Sermon preached on Easter Day (5 April 2015) by the Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor

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Sermon preached on Easter Day (5 April 2015) by the Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor

The Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas looks at the sorrow of Jesus' followers on this day of celebration for Christians and says that however bright the light of Easter shines within us, it is enough.


To be honest I’m a little uneasy. After all this is Easter Day – the day of celebration for Christian people all around the world. The day we celebrate life, hope!

We’ve been celebrating all day –we actually started last night as the new Paschal candle was carried through a darkened Cathedral and we proclaimed that the light of Christ was here! And we rejoiced! At our early dawn service and through all our services on this most holy of days we’ve rejoiced!                     

So - it seems just a little out of step with this mood of joy to come to this point on Easter day and to find two of Jesus’ followers turning their backs, dejectedly walking away from Jerusalem. Their faith and hope at an all-time low.
 
So, how could this day of rejoicing be one of such sorrow for them?
 
As they tell the stranger, who comes alongside, in 3 of the most heart-breaking of all words; ‘We had hoped’. Had hoped.  Past-tense. It’s over. It’s history.
 
‘We had hoped’, they say, ‘that this Jesus would be the one to change everything. But now he is dead and our hopes are buried with him’.
 
Well, how’s that for a resurrection story?
 
It may however be a familiar one for some of us:
 
We had hoped…that the person we entrusted with our affections would treat them as precious. We had hoped that the doctor would find some cure. We had hoped that the time and money we put into getting a degree would secure us the job we’ve always wanted. We had hoped that our daughter would have come back safely from the Garissa University campus. We had hoped that they would just stop fighting.
 
The fading of hope is a terrifying thing to experience. Life, possibilities, people, even we ourselves, disappoint us.
 
So… how are we doing with this as a joyful Easter day sermon? Are we rejoicing yet?!
 
‘We had hoped’ they say. Past tense. Yet somehow these disciples had been wise enough in their disappointment to reach out to each other – to walk together. Now they scrape together enough resilience to take the first, almost indignant steps, towards hope – sharing their story with the stranger, they recount their loss, ‘the things’ which had taken place, the accounts of their companions…and… the rumours of angels.
 
The stranger listened and then taking their story (which was of course also His story) he tells of how it fits within the wider, deeper, sadder and more joyful story of God. And not just their personal stories, but the story of their community, their nation…the story of a world desperate for hope and of the God who hears, who weeps and who comes. It was necessary, he says, that the Messiah would walk with humanity in its suffering, would overcome and take up his glory, not by avoiding suffering, but by passing through it.
 
They had heard the stories before - they knew their own scriptures - but there was something in the manner, or the meaning, of this storyteller that caused something to stir within them. So, when they reach their destination, with evening falling and it looks as though he will continue along the road, they invite – the word used suggests something stronger - they compel the stranger to come in.
 
It was late in the day, weariness and dejection hung on them – there was every reason not to stop, and certainly not to invite the stranger in. We don’t know if it was their Near-Eastern sense of hospitality, the generosity of their characters, curiosity enflamed by his words… but they invite this stranger to their table. It was the most significant thing they could do.
 
Significant and yet ordinary. 3 people gathered at a table. Bread taken, blessed, broken and given – actions which hint at the Last Supper and the Communion we share regularly – yet also the actions of every devout Jew at an ordinary meal. The 2 disciples invite the stranger to lay aside his strangeness and become a friend to them -  a com-pan-ion – one who shares bread with them.
 
In this intimate, ordinary, space the guest becomes the host - the one who had been invited now invites. And at that very moment, as they recognise him, he vanishes! But, again in an echo of the Passover meal, it is enough. Enough to set hope alive again.
 
Do you like me want to be able to pin God down? To be able to contain and constrain God? We wish God would stay longer, give us predictable certainty, in place of faith.
 
For those two disciples it was enough. Enough to send them hurrying back to Jerusalem, eager to share the next instalment of the story. Enough to mean that they couldn’t stay where they were but they were back on the road – they simply had to go, to tell, to live the hope that had been given to them.
 
Their resurrection story had begun with hearts that were broken and hopes which were buried. Our resurrection stories too may be a little messier than we might like.
 
If this Easter day we are rejoicing without restraint – then Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
If this Easter day we find ourselves still walking away from Jerusalem, sorrowing and it seems late in the day… 
If hopes seem to be fading – hold on.
If hope seems to be dying – reach out.
If hope seems buried – watch for strangers on the road – and invite Him in.
 
The truth is that Easter faith is born in us in different ways – and that Easter is a season – a full 50 days long. Time then to absorb the rumours of angels and the astounding reality…that hope is dawning…that the tomb is empty… Christ IS risen.
 
For some of us it will seem that the full light of the resurrection shines and our hearts burn within us. For others of us the light is barely strong enough to see by. But - it is enough - for the journey of the resurrection and the road of hope is one that we are invited to walk for the rest of our lives.
 
In a short while, at the end of this service, the Great West Doors of this Cathedral will open for us and we will spill out into this city and into the world. They open only for the most significant occasions – and this is one of them – as like the two disciples of Emmaus we go to live and tell - truthfully…’we had hoped’… … … ’The Lord is Risen’.
 
Let us pray:
Lord we had hoped; hoped that you were our victory.
Hoped that you would remove the pain and the sorrow once and for all.
Then we saw the suffering, we saw the injustice, we saw death and we see it still.
Risen Lord, resurrect our hope, open our eyes to see your victory; then, now and to come
and set our hearts on fire with love for you. Amen.