Sunday 21 April – Easter Sunday Rosie Addis
Sermon Easter Day 2019
Now, if you asked my family, they would tell you that I’m not really one for art galleries. I tend to have a quick look round and then head for the café … or the shop. But a few weeks ago we were in Basel, and I found myself standing in front of Hans Holbein’s ‘Christ in the Tomb’. And it took my breath away.
It’s a long, horizontal strip of a painting, with a frame around it that makes it look like we’re seeing through the side of a coffin. Above is a Latin inscription in gold – ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. Jesus is emaciated, sinewy, boney. Bloodless cuts cover his body. He is dead. Very dead. His face and hand are grey, lips receding over his teeth, eyelid half open and a lifeless eye staring up at the roof of the tomb.
This is the image we’ve been living with since Good Friday. A dead body. The people – we – had so much hope. This man who told amazing stories, who healed people, who broke down so many social, cultural, and religious conventions. Who promised liberation.
And now look at him.
Except … well, except that Holbein’s picture only captures a moment in time.
When the women went to the tomb there was no body. Something had happened.
And when later the disciples and others began to meet Jesus again, it wasn’t a zombie Jesus – a moving, undead body.
And it wasn’t a reanimated Jesus, being brought back to life like Lazarus.
In fact, it was different from anything else that had every happened. We needed a new word.
It was resurrection.
Something had happened. Something has happened. Almighty God, Creator God, Abba Father God did something. And the world was changed forever.
And this empty tomb, this resurrected Jesus, was and is the first indication we have that God has done something that changes reality as we know it.
When we look at Holbein’s painting there is that moment of ‘what if’? what if there had been no resurrection?
But … God came down to earth in the form of a man. A person who was completely human and at the same time completely God. When I sat looking at Holbein’s painting, at a body so obviously dead, I knew that somehow who I was and am had been taken up into this suffering and now dead body. And on this resurrection day celebration we are reconciled, brought into a new reality together into Christ’s resurrected body – into the body of Christ.
And as we renew our baptismal vows – or make them for the first time – we remember that journey into new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not a reanimated life, but a resurrected one. A resurrected life as a new community of brothers and sisters around the world.
A life of joy, of abundance. Of church community as a gift from God to us. A way of trying to make sense and seeing this new reality here on earth. Seeing a glimpse of God through other people. Our church community as a visible signpost to the grace and reconciling love of our creator God.
We should all take time off regularly, because its often then that God has a chance of talking to us. Too often we all can slip from living a resurrected life into one of reanimation … or even living like the undead. We have names for it – burnout, falling away, tiredness. Maybe you feel like that at the moment. Life seems tough, unfair, filled with increasing limitations. And here’s Rosie going on about abundance, joy, freedom, being accepted and loved and reconciled.
But stick with me.
During my recent time off I went to other churches. I went on holiday. I wandered around and slept in each morning.
One of the services I went to was the new Hillsong congregation over in Rose Street. My ears bled it was so loud, but one of the lines they sang caught my attention – ‘I’m desperate for a touch of heaven’.
And I thought about this new resurrection reality that is all around us.
And I saw it. The Bible calls it the Kingdom of Heaven – signs that God is in control and we can trust the Divine.
I went to an early morning service and saw an older minister give a masterclass in leading and preaching. A glimpse of heaven here on earth.
My family wandered into a church looking for warmth and somewhere to eat our sandwiches. We found a group of refugees who served us coffee, and an instant mutual recognition of shared community, of brothers and sisters together, despite the fact we couldn’t speak each other’s languages. A community of difference – people who live out the resurrection of Jesus.
Hospitality, generosity, abundant joy.
Too often we don’t get the resurrection life bit straight before we launch off into caring for others, for the environment, speaking up against injustice. We live a reanimated life, not one of resurrection.
Because its only when we get the resurrection bit that we get perspective. We face the fact of climate change in the light of knowing and being reconciled to our Creator. That doesn’t mean sitting back and saying, ‘we’re alright Jack, pull up the ladder’. It means being passionate from a place of having thought through who we are and why we are so intent on shooting ourselves in the foot.
It means seeing the flames eating into a special, sacred, building, and feeling the emotions, but grounding them in a wider perspective.
Its getting narked at situations in which we find ourselves, but at the same time inhabiting a new reality.
Its negotiating all those tricky human relationships – by which of course I mean all human relationships – but from a place of recognising and holding the image of God found in everyone.
And we are not alone. God’s Spirit is in us.
Please Jesus we never become a church of zombie do-gooders,
and Father please forgive us when we are living a reanimated life.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to be a community that shows the resurrected Body of Christ
– a joyful, justice-seeking, inclusive, listening, forgiving, liberating
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