The Reverend David Stanton, Canon in Residence
Jesus Christ is risen to-day, Alleluia!
Today the church proclaims, and rejoices in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the victory that God has claimed over sin and death. Resurrection means that darkness and evil have been conquered and no longer have control. Resurrection means that we can for ever have hope and confidence because Jesus is alive and ever present. To be absolutely clear: without Easter, without the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, there would be no Christian Church. All that we do, and all that we are as Christians, springs from this stupendous event in which love leaps from the grave to the heights of heaven and draws us into the hope and joy of eternal life.
Our New Testament reading from St Luke's gospel tell us of that tremendous and momentous encounter between Jesus and the two disciples, as together they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The disciples' hearts were aflame with Easter fire. 'They said to each other, "were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"' (Luke 24: 32). The word used for heart refers to everything we are, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. To be ablaze is to be rekindled or renewed or alive. A burning heart refers to the renewing effect Jesus has on the whole person. Men and women with burning hearts are people of faith who have recognised Jesus, alive and resurrected, who allow his power to make them alive emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. As St Paul reminds us: 'Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.' (Romans 6: 4).
The Easter message brings alive for us the God who comes to us and walks with us; the God who comes to us in our ordinary everyday lives, transforming the ordinary into the eternal. And when our lives with all their pains, and struggles, and troubles are transformed into the eternal, it's then that we begin to understand both ourselves and our ever loving God. The great medieval theologian, St Anselm talked about 'faith seeking understanding.' It's not that we understand the ways of God and therefore we believe. The opposite is true: first we believe and then, having believed, we begin to understand. And even then, we may not fully understand with our heads but we may understand with our hearts
So, if you're here this afternoon with a heart full of doubts, if you're particularly aware of your sin, or you're feeling far away from God, if you feel lost in ignorance and think you don't understand enough, then this is absolutely the right place for you to be. Because at this Easter time, we are reminded that Christ comes close to us, wherever we are. He walks with us in the everyday pattern of our lives. Christ's presence with us isn't dependant on our understanding or how we feel, isn't dependant on how holy we might be or how strong we are in the faith. The presence of Christ with us is dependant solely on the fact that he chooses to be present with us. It's dependant solely on his love for us and his desire to transform our ordinary lives into the eternal place where he dwells and is glorified.
One final thing: you'll remember that when the risen Lord joined the two disciples on the road and asked them what they were talking about, they failed to recognise him. It was as if their eyes were closed. This failure to recognise the risen Lord, is an important detail. It's only through his grace that our eyes are opened, that we are enabled to respond to his presence. Possibly we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, remain unmoved by the mysteries we have so recently celebrated during Holy Week. Let us pray that the work of Christ's Resurrection may be completed in us, as it was completed in those disciples on their momentous journey.
Surrexit Christus hodie, Alleluia!