We meet this night in the depth of darkness, surrounded by the news of death and the unknown. Indeed, listening to the news these days is an exercise in that old adage that says, the first thing I read in the morning is the obituaries, to see if I am in it. Watching the news feels like reading the obituaries as we continue to focus on the many deaths due to COVID-19, deaths which break my heart. Yet even in the midst of this death, there is also light my friends. The morning is coming and a new day is about to dawn. But first, we must check in on the work of death, work which is altered forever into light this evening.
The pain and isolation of these 40 days of Lent and the last 48 hours are now finished. We have taken Christ’s still warm battered and bloodied body down from the cross, wrapped it in cloth and laid it in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. The stone has been rolled in front, sealing our friend and master away from us forever. Death has done its work, so we now must go do ours. With the women we go to the tomb, both to grieve and to show Christ’s body the honour it was denied on the cross by anointing it for burial. We know how the story goes, the stone is gone, the body is missing, Jesus has done as he said he would, he is risen! This moment is more than just a story we all know, however, it's about a living experience of faith, something we’ve been living in our world today.
The tomb being in a garden reminds us of the garden of Genesis, when all things were made new. The tomb therefore is a point of a new beginning, a new creation, a new life. This is surprising because of how much it feels like we hear this story every year, and life goes back to normal the day after. However, this year, the tomb holds something different. It holds the light of new life which for the first time perhaps in our life times asks us to make a choice about how we want to respond to the presence of the risen Christ in our lives today, because of what yesterday was, and what tomorrow will bring.
Easter is about new life, we know that, but it is about new life in relationship with both God, ourselves, our world, and our neighbour, which during this isolation takes on a specific resonance. This easter we are being surprised by the works of God all around us which are calling us into new life, new patterns of life. From the technology which is helping you and I worship tonight, to our phone tree’s, email, facetime and more, we are reconnecting with each other in ways we might not have imagined possible. Our world is also recovering from our isolation as we travel less, pollution is diminishing, salmon stocks are returning, wildlife are recovering. This garden we inhabit, called Earth, is coming alive in the newness of Christ’s salvific light which shines brightly in our hearts this night.
So what if this time, this pandemic, this Eastertide is about you and I stepping up to our vulnerable selves in God, and moving out into the world as a visible presence of compassion, love, and hope? What if this is the time when we let go of the patterns that keep us in yesterday, a yesterday where death is the final victor, and move into today where death, the power of death which is letting go of our need to be in control and taking on daily the image of Christ in our lives, is no longer the end but our doorway into a totally fulfilled life.
In the midst of this grand night, in the depths of darkness, we gather in the midst of Death awaiting the light of Christ. A light which crushes our yesterday into rubble, and opens us to tomorrow, a tomorrow in which we flourish because of the new life we find in our relationships with God, with each other and with our world. Our tomorrow starts tonight, in the dark, in the hearty flame of God's love for us made flesh in the resurrected Christ. A flame no darkness can extinguish, and a flame which brings new life to our gardens. So church, the light of Christ is blazing tonight with a fiery passion for this world’s new birth. How will you live your life differently, because of what you see and hear this night in the dark?