Easter Day 2013

Sermon by Rev Christopher Harrison

vicar of the the parish of All Saints, St Mary and St Peter, Nottingham

Christopher Harrison home page

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Christ is risen – he is risen indeed! We have lit the paschal – Easter – candle from new fire - the symbolism here being that of a strong fire, a primal force that signifies purging, zeal, power and awe.  Five grains of incense are inserted at the centre and arms of the inscribed cross and held in place by wax nails, honouring Christ's five wounds.  The burning of incense signifies our zeal and fervour, its sweet fragrance represents virtue, and the rising smoke symbolizes our prayer. In preparation for the dawn we have kept a vigil of prayer and scriptural meditation – sometimes known as the ‘Queen of vigils’ - on the unfolding of God’s purposes for the world. 

 

Now, as day dawns, we celebrate the arrival of a new dawn for humanity – when, almost two thousand years ago, the stone which covered the tomb was found rolled away, and the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body were told by an angel that he had been raised from the dead.  The greatest miracle of all time?  Or just a myth, a piece of wishful thinking dreamt up by the first Christians to soften the blow of the loss of their leader?

 

There are some very good and compelling reasons for believing in the resurrection of Christ:

 

- No body was found – many people would have had an interest in producing Jesus’ body, in particular the governing authorities

- There were lots of witnesses – Corinthians – over 500 - Road to Emmaus – showed himself by the breaking of the bread and the explaining of the scriptures; breakfast on the lakeside

        

- Appearance to the disciples – saying ‘Shalom’ – peace be with you

 

- Effect on the disciples – transformed from being frightened to being overwhelmed with joy and passionate about not just spreading the good news about Jesus’ resurrection, but continuing his ministry of teaching and healing, and soon to be renewed and reinvigorated spiritually by the coming of the Holy Spirit.

If the whole thing had been made up, why fabricate a story in which women were the first to find the tomb empty?  The evidence of women, in Jesus’ day, was not given as much weight as that of men.  And why would St Mark say that they fled in terror?  Surely it would have made a more convincing story to say that they were overjoyed to find that Jesus had risen from the dead.

 

So if the resurrection is actually believable, what can we go on to say about its meaning?  Three levels of meaning in particular to bring out: