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Sermon: Second Sunday of Easter Evensong

Sunday 12th April 2015
Choral Evensong
Isaiah 26: 1-9, 19
Luke 24: 1-12
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Alleluia: Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed: alleluia!

It's right that we celebrate the resurrection with joyous shouts of praise: yet the process of making sense of this new reality takes time - resurrection is disruptive and awesome. Luke describes terror, disbelief, confusion and amazement. Silence is multifaceted in its eloquence.

A headline in today's newspaper, reads: furtive silences that speak more eloquently than flowery words.  Andrew Rawnsley is writing about election manifestos and the significance of what is left unsaid as opposed to what is promised. Politicians will be balancing distinctiveness and credibility; seeking to allay doubts and offering inspiration.

We join the dots between particular pledges; they seek  to present compelling arguments. We long for conviction and vision; they are wary of making promises that can't be kept.   Declarations about Trident and assurances about the NHS sit alongside spurious tales about politicians' personal lives. Perhaps our response to the election coverage will be to say 'these are just idle tales'.

The tale told by Luke is far from idle.  He invites us to make sense of the power of the resurrection by allowing us to take our place alongside the women; he invites us to trust the faithfulness of God even when human instinct says 'this is an idle tale'.  Luke engenders trust without using flowery words by drawing us into a communicative silence.

Wordlessly, the women had woken early to fulfil the rituals surrounding death; spices are prepared to to honour the body.   Their plans were interrupted by what they found - the stone had been moved. Their reaction was complicated by what they did not find - Jesus' body.

The process of making sense of this double dislocation begins with the proclamation of mysterious strangers.  The physical reality of what confronts the women in the garden leaves them feeling perplexed; the dazzling reality of this message terrifies them.

Silence and emptiness is shattered by the challenge of assurance:

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Absence and discovery is affirmed by the startling declaration:

He is not here; but  has risen.


The proclamation of the resurrection makes sense in relation to what has been fulfilled and what the women remember. The promises of God, revealed in  scripture, have been fulfilled; the women bear witness to the fulfilment of Jesus' words and teaching. They are invited to remember all this. 

Remembrance is not the ending of this story. Fulfilment and recollection prompt them to leave the tomb in order tell the others.  But they did not believe: the communication of this message seems to hit a dead end.

Peter alone races to the tomb. He stoops and looks and saw.  It was no idle tale.

He goes home: we do not know if his amazement is incomprehension or apprehension.  He, like us, has to weigh the silence of what he finds against what God has promised.  We piece together what has been fulfilled in our collective remembering.  It rests not on subjective experience alone, but on an objective reality of the  light, peace and love of our risen Lord.

Like Peter and the women, moments of shock and disbelief permeate our lives - the heartrending incomprehension of grief, the overwhelming delight of falling in love, the confusion of breaches of trust. We struggle to make sense of human frailty; yet are drawn into a deeper intensity of communion with God. Luke's account of resurrection invites us to find assurance in the remembrance of God's story worked out in human lives. He invites us to turn our eyes away from the discovery of an empty tomb and to fix our eyes on the risen Lord walking alongside us.    Our hope is renewed in him.

The words of the prophet Isaiah express human longing and divine promise. Trust in God is the sources of our peace. Trust flows from the character of God - so faithful and steadfast in love that the prophet speaks of an everlasting rock.  Trust in God secures our well-being, and changes us that we might seek the well being of others.  Peace is an expression of righteousness. The mighty  are brought low, the poor raised up and we walk on a level and smooth path together.

The work of restoration is human and divine. God's pledges to us in creation and salvation are an everlasting bond. Jesus Christ humbles himself to share our humanity, that we might share his risen life;  by the power of his Spirit we proclaim the good news  that endures beyond election manifestos:

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;

Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;

let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;

for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering son;

endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won.