Rejoice in the Good News! Christ is Risen!
(Christ in Risen Indeed! Alleluia!)
Rejoicing in Good News? How is that going? First of all, the news around us is nothing to rejoice at – Covid cases are rising, we are in our third lockdown, told not to see any family in our homes, and hardly any in our backyards. The news is nothing to rejoice about.
Or is it?
One lesson we might take from Lent, from these last days of the ministry of Jesus, from Good Friday and now Easter, is that the events of the day depend on how we choose to see them. The ministry of Jesus, even in his final days on earth, achieved wonderful and marvelous miracles – we can see them as the end, or we can choose to see them as the beginning. The crowd in Jerusalem loved Jesus and they hated him – but we know that is oversimplifying what was truly at work in that crowd of diverse people. We can focus on Peter denying Jesus three times in a moment of weakness, or we can choose to honour Peter for his steadfast loyalty on the journey to the cross. We can see only horror at Golgotha, or we can honour the bravery of the women who chose to stand by Jesus in the middle of that horror, to be a loving presence for him. And we can see Jesus in the cave, or we can find him walking among us.
That is a big part of Lent: an exercise meant to lead us to choose how to see the world after Easter has arrived. In Lent, we are told to reflect honestly on our choices and mistakes. We are offered a chance to put regrets in their proper place of learning, to move forward and not be held back. We are invited to stay awake with Jesus through the anxious anticipation of Gethsemane and face our fear of what comes next. We are welcomed into the celebration of Palm Sunday and hurtled into the judging mob, asked to come to terms with our place in both. We stand at the bottom of the cross and grieve. And now we stand at the open tomb in awe.
How will we choose to see this day? How will we decide to hear this news?
The gospel is meant to be free; we are not bound to it like slaves; we carry it as willing servants. And so this day, this beginning of everything to come, is our crossroads. Which way will we go? This day is our gift from Jesus and from God, a joyful understanding of new life and rebirth: How will we receive it?
We can take a gift in all kinds of ways. We can be grudging about it: do we have to take it? Do we really want it? We can accept gifts shamefully: perhaps they seem too generous, and we feel unworthy. We can take gifts enthusiastically and plan later to throw them away. And we can wholeheartedly receive a gift; that is, with our whole hearts.
How did Jesus intend this gift for us? By now, surely, we know. Jesus was showing us a new way to serve, a new way to see our lives, to find meaning. He showed us that there is a cost, but also a great reward: you live on in the people you inspire, the people you love, the people you save. The Resurrection of Jesus, this amazing story, is about us – the people who admire and love and follow the teachings of Jesus to this day. And so the gift of Easter as God shares it with us is clear. It is a gift without strings, without ulterior motive: it is a gift meant only to heal us, to restore us to newness, to show us a new day. To receive it, we need only see it as it is truly intended.
Now that is hard: because, as they say, nothing in life is free. But Easter represents all the freedom of the Gospel. We get to start over. We get a new day. We are refreshed and renewed.
There are no strings attached to the gift of Easter because this is what Jesus knew, what he always understood in his ministry. If we accept the gift of grace, it can only multiply. If we truly receive the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but serve others. If we understand that Resurrection in all its fullness, we cannot help but rejoice. A person who is forgiven is not defined by mistakes and regret. A person who is invited in to be a disciple of the gospel is by definition deemed worthy. A person who is called to serve has already passed the test of service.
We are the Resurrection; we are the incarnation of the gospel. We are lucky – unlike the disciples, hiding away, on that very first Easter, we already know that it happens, that it keeps happening. Unlike the women in tears by the empty tomb, doubtful of the visiting stranger, and then trying to understand the unexpected presence of Jesus, we already know what happens. Jesus lives. The gospel endures.
And why? Surely this year, of all years, we don’t need to ask. What has sustained you? What has given you the strength to get through? Was it the bickering over lockdown rules, or the sound of bells ringing for the health care workers, the way we came together as a community? Was it the call you received – someone just checking in? Was it love and kindness? Was it generosity?
This is the gift of Easter that God wants us to see: in every troubled age, there is good to be found. When the mob turns angry, there are people who stand up and say, “Let’s find another way.” For every ending, there is a beginning.
This is the good news of Easter; something to rejoice about. We are missing so much, and then Easter arrives, just in time, to show us how much we have. Easter arrives, just in time, to say things will work out. Easter is God’s way of reminding us that everything is possible.
I hope that, however else you spend the day, you look for all the ways that Easter – that the Resurrection of hope and life – is happening around us. It is always there – the good news. Waiting for us to see it, waiting for us to share it.
Happy Easter. Amen.