On that first Easter Day everything changed. It was their equivalent of Monday morning, the first day of the working week. Back to business as usual. Not. It wasn’t just the earth that cracked open, though it did, as an earthquake struck. It wasn’t just the heavens that cracked open, though they did, as an angel came down. It was time-space itself, the very fabric and logic of the cosmos that cracked open, as creation began again, Creation Two, the beginning of the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth that is God’s good future for the world he loves.
Whatever happened that morning – and something staggering clearly happened or the effect on the followers of Jesus wouldn’t have been so electrifying, and frankly we wouldn’t be here now – whatever it was, it clearly broke the canons of ordinary scientific enquiry. We can hardly repeat the experiment, or classify something that was once, once only and once for all. It’s not to be dissected or up for discussion. Either we shrug our shoulders, and get on with business as usual – and are immeasurably the poorer for it. Or we are stopped in our tracks, and our own life is cracked open too – and who knows what might happen then?
So what did happen, that first Easter Day? The guards froze with fear. Forget the feathery wings and tinsel halos. That seems to be the standard effect angels have on people. Just look how many times their first words to humans are, “Fear not.” I said fear.That in fact is what they say to the women, who are far quicker to wake up to what’s going than the men. Nothing new there. A moment of “Come and see” follows – the eye-witness account is going to be important especially (sorry girls) since women were not considered verb trustworthy at the time. But “Go” follows “Come” very quickly indeed. “Go quickly” in fact. Jesus has broken out of the tomb and is going ahead of them, and their job is to not to catch hold, but to catch on and catch up.
And in case you hadn’t caught on, the whole point of Easter is that it’s an empty tomb. Not much use standing and staring. The action has moved on.
That starts to cast what we are doing today in church in a very particular way. This if you like is Jerusalem. We’ve made our pilgrimage here, just as a party from the diocese has recently made its pilgrimage to the real Jerusalem. And we like they are changed by what we see. The setting has an effect. The stones of Bethlehem or Calvary still resonate. But even more affecting is the glimpse of the Christ who has just gone ahead of us, his presence still felt, but out of our grasp lest we enshrine him in the sepulchre, a relic not a raising agent, our history not our future.
So if we want to catch on, catch up, catch a slice of the action, it’s to Galilee we must go. And our Galilees are there waiting for us, in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our sports centres, our food banks, our council chambers. That’s where Christ says he’ll meet us. Church is not our end but our beginning, and the validity of our prayers will be tested by the places to which they take us.
In Suffolk that means lots of things. For people living at Thorndon,near Eye, it is using their new kitchen and toilet to run a community cafe for the whole village. For the people at Badingham, near Framlingham, it is helping provide a playgroup. For people of St Matthew’s in Ipswich it is running a community shop with good second hand clothing, and a laundrette. It’s foodbanks and credit unions, night-shelters and street-pastors, parish nurses and women’s counselling, and so much more I could mention.
So pause now and call those places to mind. Picture Christ there if you can. Pray for the people that he is already with there. Ponder how you can join in with what he wants to do for them. For the God of our pilgrimage calls us in this centenary year as always to be a church without walls, to be with him on the way, to build not just a congregation but a kingdom. Amen. Alleluia, and let the celebrations begin.