Tolpuddle and Puddletown

Easter Day 2017

Acts 10.34-43; Matthew 28.1-10

 

We went there first thing, the three of us.

It was very damp,

there was a heavy dew,

you could see the sun rising.

We took some flowers,

I picked them on Friday,

and we took some perfume,

we thought there would be a smell,

You know, the way corpses go.

I was scared.

It was just us, the men wouldn’t come; they were scared like me.

We ran up the road,

we were out of breath,

but we walked through the graveyard.

We wondered about the stone,

who would roll it away?

We should have brought the men.

And then we looked, the stone was away.

I went in first I was terrified,

I never wanted to go.

There was nothing there,

there were just bandages,

right were we had left him.

 

 

But no body,

and then we heard a voice,

but it wasn’t his voice.

It said he had risen.

It said he wasn’t there.

It said we had tell the others

So we’ve got to go back,

but who will believe us?

They’ll think we’re mad.

We’ve got to tell the others,

but they’ll never believe us.

They’ll just say we are stupid women.

But the stone was rolled away,

And the body wasn’t there,

and we did hear a voice,

and he is risen. [1]

 

An imagined telling of that amazing day by one of the women who went to Jesus’s tomb that Sunday morning when the world changed for ever.

 

They’ll never believe us. Surely they’ll start scoffing at us.

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that that’s what the women thought – after all who would ever think that someone dead could revive.

 

Until we start thinking that it is God we are dealing with, and surely if we believe in a God who can create this amazing beautiful wonderful world from naught, then we can believe in a God who can do pretty much anything.

 

There have been other suggestions as to what might have happened to the body.

 

Some of us in the benefice watched the film Risen a couple of weeks ago, which told the story of a Roman soldier Clavius, who was commanded to find out what had happened to the body of Jesus. He was changed by the experience he had when he met the risen Christ.

 

Some have suggested that the Marys went to the wrong tomb, and that is why it was empty. But, if that really was the case, the unbelievers would have quickly put them right and shown them where Jesus had really been laid. No one did.

Others suggested that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, but was merely in a coma. Those who have studied this come back with two arguments: first that the beatings and crucifixion were so severe that no one could survive them, and secondly, the Romans would not have let a still breathing man be released for burial. In addition – and this is one thing the film reminded us of, the tomb had been sealed firmly with guards outside, a man just arising from a coma caused by beatings, torture and crucifixion would not have had the strength to get past the stone out of the tomb into the wider world.

 

A further theory said that maybe the disciples themselves snatched the body of Jesus so that his own prophecies that he would rise might be shown to come true.

 

No one ever found a body, and would they really have faced martyrdom and death for something they knew was a hoax? Besides they still had to get past the guards and the seal. I think it unlikely.

 

The most far-fetched suggestion I have come across is that the body of Jesus was taken out of the tomb by the local gardener who wanted to stop a stream of people visiting it, because he was concerned that they would trample down his lettuces.

 

They’ll never believe us – but the ones they told did, and they told others who also believed, and they told others, and so on and so on, and 2000 years later, here we are still celebrating this event. Could it be that they were right all along?

 

Christianity stands and falls on the resurrection – St Paul in the fifteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians sets that out very clearly. Without the resurrection, there is no faith, no salvation, no victory of life over death.

 

If we Christians lived more in  the light of the resurrection, I am sure we could make the world a very different place. For resurrection qualities are those of joy, hope, generosity, love and peace. Resurrection qualities take away fear and anxiety.

The first words the angel said to the women was: Do not be afraid. So often that is what Jesus said to people and what Jesus still says to us now: do not be afraid.

 

It strikes me that often the people who live best in the light of the resurrection are those who are dying.

These words come from an email I received this year on 6th April.

 

“Dear Sarah

 

“Thanks for your support and prayers over the past few months and years. I am sorry if this is going to come as a shock, but when we were last in touch, I think I was in the position of having been given about a year to live. Now we’ve been plunged into different territory. The timetable was truncated in January, and now I’ve been given only a few weeks to live. I should see Easter, though.

“Yes, it does still seem weird and unreal.

“But I honestly have enough faith – certainly right now – to know that God will care for me. He loves me, and cherishes every cell in my body. His grace embraces me completely. And I still think that I’ve got the easy part: I’m going to be safely cocooned, while others are left behind to pick up the pieces.

“Some people have kept telling me that I ought to have fear, and I’ve tried to oblige them, but I can’t actually summon up much. I’m off to be with God, somewhere unimaginably wonderful.”

And from the same person in a message to me on Good Friday – “Easter is a great time to die. And the days are full of love and hope.”

I don’t think those words are pie in the sky, but a genuine sense of the hope that God gives because of the resurrection, because the final victory of death never happens. God’s life is always stronger than death.

 

And words from A Tour of Bones, a book written by Denise Inge, the wife of the current Bishop of Worcester, who died of cancer on Easter Day 2014. “Contemplating mortality is not about being prepared to die, it is about being prepared to live. And that is what I am doing more fully than I have since childhood. The cancer has not made life more precious – that would make it seem like something fragile to lock away in the cupboard. No, it has made it more delicious”

“Living is more than not dying. . . There are so many things I do not know. But one thing I hold close: living isn’t something outside you that you will do one day when you have organised your life a little better. It comes from deep in the centre of yourself. You have to let the life in, there at the deepest part, and live it from the inside out.”

I urge you to let the life in.

Let the resurrection light and hope swallow up your fears and anxieties.

Let the resurrection love heal your wounds and scars.

Let the resurrection joy fill your hearts with gratefulness for all that is good in life.

Let God help us learn from those who are dying that every day is precious, something to be grasped.

Let us hear the words of Jesus and of the angels: do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid to let the resurrection light into your life – yes, it might change you, but only in a life-giving way.

Living is so much more than not dying. Living is being part of something that we cannot fully understand but we can know inside us, thanks to the death-defying life that God reveals to us in the resurrection.

Let us live fully today. Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 

[1] From Stages on the Way: Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter Wild Goose Worship Group

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