The Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr Dean of Westminster
Saturday, 10th April 2004
Alleluia! It means PRAISE THE LORD! Alleluia! the Easter motif.
Like the story of Christ's resurrection it resounds through our worship, the shout of heaven, heard but not understood. For we can only grasp some idea of the resurrection through our ignorance. What is anyone, past or present, to make of it? The women who went to the tomb were stunned into silence and emotion, for, as St Mark says, they were afraid'. They could not hear the alleluias of resurrection and had to cling for a while to their old familiar world. The male disciples could not cope with it rationally. In their world resurrections dont happen. So they refused to believe, at least until some of them had dissected the event: they rushed to see and were disconcerted.
Through the ages, and again this Easter, the resurrection pulls us to the edge between our old selves and what we might become if renewed; between hearing God and being deaf to him; and even our private nervousness about whether believing we might be counted mad or sane.
A friend was walking past the British Museum. For a moment, she says, she suddenly felt a healing in the world and in herself. It was "as if Satan returned to heaven" - her words, not mine. The dark side both of her life and of this world was not consigned to hell and damned, as we might naturally expect. They were rejoined to heaven and redeemed, as we might hope. It was a moment of disclosure that went beyond explanation. We could say that she unexpectedly heard the heavenly Easter Alleluias an unexplained experience that belonged neither to mind nor to feeling alone.
People today hunt for connections between their dark side and their better self, longing to match the inner self, of which we are so aware, to the outer worlds that impose themselves on us. The message of Christ's resurrection affirms that hope of such integration, of things coming together, is not an impossible dream. The dark side of this turbulent world and of you and me, is firmly held within the light of the eternal glory of God. For the darkness of the cross is affirmed: the tree of shame sprouts anew as the tree of glory and is left as a sign to the end of time. And for us, our old life, however murky, is joined to God's promise of forgiveness: this joyful Easter day brings true hope of another chance.
Our longing, however silent, for a word from God is linked with our deafness to him: this noisy Easter day is for different hearing. Our anxiety that we may possibly be insane to believe connects with God's own strangeness: this divine Easter day is for confident living with the mystery at the edges of our selves,
We proclaim that there is hope. Such hope is not expecting to win. That is necessary fun in sport; but in real life such single-minded competitiveness is destructive. Nor is such hope found in the quest for personal fulfilment. That presupposes the insidious love of oneself and the decay of such sense of community we have left. These so called hopes have never been the resurrection hope. The Easter story is more than this: it is the bold, you might almost think insane, proclamation that whatever the horrors, the more the world denies him, the more of himself God invests in it. His love becomes our hope.
In the chill before dawn a huddle of people gather in the church. They face West, looking towards the darkness. They're wearing dark robes and around them members of the congregation and the priest gather. A glimmer in the East warns that dawn is approaching and the priest addresses the group. "Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil? Do you repent of your sins?" They answer: "Alleluia! I do"
At that moment the sun peeks over the horizon to light and warm the world and the whole congregation turns to the East. Each candidate walks down into the pool and is baptised. The sun climbs steadily as they scramble out the other side, clean and white robed, and radiant with the glory of the risen Christ. By now the day has fully dawned. The newly baptised receive communion, the service ends, and suffused with the radiance of Christ the congregation leaves for another days living.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, be yourselves filled with glory,
For He is risen, Alleluia!