Easter Sunday Year A

“Christ is Risen!” … “Christ is Risen Indeed!”
But what if he weren’t risen? Or what if he were risen from the dead and we never got to know about it? You see so much hangs on the events we hear about this morning. What if Mary Magdalene hadn’t been so grief- stricken, or hadn’t been quite so brave, or hadn’t been able to make her way through the sleeping city to the garden on the hill? If she’d been quieter in her mourning, quicker to get over her loss, if she’d been just a little more cautious, or a touch less desperate, then we might never have known of the Resurrection. If she hadn’t been drawn to that place of death we might never have known life.
Easter isn’t just another event on the calendar—it’s also an experience, an experience of new life, found in the place you might least expect it, life in the middle of death. This homily is for all of you who have reached Easter in the calendar but not quite got there yet in your heart. The rest of you can just enjoy your Easter graces for a moment or two while the rest of us try to catch up. I hope you don’t mind…
The events of Holy Week are a challenge to us. Every year we dare to take part in them and every year we walk with a doomed man on a terrible journey that brings us all to tears. Mary Magdalene, walked that road with Jesus before us. So did Mary his mother, Peter and John his followers, and dozens of others, hangers-on, seekers, disciples. They walked it in utter confusion and increasing panic as all they had hoped for was dashed to pieces. Whoever Jesus was to each of them—son, friend, teacher, beloved, saviour—whoever he was, was dead and buried. For all of them all was lost. All hope gone. All light put out.
So Thank God we enter the story and walk with Jesus knowing always what Mary and Peter and John couldn’t know: that death was not going to be the last word, that Jesus would be raised up to new life. The catch for us is that because we have skipped ahead to the end of the book and know how it will all turn out we run the risk of knowing about resurrection without ever experiencing it for ourselves.
If Mary hadn’t been out of her mind with grief she may never have gone to the tomb and may never have found it empty. If she hadn’t revisited the place of death she might never have found him alive. And we might not know. And she might still be grieving a dead hope. And so might we.
The promise of Easter, the grace of it, doesn’t come automatically. There is joy to be had and new life and renewed purpose. But they don’t come to us just because Easter Sunday is here, just because the paschal candle is lit, just because we are singing joyful songs. The Easter gifts with our names on them can only be received if we go to the place where God is handing them out. And that’s the place of our need. The place where our hope is running out and our weakness threatens to overwhelm us. Not nice places to go. We spend most of our lives on the run away from them. But we have to take the risk, alongside Jesus, of feeling the places where death seems to have a hold. We need to visit our own tombs, and find them empty, before life can break out in us.
So have you experienced Easter for yourself yet? Has the life broken out in you? If it has—wonderful! If not then we have weeks of Easter still to come, and the promise still there, and maybe you want to stop running and feel your way to your own particular tomb. Maybe you’ll find it empty. You will never know until you try. And maybe, while you weep, someone you only half recognise will come and call your name and give you back your life.