Sunday April 21, 2019
8:00 am - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Turner
Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Some words of Archbishop Michael Ramsey: “The resurrection is not as other events in history: it is in truth the coming into the world of the life of the world to come.” 1.
Holy Week 2019 has been a testing time in many different ways; we have had parishioners taken to hospital and a parishioner die. Then, I was asked if we would host the funeral of Christopher Slutman, a US marine and former New York Firefighter who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan a few days ago. The funeral will be in Easter Week, and his body will be brought into a Church that will still be echoing with the joyful alleluias of Easter. Agonizingly for his family, his funeral will be held on the very same day that he could have been coming home from his tour of duty, home to his devoted wife and three young daughters. I have been deeply moved in my conversations with his wife; they are a family of great faith. She told me that, when they got married, they discussed the fact that this day might come and how they would deal with it. Of course, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the death of someone you love. How do you explain it to his youngest daughter aged four years old?
Then, a few days ago, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, that icon of France, burned. For a few hours, the people of France held their breath while others sang hymns and chants as the firefighters saved the building. Within days, over $1billion has been raised to re-build and restore the damaged Cathedral, prompting comment from many about how quickly France’s rich responded to this loss in sharp contrast to France’s growing need to respond to the poor and the refugee.
In his sermon to the clergy on Holy Tuesday, at the mass of collegiality, the Bishop of New York recalled when he was an architectural student 43 years ago and had to draw the plan of Notre Dame and eight other cathedrals from memory. He said, “I loved them, I loved the idea of them, and I took them for granted. They were here forever. They would be here forever. But now we know. Eight hundred years of perfect order matched exactly against an errant spark and twenty-four hours of chaos.” 2.
Then, this morning, I awoke to the tragic news of a coordinated bomb attack in Sri Lanka targeting several packed churches and hotels on Easter Day of all days. This morning, nearly 200 Christians celebrating Easter Day have been killed and scores inured; a senseless act of violence against the Body of Christ. The reaction in a mainly Buddhist country has been remarkable – with thousands upon thousands of people lining up at blood clinics, ready to donate their blood. Suddenly, Bishop Chartres’ theme of the Church being a community built on blood given rather than blood taken seems all the more powerful this morning.
The death of a US Marine; the destruction of a medieval Cathedral; the indiscriminate targeting of Christians as they worshipped; we could feel a sense of hopelessness, or even despair, but they are real stories. Certainly, we can feel outrage and anger but what we celebrate today proves otherwise.
“The resurrection is not as other events in history: it is in truth the coming into the world, of the life of the world to come.”
St Paul sums it up on one line from our Epistle reading: "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."
We will bury a US Marine, we will mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka, and we will re-build Notre Dame Cathedral, but we do not live in the past and we will continue to live in hope. To celebrate Easter is to claim a victory which will seem contradictory to the eyes of the world; "Didn’t they kill that Jesus of Nazareth? Wasn’t he put in a tomb – dead?"
We acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over violence and death; we celebrate the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ and proclaim his as our Savior and our King - our true hope - because Easter is not about the resuscitation of a corpse but the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We do not live in the past, we celebrate his presence and sovereignty today and, oh how we look for his coming again in glory when he will make all things new.
Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!
As St Paul said, “death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” This week, Bishop Richard Chartres has based his sermons on a sermon of St Gregory Nazianzen who said, “Humanity had to be brought to life by the humanity of God ...we had to be called back to him by his Son.” 3.
God reached out to us in history – into all the pain, all the loss, and all the sin. He emptied himself into creation and, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, took our human nature upon himself. “Humanity had to be brought to life by the humanity of God...we had to be called back to him by his Son.” And he took all the pain, all the worry, all the resentment, all the violence, all the loss, and all the sin that is (and will be) in the world open himself. He took all the hopelessness, all the separation, and all that estrangement upon himself and nailed it to a cross. The self-offering of Jesus brought us hope because it brought us salvation in the here and now – my sins forgiven; my life precious in his sight! Nothing could ever be the same again following the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead. Even our own death we need not fear but actually look forward to in hope. Christ will welcome us home, my friends; Jesus has begun the transformation of our lowly bodies into copies of his most glorious body.
Michael Ramsey goes on to say, “The resurrection of Jesus is far more than an example of human immortality: it is a victory uniquely won, and won in order that humanity might be enabled to share in Christ’s resurrection. It does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” 4.
It does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Of course we sang it a few moments ago just as we brought the Book of the Gospels to the altar: “Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!” – “Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!” Take that with you as you leave Saint Thomas today; “Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!” When you turn on the news today and you see all kinds of tragedy; “Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!” When, this night, you remember a loved one or something troubles you; “Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!”
My dear friends, the old is being made knew – even for our loved ones far away who shared the same faith as ours. As they lived and died in hope, so shall we now live and die in him so that we might know a resurrection like his.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
1.Michael Ramsey – ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ p. 77
2.Bishop Andrew Dietsche, Sermon at the Mass of Collegiality in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Tuesday, April 16, 2019
3.Saint Gregory Nazianzen - Orations for Easter (45)
4.Michael Ramsey – ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ p. 35