be extinguished.
As Revd Alan explained in his recent Blog posts, we are learning to experience a little of what it is like to be living in exile, singing the songs of lament. Yet we do so with the trusting faith of the psalmist who proclaims repeatedly at the end of the lament – “Yet will I praise my Lord and my God, for he is faithful and his love is everlasting”.
Easter means that the darkness will never again take the upper hand. More soberly still, not even the death of those we love is able to separate us from the love of God. In the face of death, and through the tears of grief, we can sing as we weep, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow” and “Thine be the glory”. Easter gives us a hope that the world cannot give.
We are also learning how to be church when we can’t leave our homes. Using video conferencing platforms like Zoom or WhatsApp for staff meetings has broadened to include Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, Home Groups and Fellowship Groups. Watching live broadcasts over Facebook or YouTube includes the opportunity not just to participate but also to connect to people beyond the normal geographical boundaries.
We can’t meet to share in Holy Communion, but we can fast and pray, as Revd Alan says. We can develop a spiritual hunger for renewed fellowship. Yet we can also take bread and wine, tea, toast, cake, scones, biscuits (even jelly and ice cream!) – whatever we have to hand – and deliberately and mindfully consume them. As we do so, we can be aware that the God we worship is bigger than all our doctrines and buildings and traditions, and that this God can meet us where we are even in the simplicity of a shared family meal.
On the first Easter the old order was broken for ever. So it is for us. We will never go “back to the way we were”. We will never go back to the old normal – it will be a new normal, and it is precisely in the newness of life that we encounter God’s relentless re-creation of each new day. We are called to be co-creators with God. We are called to behold the one who says “See! I am doing a new thing!” And we are called to join in with the Missio Dei – the work and purpose of God.
That first Easter changed history. We are living in a history-making era, and future generations will look back and see how well we handled this pandemic. Will they see how the churches took charge of social care while the hospital staff took charge of medical care? Or will they ask what the churches did when they had a chance? Will they encounter the risen Christ amongst the empty Church buildings or amongst the supermarket cashiers, the shelf-fillers and the delivery drivers?
That first Easter changed the way the world saw those first disciples. Previously they were viewed as simple, illiterate fishermen. Suddenly they were transformed into fearless preachers of a radical new gospel. This virus outbreak is already changing the way we view our lowest-paid workers, as we realise that it is them who actually hold this country together.
Jesus turned the world upsidedown. Easter reset history. We are living through uncomfortable times and there will be no going back.
But what of tomorrow? In Luke’s Gospel, the final pages give us the story of the Road to Emmaus. The encounter with the unexpected and unrecognised Christ is one that keeps repeating. Even as we tread the weary paths around the house, shuffling between TV and kitchen and bedroom and bathroom, we can be aware, if we look, of the One who walks with us, accompanying us even in those moments when we feel most alone.
Easter changes everything. Many have locked themselves into their homes and many are afraid. But God is far, far greater than a lockdown. This Jesus appeared to the disciples when they were afraid, and when they were in lockdown.
Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
The peace of the risen Christ be with you all, and with all those you love, and with all those who love you, today and always. Amen.