EASTER DAY 2015 – 10.30am Ripon Cathedral

“The things that people say”

The things that people say!
This morning we gather with people all around the world to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

He said to her, “Mary!”
She said to him, “Rabbouni!”

The life of the world was changed. There is no feast to match Easter; and together we enthusiastically say “Alleluia!”
This means, “Praise the Lord”, and by implication we communicate how we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that we accept the implications of the resurrection for us, and that we are therefore Easter People.

The things that people say!
We say, “Alleluia”. But do we mean it?

The danger is that we can say all manner of things because we think they are the right things to say in particular circumstances. But we may not entirely, fully, without qualification, believe them.

Let us think of an example to illustrate the point. The wife says to her husband, “Does this dress suit me?”
Well, there’s a menacing trap if ever there was one.
If the thus-far happy couple are in the dress shop and there are several dresses to choose from, the husband might just risk telling the truth: “It’s terrible!”
But, if they are on their way out for the evening and running short of time, he’d be a brave man if he didn’t say, “You look gorgeous, Darling.” He might then have the courage to add, “Now, please, shall we get in the car!”

The things that people say!

Over the last week in the Cathedral, with the help of our liturgies, and with the help of the children of the Cathedral on Good Friday morning, we have been imagining ourselves accompanying Christ during the days leading to his crucifixion. People all around the world have been doing the same. Last Sunday we shouted with the crowds, “Hosanna!” We were pleased, we’d been sent a leader who would say the things we wanted to hear and do the things we wanted doing. Isn’t that what millions of people were looking for during Thursday evening’s televised debate with the political party leaders? Of course, as that was Maundy Thursday, they would have done well to have been in church, imagining themselves with Christ in the upper room as he washed his disciples feet and shared the last supper. Now, there is true leadership.

In Holy Week, how the mood changed when, turning over tables in anger, this leader for whom we shouted ‘Hosanna’ challenged us and confronted us with the truth of our own shortcomings. Here is a leader who has the courage to say what needs to be said, not what people want to hear. And, naturally, we don’t always like it.

Be honest, would it take much before we too would be prepared to shout “Crucify him!” wanting rid of the inconvenient truth about ourselves.
The good news that we celebrate this morning is that, even though this uncomfortable truth about ourselves is true, God never gives up on us. He never will. We may not always feel like voting for God, but he will always serve us. After all, he has shown once and for all that he is even prepared to die for us. Easter makes no sense if we do not remember that.

Jesus famously said of his followers, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (St. John 10.10)
With the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, our ever-loving, self-sacrificing God is not only promising life after death, but life in its fullness before death. He is offering us a life-improving, life-transforming, life-fulfilling change.

It is to this we say, “Alleluia!”
But do we mean it?

It is traditional at Easter to renew our baptismal vows. Those of us who came to the Easter Liturgy yesterday evening did so then.
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? The Bishop enquired.
We responded, “I reject them.”
And the questioning and answering continued:
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them?
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
And then we promised to turn to Christ as Saviour, to submit to Christ as Lord, and to come to Christ the way, the truth and the life; as well as affirming our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The things that people say!
Just think, the majority of us in this Cathedral will have made these vows at some stage in our lives. Perhaps when we were confirmed, or when we became a godparent – and we may have done that on several occasions.
When we make or renew these vows, we are saying that we are prepared to change – to accept Christ’s offer of life in its fullness, his offer of the risen life in the here and now.

In some ways, living out the risen life, life in its fullness, may seem rather mundane and insignificant.

In her book “This Risen Existence”, Paula Gooder puts it like this:
“Thus, the way in which we do the school run, go to work, chat with our friends and so on will be infected with “Christ-likeness,” marked by love, by lack of concern about status, by putting others before ourselves, by breathing new life into situations of despair and so on.”

Paula Gooder is right. There is a down-to-earth-ness about this risen existence, how could it be any different when it is the risen life offered by the one who died on the cross to reveal his undying love for us.

To say “Alleluia!” today is to accept that our down-to-earth sharing in the risen life of Christ makes a difference, both to us personally and through us to the community and the world around us: “breathing new life into situations of despair…”

There are many things in the world on Easter Day 2015 that might make us wonder whether the resurrection of Christ from the dead has made a difference. The appalling murder of Christians in Libya and Kenya recently; the injustices which prevent many from living life in its fullness; the confusion about which values to live by in this country – already so evident in the pre-election debates; and perhaps pain and suffering or bereavement close to home, in our own families. All of these things can make us wonder about the difference made by Christ’s resurrection.

To say “Alleluia!” today is to be filled with the hope, the faith, that life does in the end triumph over death, love over hatred, God over those forces in this world that wish him dead.

To say “Alleluia!” today is to accept the offer of Christ’s risen life for us, and to believe that through us living that life in down-to-earth ways, the world becomes more like heaven than it would otherwise be.

We simply have to say, or sing, “Alleluia!” and mean it.