Sermon preached at Mattins on Easter Day (1 April 2018) by the Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor

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Sermon preached at Mattins on Easter Day (1 April 2018) by the Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor

Canon Tricia calls us to share in "the disarming disarray of resurrection", and to recognise that "resurrection in our lives as well as in the world is likely to be wild and messy".


The one who had been enclosed in the sheltering womb of Mary, now laid to rest in the enclosing darkness of earth and stone.

But as the Spirit had once hovered over the void and the darkness, so too something was afoot.

As, at the Divine Word, the chaos had fled before the light of creation, so now the Divine Word leapt forth, scattering the darkness and wretchedness of the grave.

The death of someone we have loved dearly, the ending of a relationship or of a work career, all deaths can profoundly disturb our sense of being held together, of there being a straightforward road which we have mapped out. Afterwards, life can find a new, even joyous equilibrium, but it is always different.

Birth too disarms us, even the most well organised of parents-to-be can be surprised by the changes which accompany a new arrival. From the waking and listening for the steady sound of breathing, to the number of bags which make even the simplest outing an epic undertaking; nothing will ever be the same.
At a human level birth and death touch the very core of us and can throw us into powerful, joyful, sorrowful disarray. They are messy, disarming, capable of interrupting well-made plans and disrupting our sense of control.

The birth and the death of Jesus too interrupt the flow of human time, God with, interrupting our ways of being towards self, others and God, confounding our treatment of our enemies and our understanding of leadership and of service.

Why then should his resurrection cause any less disarray? Not simply a satisfying resolution, a happy ending to a difficult, emotional week, but a cosmic turning of the tables.

Not neat, not tidy, but the death of something and the birth of something messy, powerful and creative. Why else would you choose to have women as the first witnesses, if the old order was not falling away?

Ancient icons and the paintings of English artist Stanley Spencer depict well this newness, with their untidy resurrection morning depictions of people being pushed and pulled and scrambling out of tombs, be they near-eastern or those of Cookham churchyard.

When we talk, of say resurrecting an idea or a project, what we often mean is recapturing what was rather than what could be. But the God of resurrection takes the past and makes of it a new creation – life as different from what was, as a butterfly’s is from its life as a caterpillar.

Gorgeous as bunnies, lambs, chicks and eggs are as images of fresh new life, they are mere pastel hints of the beyond- the- colour-wheel startling newness of resurrection.  

Little wonder that those caught up in the events of the first Easter Day were described by the Gospel writers as being ‘amazed’, ‘terrified’, and ‘joyful’. 
Little wonder that, so I’m told, some Christians in Tanzania dance from the close of the Vigil on Holy Saturday up to dawn on Easter Day. Tiny humanity joining in with the foot-stomping joy of creation, described in the Exaltet, jewel of the Vigil liturgy, as a voice sings into the darkness before the dawn: 

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
O Universe, dance around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!

This day we are invited to share in the disarming disarray of resurrection; recognising that resurrection in our lives as well as in the world is likely to be wild and messy, an overturning of the old order.

Come Tuesday will we assume that it’s business as usual, only our waistlines a little stouter from chocolate indulgence? We could try clinging to the old deception of being in control, of having everything planned, being people of our own making, carrying on digging our own graves.

Or we can join the dancing band of those who’ve already relinquished any appearance of control, those who frankly have nothing to lose… who have come to know that resurrection means life as a new creation, as those who no longer live for themselves but for Him who was raised. Those who on this All Fools day will embrace the foolish calling to be His ambassadors, and reconcilers, through whom the wild joy of God is known.

On behalf of all of us at St Paul’s may I wish you a very Happy Easter and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.