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Town Centre Churches

Fr. Ian Terry’s Easter Address

Easter Sunday 2013

John 20: 9  “They still did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

Luke 24: 5  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!”

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Resurrection is not what we expect; and yet this belief has been around, and recorded, even before Jesus had died. The first person to bear witness to his belief in the aliveness of Jesus, beyond the tomb, was the man who was dying at his side and dared to ask for a place in his kingdom.  The robber on the cross next to Jesus was also dying a horrible death; but, even so, he clearly believed that he would see Jesus again, after they’d both died. This humiliated robber, dying in public,  was a herald of Easter.  So it is. The real Easter people are not squeaky-clean, neatly-pressed super- heroes; rather they have the exhausted, enduring faces of Mother Teresa, and many, many less well-known Christians like her, who have devoted their lives to the service of others.  These people have, I would suggest, chosen for ‘life’ ~ and it is usually a hard option that goes against the grain.  Have you noticed? ~ the struggle between life and death is going on around us every day.  The struggle is within us, to begin with, because, despite what we would wish, we are not automatically on the side of life.  There is a strange gravitational pull towards death.  That is, all the easy choices and all the cowardly choices move us in the direction of self-destruction.  Jesus stood against those choices. He was in direct conflict with all those attitudes which extend the powerfulness of death.  For example:  ~ the fear of spontaneity; & the supreme regard for what is safe, expedient and self-preserving; & ~the mistrust of innovation;  & ~ the insistence on unimaginative conformity.  All these things Jesus detested!  And he didn’t want us to choose for what he detested. Jesus says to us: ‘I set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore, choose life!’  But do we? Is that what’s going on in Cyprus at the moment, with the taking of people’s savings?  By contrast, Jesus did choose the ‘road less trodden’ which leads to life ~ but only through hard-fought commitment, maintained in the face of opposition!  That is what the Gospels tell us.  And, as we search those Gospels, we find that the pure aliveness of Jesus of Nazareth was compelling evidence to his friends and contemporaries that, in him, was the very source of life which death could never extinguish.  And fullness of life, for us, as for Jesus, is found only in self-giving love ~ and sacrifice for others.

Sacrifice for others is the chief characteristic of the resurrection life: ~  wiping away tears ~ as, in effect, Pope Francis did on Maundy Thursday when he washed the feet of young offenders;  offering forgiveness and hope, ~ as Donald Reeves, who visited us last October, is doing in the war-torn Balkan states; or as the charity Footprints is doing in mentoring recently released inmates of Guys Marsh prison ~ do you remember, we heard about how this mentoring turned-around the rate of reoffending in that prison, from 80% down to 20% ~ quite incredible! ~ and hope-giving!

And Resurrection is found where food and hospitality are shared; as we did on Christmas Eve when we invited the homeless who were outside, in our churchyard, inside to enjoy mince-pies and the warming humanity of our hospitality.  Now, we know that’s only scratching the surface, but it’s a great beginning! ~ it’s looking for Jesus amongst the living, and helping them to become more fully alive.  That, nothing less, is the daily task God shares with us.  It is an Easter task ~ of sharing resurrection hope in down-to-earth ways!

So, on this Easter morning let us remember, with rejoicing, that God is himself the essence of all aliveness.  In many books of the Old Testament he is called ‘the living God’.  He is himself the inexhaustible source of liveliness,( like a hidden underground spring that bubbles-up where you least expect it!).  So that: ‘All that came to be was alive with his life.’  In a universe that is issuing from such an indefatigable Creator, death is, in truth, a transient episode, serving the process of developing life, like sleep before a new waking-up, or like labour before birth.  Emily Bronte affirms this in her poem ‘Last Lines’:

“There is no room for Death,

  Nor atom that his might could render void:

  Thou  ~ Thou art Being and Breath,

  And what Thou art may never be destroyed.”

So that’s what we celebrate today!

Today, and each day of our lives, the Risen Jesus says to us: ‘I set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore, choose life!’ 

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