He is risen; He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

It was lovely to relax over the weekend with my beloved knowing that I had an extra day at home on the Monday.  On Saturday I had a treat of a facial, an eyelash tint and a mini-manicure, which I found really relaxing, except when I was told to keep my eyes shut; funnily enough I usually have no trouble closing my eyes and dozing when I have a facial, but because I was told to close my eyes I kept wanting to open them!!  Fortunately it worked and my face felt renewed. I do not really wear makeup except when my lovely daughter Cathy got married and her friend Kristina did an amazing job of making me up, so it made that day special.  Otherwise I use Diprobase to moisturise and that keeps my mild eczema at bay.

I love Easter Sunday when we celebrate the most important day of our Christian Faith as we remember Jesus’ resurrection 2000 years ago and most importantly that he is alive today and everyday for us, helping us and showing us how much God loves each of us unconditionally and longs for everyone to come to know him; he loves not despite who we are but because of who we are!  I no longer feel as much that God is a big angry God ready to tell me off for my many lapses and failings but He loves me as I am and longs for me to be the best person I can be, but recognises my frailty and reassures me that he still loves me and always will.  As someone once said, ‘He loves me just as I am but too much to leave me that way!’

I arrived at church and remembered that I had left the flowers at home, which I had bought specially to adorn our Easter cross to symbolise new life!  However Molly, bless her, who I had brought to church had some spare to give me!  The service led by our minister Trevor Dixon and our deacon David Hunt began with the Easter Day proclamation at the end of the Lenten Candle Liturgy. Again we sang the whole of the song, ‘Tree of life’ before we heard the Easter Day Liturgy. ‘The Light which the world tried to extinguish cannot be put out.’  All the candles are relit to proclaim the transforming power of God.  We give thanks that God’s transforming love has been, is now, and ever will be at work within us.  Today we celebrate new life, new joy, new possibilities. Christ is alive and living among us!  Individual members of our chapel relit the candles, as we acknowledged that there is still pain and suffering in the world, but we place our trust in God and in the way shown by Jesus Christ.  We remember that in the place of what appears overwhelming odds, God is at work in us and in the world, working for justice and peace, compassion and love, and life abundant.  Christ is risen; Christ is risen in us, for wherever we gather in his name he is there.  Trevor then said, ‘The Lord is risen;’ and we replied; ‘He is risen indeed; Alleluia!’  That refrain was repeated at intervals throughout our worship and if we did not respond joyfully enough the refrain was repeated until our enthusiasm matched the wonderful words!

We sang, ‘Now the green blade rises.’  David Hunt led the prayers from the Methodist Worship Book as we prepared later to receive communion.  The first reading was from Acts 10v34 onwards when Peter had understood that God had no partiality, but all who believed were accepted by him. Then Colossians 3v1-4 was also read before we sang, ‘The day of resurrection.’ The gospel was from John 20v1-18.

David in his sermon reminded us that today we live in the light of that first Easter Day.  We can easily lose sight of what that day meant to those first disciples and their struggles to understand what it all meant; joy and fear; seeing and not seeing; believing and lack of belief; hope and despair; darkness and light. David told of how results of battles used to be sent by semaphore and after the Battle of Waterloo it was a cloudy and misty day and the watchman looking at the message saw initially ‘Wellington defeated’ and thought the battle had been lost but only later saw the complete message when the fog cleared, ‘Wellington defeated the French!’

In the same way confusion and misunderstanding abound at the empty tomb.  However such mixed reports give authenticity to them; they were muddled, did not make sense and did not add up!  How can such an amazing truth be understood?  At Easter God burst into the world of space and time, the world of real history, real people and real life and our minds are too small to understand. God cannot be fitted into a box of our own choosing!  We cannot explain it but we can embrace it and believe it.  Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Jesus’ resurrection is a sign that we live as part of God’s new Kingdom where God’s love is involved in our lives and time. It was said that one of the soldiers who was worried about the missing body at the tomb they were guarding said reassuringly that anyway no one would remember it a 100 years from then!!  However 2000 years on God’s people still remember.

Did the resurrection actually happen?  We were not told he survived death or that there was no empty tomb, but we are told that God did something amazing.  We can understand some of the ultimate energy behind all things, God is here now and will be in the future as he was in the past; God is!  How can we understand what we have not seen?  Mary saw Jesus but wanted to keep hold of him. It is difficult for us to let go of the familiar and allow what has been to be open to change.  If Mary had not let go of Jesus the resurrection would not have been shared. Jesus is risen; he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

The old order was left behind on the cross; we are not of the past but live in the here and now in the Kingdom of God.  We can look forward to the future God has for us.  In the refurbishment work which is being undertaken we are able to stop clinging to the past and let go and allow new life to happen. Easter is not a message of defeat and endings but of new life and beginnings. Let us go forward in faith and confidence in the one we love remembering that Jesus Christ is alive and living with us today.  On that first Easter Day there were many tentative steps in understanding and much confusion as they came to understand the new mission with the risen Lord.  May we too embrace and believe it; new life, a gift to us, lives in our hearts, our homes, and our communities today. Because he is risen we have nothing to doubt or fear.

We sang, ‘Thine be the glory risen conquering Son, endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.’ The intercessions were led using our worship book before we all shared the peace and sang, ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus,’ and Trevor led us in the communion service. As we are meeting in our hall whilst the refurbishment continues communion was distributed to us where we were sitting and we all had our bread at the same time; the wine we drank individually in recognition that Christ’s blood was shed for us.  Worship which for me was very meaningful and joyful concluded as we sang, ‘Christ is alive, let Christians sing.’

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