Two weeks ago, I was confidently looking ahead to our Easter celebrations. Then, as you all know by now, COVID struck. The enforced break may have slowed me down, but many aspects of life went on as normal. Last week I was due to conduct two funerals. Although I had to pass the task to Helen, I still did most of the preparation.
At first sight there is a disconnect; the joy of Easter conflicts with the sense of loss as we come to say goodbye to a loved one. How can I shout “Alleluia” when a close friend has just died? I may look back at a long and productive life, rejoice at all my friend achieved, smile at the many happy memories we shared; but all that is past. It is finished. Standing at the grave it is difficult to look anywhere but back.
On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene came to visit the grave where her beloved Jesus had been buried only two days earlier. She found the grave open, the body gone. After what must have been an hour or more of panic, grief and tears, Mary meets the risen Jesus. (If that happened to me, I suspect I’d have a heart attack on the spot. Mary was clearly made of sterner stuff.) Two days earlier, as his life ebbed painfully away, Jesus had cried It is finished’ (Jn 19:30). Finished it may have been, yet clearly this was not the end.
Resurrection. Shortly before his arrest, Jesus told his friends that he was going to prepare a place for them ‘in his Father’s house’; (Jn 14:2) that having prepared it, he would come again for them. His message to Mary, and through her to the disciples – to us – as they met outside his tomb, is this: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God. (Jn 20:17) On Easter morning his friends didn’t get Jesus ‘back’, they got to see that he had gone back, reunited with his father. They began to see, also, that Jesus’ resurrection pointed to the path they too would take into the eternal presence of God. Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, has opened for us the pathway to eternal life in the presence of ‘His Father and our Father, His God and ours’.
Rev’d Philip Payne
The Notice Sheet for May Day 2022 can be found here