A sermon preached online at St Mary’s Iffley by Andrew McKearney on Easter Day 2020.
‘Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.’
It’s a deeply poignant moment in the Easter story. Mary is scarred by her loss, grieving and devastated. On Good Friday we heard of her standing at the foot of the cross, and now she’s beside an empty tomb fearing the worst.
‘They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.’
The desolation and disorientation felt by Mary echoes in countless hearts and homes. How can we celebrate Easter with all that’s going on?
We’re stuck at Good Friday when the disciples scattered to homes in and around Jerusalem, and we’re left feeling that our Easter faith is like whistling in the dark.
It was the message of Easter that brought the disciples back together and we can’t come together. Our church remains closed. No flowers decorate it, the organ is silent and the vestments remain on their hangers.
Shouldn’t Easter have been postponed like everything else? It’s certainly hard to imagine circumstances more challenging than these in which to celebrate Easter. And yet the truth of Easter – and it is true – cannot be dependent on the circumstances that we’re in.
So perhaps there’s a gift here for us this Easter. With so few supports to hand – the smell of fresh flowers in our church, the experience of being part of a large congregation, the sound of other voices singing, the touch of each other when we pass the peace – with none of these available to us maybe there’s a different and perhaps surprising dimension to the Easter faith there for us to discover this year.
After all surprise is a feature of all the Easter stories. We heard Mary mistaking the risen Christ for the gardener! The gift of Christ’s risen presence was and always is unexpected.
The disciples, and the gospel writers after them, are out of their depth as they struggle to find ways to convey this truth that we live by as Christians, a truth we’ve come to call ‘resurrection’.
It’s rightly thought of as a mystery – a mystery not in the sense of something that is obscure or needing to be solved, but a mystery in the sense of something far bigger than any of us can get our heads round!
Our hearts often find it easier! And that’s what the Easter accounts do – they speak the language of our hearts.
They tell of moments of recognition; of relationships restored; of denials forgiven. They tell of doubts laid to rest; of faith rekindled by love.
Christ simply speaks her name: Mary! This Easter we’re invited to discover the gift of Christ’s risen presence here – in our hearts and in our homes.
Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!