Easter Day

17th April 2022

Acts 10:34-43

Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”

14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.

15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:

16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.

18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.

20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”

21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.

22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Reflection

‘I have seen the Lord!’ 

‘I have seen the Lord!’ says Mary Magdalene. To have been one of those first disciples and heard those words, indeed to have been Mary and seen what she saw, must have been amazing, thrilling, sensational, out of this world! To see alive the one you thought was dead, the one you thought had been disfigured, mutilated and  cruelly killed, must have been so overwhelming, so joyous, so unbelievable. 

This is the moment that has been eagerly anticipated throughout John’s Gospel. “I am the resurrection and the Life” Jesus had promised, and it was – and is – so. And Mary Magdalene is the first witness. 

Those who witness the resurrection, are, Peter says, commanded by God to preach to the world and testify to what Jesus Christ has brought about. 

What is the resurrection about? It is not simply ‘coming back from the dead’ – it is not resuscitation. That was what Lazarus and the widow of Nain’s son experienced. Resurrection is about the Life, which is more than just the mortal life we live now. It is certainly a life that continues into the ‘next world’ but equally importantly it is Life experienced in this world. Otherwise it would , as Paul says, leaves us more to be pitied than ever. The resurrection is a reality to be experienced in this life. 

I think that what John’s gospel tells us is that to experience the resurrection and to experience the kingdom of God – to experience God’s reign –  are one and the same. Jesus came to announce the kingdom of God (or in Peter’s words, to preach God’s peace) to inaugurate the reign of God and establish God’s kingdom on earth. To experience God’s reign is to do God’s will – just as Jesus did,  repeatedly declaring that he did what the Father did. When that happens things change, life is transformed – life becomes Life!  The vine’s branches flourish and are abundantly fruitful, the blind see, bread is multiplied and wine jars  overflow.  Those who are open to God – in Peter’s words, those who fear God – can experience this.  

The inauguration of God’s reign – resurrection  – is an ongoing process that will be completed when, as Paul writes, Jesus has destroyed -ie overcome, supplanted – every ruler and every authority and power.  It is that rule, that reign, that kingdom, which is being built upon the cornerstone rejected by we would-be human builders. 

Resurrection is real, it is a reality – but maybe it is something we have to be open to see. In John’s gospel there are many instances of people who do not see or understand what is happening around them. They are blinkered, they are looking the wrong way, they are avoiding walking in the light. Peter and the beloved disciple don’t understand what they see when they find the tomb empty and the grave clothes folded. Mary Magdalene struggles. She doesn’t see at first, and confuses Jesus with a gardener. If Jesus hadn’t spoken would she have left the garden in ignorance? 

So we need to be alert in looking for signs of the resurrection, for signs of the Life. We need to witness to these signs, to share the insights and to enable each other to see what is happening around us. We need to both seek and tell the good news. And we need to live the resurrection, to live The Life. That is not to live the uninformed ‘worldly life’ but to live The Life according to the way God desires, according to God’s rule, following the teaching and example of Jesus. To live that lifestyle of which Jesus is the corner stone. 

This is the only way I believe that we will cope with the climate crisis that we have created for ourselves.

Lent Reflection

11th April 2022

Almond Blossom Bloom Castle Blossom Almond Trees http://www.maxpixel

The almond tree – Prunus amygdalus – is native to the Levant. Its fruit (technically a drupe rather than a nut) is edible. It is said to have been one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated, possibly because it can be grown from seed – no skills in grafting are needed. The tree grows to a height of between 4 and 10m. Its is one of the first trees to produce blossom in the spring and is therefore also associated with new life. 

In Hebrew the word for almond  ‘shaqad’, also has the meaning of watchfulness. When Jeremiah sees the flowering almond, God says that it is a sign that God is watching,  ready to fulfil his word. (Jeremiah 1:11-12)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 

In the Bible, the Lord says: I am like the flower of the almond. Why? Because that is the first flower to blossom in the spring. He is always the first! This is fundamental for us: God is always ahead of us! When we think about going far away, to an extreme outskirt, we may be a bit afraid, but in fact God is already there. Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy