He is Risen indeed. Hallelujah!

Waiting in the Darkness!
April 16, 2022
Doubt and Love!
April 23, 2022

You may not have noticed, but the sign at the front of the church reminds us what we are celebrating today, on Easter Sunday across the world; our excitement as our hopes are realised. 

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.  (John 1:5)

This morning we celebrated a short Dawn Service watching the sun come up over the beach at the Old Dunsborough boat ramp, the wooden cross backlit against the brightening sky as we came together to remember our grief at Christ’s truly awful death and now, contrary to the evidence, we find ourselves smiling joyfully through our tears. 

John’s gospel is full of the imagery of light and darkness. Jesus shining in the darkness, lighting the world forever as we listen to the discovery of the empty tomb and Mary’s encounter with the Risen Lord.  Despite the horrors and sorrows of recent weeks and years, and our concern at what may be coming in the future, we have been reminded God loves us and nothing can or will ever takes this away.  God died on a cross rather than betray God’s love for all humanity and God has risen to testify to this reality. 

John tells us the story in his Gospel as we lean in to hear it once again, breathless at its wonder!  It was the first day of the week and it was still dark, when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.  The Passover and the Sabbath were finished and the tomb was empty. However, God was clear about what was happening if we pay attention.  The old things are passing away and the dawning of the new creation has begun.  God said to Isaiah:

I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former thing shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating: (Isaiah 65:17-18)

The scramble on the day Jesus was killed on the cross, to take his body down, remove the nails and the crown of thorns and get him wrapped in burial cloth and into the tomb before sunset was work laden with grief and anger.  We’re told by John it was Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who had gained permission from Pilate to remove the body and put it in a new tomb.  Mary’s concerns were understandably high.  These were men who had not stood beside Jesus in the light, Joseph of Arimathea was a ‘secret’ disciple and Nicodemus had visited Jesus in the darkness under cover of night.  The other disciples had run away.  To find the tomb open brought all her fears into the light.  Where was Jesus?  Who had done this?  Where had they taken the body?  Mary ran to tell Simon Peter and the other beloved disciple, who ran to check out Mary’s story. A race to arrive at the tomb, taking turns to see what had happened.  And then they left and went home.  Abandoned again. 

Mary stood alone in the dawn light keeping vigil for Jesus, weeping and grieving.  She finally looked into the tomb and saw two angels in white, lighting the darkness, who asked her why she was weeping.   For those of us who grieve the loss of a loved one, this is a very difficult question to answer. 

Mary’s imagination was on overdrive, ‘they have taken my Lord away’ she says.  ‘They’, the authorities, the men who came in the darkness, those opposing Jesus, someone had done this dreadful thing.  One final indignity on a man already tortured and killed.  It was impossible to remember what Jesus had said earlier about his death and resurrection. 

I remember a story I was told by a friend of mine who survived the genocide in Rwanda as a young woman with two small children, who fled the murder and massacres in her hometown, the murder of her husband and the rest of her family by her neighbours.  She was raped as she fled along the highway looking to escape to Europe and safety.   Carrying a small baby and holding hands with her young daughter, she searched for a boat when they arrived at the port.  Her daughter tugged loose from her hand and ran to a stranger.  My friend ran after her in terror at the thought of losing her in the crowds and found her in the arms of a man, and her daughter repeatedly saying, ‘its papa, its papa, he’s alive!’  As she tells the story, she remained astonished in her grief she did not recognise him.  She was so convinced he was dead.

As I watch the news and read the more recent witness accounts of what is happening in Ukraine, I wonder what Easter looks like in the war zone, neighbours killed by neighbours from the old country, friends and family denying the truth of what is happening, conflicting stories told, women and children fleeing, families separated, and people killed for no reason.  People are demanding more and more death in retaliation, seeking vengeance, justice and survival.  There is overwhelming grief and anger as the corpses pile up, innocent civilians and soldiers tortured and callously killed, left like rubbish on the roads.   The war crimes have once again become unimaginable in their sheer scale.  This is a story repeated from Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Mali and so the list goes on.  If I listen hard enough, I can still hear the voices crying loudly: ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ and getting louder, drowning out God’s words of love and peace and hope, asking: ‘why are you weeping?’.

Where does Easter sit in this darkness?  How can we celebrate new life, God’s new creation in the face of this pain and horror?   The darkness has become real for those sitting in cellars and makeshift shelters, those watching the bombs kill and maim, the images seared forever into memories for the rest of our lives.  Is it true the darkness has overcome the lightness of God’s life?   And yet, Mary encountered Jesus on the first day of the new creation.  Jesus, her Teacher and Lord whom she thought was dead because she watched him die on the cross, is alive.  He said:

I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. John 28:17 

Jesus has shown the world and the whole of God’s creation, death does not have the last word.  Betrayal and brokenness do not have to finish us. God’s Word was present before all Creation and is present after all things.  In all things we are held by God’s love and we are brought together into the new Creation with Christ.  

In spite of myself, like Mary, I find myself asking through my tears, through the ridiculousness of this story, and the incredulity of those around us, saying: ‘Is it true?  Is it real?’  And God’s response, was to make Mary the first of all the apostles, told by Jesus to go and tell the other disciples in the face of their collective disbelief, betrayal and abandonment. She said: ‘I have seen the Lord.’  (John 28:18) Let us remember always, the Light is shining in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Sisters and Brothers, let me tell you, like Mary:  I have seen the Lord.   Allelujah!    

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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