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This Easter Day
On this day in normal years, the Abbey would be full. One of us would shout out the Easter proclamation ‘Christ is risen’, and we would all respond ‘He is risen indeed’. We would sing the great Easter hymns, and, as always, my voice would catch as we sang ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, halleluiah’.
This year it was to be my privilege to preach the sermon, and I would have tried to share my faith that these words, and the event they affirm, have changed our lives and the lives of all who, by the grace of God, have heard the words and have accepted their truth. I would have tried to show how the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the final and definitive sign of God’s continuing and unshakeable love for us. I would have said that this resurrection makes possible all those other resurrections, not only our own eventual personal resurrection from the dead, but also the resurrections of sins forgiven, of lost dignity restored, of lost lives redirected.
I would have said this to a congregation as varied as it was large. Some with faith ‘strong enough to move mountains’, some whose faith ‘kinda just comes and goes’, some who, frankly, had no faith but felt it would be good to go to church on Easter Day. All these people would have been offered the same Easter gift: a box containing a live changing and life affirming faith.
And the key to that box is a password he/is/risen.
Of course, we’ve all heard these words, said these words, sung these words before. But this year perhaps we would have seen beyond the Easter rituals and liturgy to that joyful moment when the death of Good Friday became the joy of Easter, and the fear that evil had triumphed was engulfed by new life and new possibility.
But this is not an ordinary year. The Abbey will be empty and silent. The great hymns will not be sung there. For the first time in a thousand years people of faith and people of no faith will not hear the great Easter proclamation made there.
But the silence does not take away the message. The love of God which burst out of the constraints of death on that Sunday morning long ago remains powerful for us whether the hymns are sung or not, whether the abbey is full or not. Whether we speak the words, or think the words in our hearts, we will make that affirmation, not now together in the Abbey, but dispersed in our houses throughout our town.
Those resurrections that we have experienced as Christians will still be known, but this year, perhaps there will be another, unknown before. Perhaps this year we will keep in mind this frightening time we are going through and will learn to respect each other, the strong and the weak, those here and those elsewhere, learn to work together within borders and across borders, learn to recognise the contribution made by those whose work is not glamorous but is vital for our well being.
Perhaps this silent church, these empty pews, will teach us and lead us to a resurrection of love. When that happens we will join together with one voice and say ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia’
May God bless and protect us all