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Easter Day

Holy Communion

LaHave, Broad Cove, April 16, AD 2006

Colossians 3:1-11      John 20:1-10

 

The mystery of the Resurrection

…as an ancient hymn describes it…

Putteth to flight the deeds of darkness,

Purgeth away sin:

Restoreth innocence to the fallen,

and gladness unto them that mourn:

Casteth out hatred, bringeth peace to all mankind,

and boweth down mighty princes.

                                                                                             Exsultet jam Angelica

 

That first morning, began in darkness.

 

We recall that holy vigil that St. Mary Magdelaine initiated:

 

THE first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 

 

And just as with Christmas day – when we had, surprisingly, not the story of the birth of Jesus but the prologue of St. John's Gospel – today, we have this Gospel anciently appointed for Easter which does not report on the appearance of the risen Jesus, but merely on the empty tomb.

 

One preacher (Isaac Williams) has suggested it is so that we are confronted today with the simple beginnings of a profound truth that was to change all that is.  It was the moment of first belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.

 

We today, as with those first disciples, are being encouraged to believe in Him whose risen body we have not seen.  We are to marvel at the empty tomb.  And remember our Lord’s words to Thomas, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  (Williams)

 

Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.  Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.  So they ran both together … For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 

 

All of them in a state of grief, in a state of shock, unable to comprehend the horrors of the Cross they had witnessed only two days before.  Yet another indignity?  Grave robbers?  And yet Peter and John ran when Mary came to them – surely, the Holy Spirit speaking in their hearts, even while they ran, the faintest whisper of the truth as they could bear it, breathing ever so carefully on the dull embers of hope almost utterly crushed to rekindle it, preparing them for the sight of the empty tomb, and its significance.

 

And  the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre; and he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.  Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie; and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 

 

Not the work of robbers, why would they leave the cloths?  Why would the napkin about his head be wrapped and in a place by itself?  The Holy Spirit perhaps bringing to their minds now the words of their Saviour, the words Jesus spoke again and again while he was with them, remembered, but not received until now in their hearts.  they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again

 

Then went in also that other disciple which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 

 

A grand understatement.  No trumpets are needed, no whole host of heaven, a still small voice, the light coming on, the first candle lit in the first heart.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness overcometh it not. 

 

Blessed are [we this day] that have not seen, and yet have believed.  The light has been lit in our hearts.

---------------

 

A little more about the empty tomb.

 

Why was Mary Magdalene there keeping vigil?  Why is she the first person in the world to whom our Lord would soon after chose to reveal himself, in the garden?

 

Luke and Mark describe Mary Magdalene as the woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven devils.  Perhaps a description of her soul’s depravity before meeting with Jesus – perhaps she was the woman caught in adultery and troubled by every other passion that had led her to the gates of death: uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry… wrath, anger, malice, slander, and filthy talk.  …For which things' sake, says St. Paul, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.

 

Mary Magdalene, sweet Mary, knew hell and had been delivered by her Lord – her soul had been swept clean – but it was like an empty tomb.  She knew the grace of forgiveness, and she had mortified, put to death, her members which are upon the earth, she knew the power of the Cross, but did she yet know the Resurrection life?  If she were alive to Christ, would she have sought his body with mourning, would she have been fixed upon the earthly object of His presence?

 

What about us?

 

We have gone to the Cross, we have begun to mortify our members which are upon the earth – we are less and less white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones.  But when we have confessed our sin, when we have received forgiveness, are we just empty tombs?  Are we stuck, forgiven at the foot of the Cross, but not alive to Christ?

 

IF ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.   

We’re to turn that zeal, our affections, that we had for the world, towards a zeal for Christ and a love of our neighbour.

 

And here is where I admit to being somewhat confounded.  

I confess to having great tension in my soul about what this should mean for all of us, what it should look like?

 

At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, he called on Peter and James and John and they left their nets, their boats, they left everything and followed Christ.  And these followers went to distant lands and shared the Good News of the Cross and of the Resurrection and endured hardship and cruel death out of zealous love.

 

In the Middle Ages, monastic movements sprang up all over Europe and the Middle East with thousands and thousands being moved to give up everything, to seek wholeheartedly those things which are above…to set their affections on things above.

 

The life of the saints over the ages seeking those things which are above, setting their affections on things above, living the risen life in Christ.

 

And what about this age? 

 

The world, suddenly, wants to make Judas a hero – to revive the covetous betrayer, the lover of money – a wonderful sign of the times; or last year, and it continues, it was that, the world can’t believe that Jesus was celibate – he must have had relations with Mary Magdalene.  And how could he possibly go to the Cross, it must be a fiction.  But no Cross, no Resurrection – and we lie wasting in our tombs, with a few men making millions from books and movies. Just one thing after another – trying to trouble us, but to no avail.  We are followers of the crucified and risen Jesus.

 

What is following Jesus wholeheartedly? What is it supposed to look like in our age?

 

Do you see any disconnection in your own lives?  Do you know this tension in your souls?  Do you long for more freedom in the Spirit, for greater spiritual adventure?

 

Do we feel that we have consecrated our whole lives to Christ?  Are we living the resurrection life? or is it all half measures, or quarter measures, or a tenth, or maybe not even that?

 

Cast off the old self with its evil deeds, and put on the new, which is being refashioned unto knowledge according to the image of its creator; in whom…Christ is all in all.

 

The mystery of the Resurrection

Putteth to flight the deeds of darkness,

Purgeth away sin:

Restoreth innocence to the fallen,

and gladness unto them that mourn:

Casteth out hatred, bringeth peace to all mankind,

and boweth down mighty princes!

 

Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

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