A very happy Easter to you all! I’m going to level with you; at the time of writing it is not Easter Sunday, but good Friday. Theologically, this makes perfect sense because Christ’s death and resurrection are part of the same whole – there is no death without the promise of resurrection and no resurrection without the pain and heartache of death. We Christians are the ‘Easter people’, the shape of our liturgy is such that every single week of the year we mark good Friday and Easter Sunday in some small way, it is part of the remembrance, or the un-forgetting, of who we really are.
So, in that sense, it’s quite helpful for me to come to you on Easter Sunday from Good Friday. It feels a bit like writing a letter to our collective future self. I hope it’s helping to ground us in our true identity; we are a people formed and redeemed, once and for all, by the perfect self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Today – your today – is the ultimate celebration of victory over all the worst things that this fallen world has to offer. However, a rich and shared celebration of the resurrection is not available to us this year. And it is awful, there’s no denying that or getting around it. There’s no need to pretend that we don’t feel grief and pain at being separated from one another – there is never a need to pretend that we feel otherwise than we do. Because Jesus resurrection is real, and because his death was real.
His body really was tortured and broken, and he really did lie in the tomb for 3 days and he really did live again. And when he lived again it was the same body that had suffered, it bore the scars of the pain it had endured. The reality of victory and joy is rooted, in part, in the reality of suffering and grief. They are part of the same whole. You are allowed to feel both at the same time, as we do today. Perfection and imperfection are entwined forever, as God’s power is made perfect in weakness, in loss of ego, in bearing the weight of the cross.
You might have seen the film, ‘Military Wives’, about the military wives choir who sang at the Festival of Remembrance some years back. There’s one line in particular that struck me; one of the wives is talking about the difficulty of making music when things are far from perfect. She says: “great music doesn’t happen when everything’s perfect, it happens when you care”.
In the last few weeks I’ve seen so many wonderful examples of people caring in circumstances that are far from perfect. I’ve seen people reaching out to support the vulnerable, standing in long queues to collect prescriptions for strangers, for no other reason that they are a person who needs help. I’ve stood on our doorstep and listened to the whole street clapping and cheering for our NHS staff and the people who care for us and provide for us. I’ve seen people waving in the street and calling out “how are you?”. I’ve seen parcels left on doorsteps and WhatsApp groups for the sole purpose of looking out for each other, families and friends connecting on Zoom and facetime and over the phone.
The love of God isn’t only lived out when everything is perfect, it is lived out when you care. And the ultimate illustration of that comes from my today to yours; for ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’
The imperfect is made perfect, captives are set free, the lost are found, the sins of the whole world are washed white in the blood of the lamb. And the imperfection of this present time is shot through with the glory and the dazzling light of our risen Lord, who knows what it is to suffer, and who takes his wounds, and ours, with him – right to the very heart of God.
May God bless you this Easter, and fill you with all the riches of his grace and his happy, holy joy. Amen.