Extracts from Easter 2020 sermon – 31st March
On Easter morning (as last year, and indeed as on every morning) what we are faced with is something very certain – the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As Mary stands weeping outside the tomb someone speaks to her. She thinks it is the gardener, but then he speaks her name – ‘Mary’ – and she recognises that this person is Jesus risen from the dead. Suddenly in a moment everything changes, yet again; it’s personal - and names are important.
At the heart is love. Love which began with the love of God o created us to live in relationship – our God who knows us by name and loves us – treasures us more than we can dare to imagine. Just look at the cross. Just look at the empty tomb.
And when Jesus speaks Mary’s name, she knows that love, and she wants to hold tight to Jesus. His death had brought a distancing which had been unbearable.
Yet, Jesus speaks words to Mary which seem to almost impose a distancing: ‘Do not hold on to me’.
Then he speaks strange words of ascending. Strange words that will become a reality in due course when the risen Jesus leaves the earth, and the Holy Spirit will come to be Christ’s presence in every time and every place - but that’s the next bit of the narrative which we will celebrate at the festival of Pentecost.
Standing by the empty tomb, Mary doesn’t understand any of that. She has encountered the risen Christ and now she wants life to go back to normal – life as she had known it. Yet it cannot and it will not. Life will never be the same again.
I’ve found myself saying that several times in recent days. This time of Covid19 has changed us – challenged us – and I hope that we might continue to learn more about love and kindness and social closeness even in the face of physical distancing.
But even more than that I yearn for us to take hold of the certainty that nothing can undo the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has happened. And nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Not even Covid19. Not even death. Nothing can change the reality that you and I are named individuals – unique and precious – known by God and known by name.
And in our confusion and in our ‘not understanding’, and in our places of fear and grief, Jesus draws closer than close, not in physical body but in spirit. And Jesus speaks our name and invites us to speak his – to reach out and to say yes to his love and his forgiveness. May it be so.
Rt Revd Rachel Treweek
Bishop of Gloucester
Extracts from sermon on John 20 vv 1-18
12 April 2020