If you haven't already done so, do visit or 'Worship during Lockdown' page, where you will find Archdeacon Anne's Meditation Service for Easter Sunday.
Revd Stephen has written a homily on the theme of 'Emptiness'
Homily Notes for Easter Day
I wonder have you ever felt at a total loss?
Not knowing what to do next?
Sometimes when we are on our own in a strange place perhaps with people we don’t really know we have that feeling. That is a feeling of being on your own and yet surrounded by people. At that point we feel empty, perhaps isolated just on our own!
The focus of Easter morning is on emptiness - the empty tomb and the empty linen cloths that had held Jesus’ body.
The women who brought spices must have been feeling empty too. They were missing Jesus. His death on the cross had left a gaping hole in their lives.
So the story this morning starts with emptiness.
Jesus is gone and there is nothing left but an empty tomb. At that moment Jesus’ followers lives were rather like an empty shell.
An empty egg shell can mean very different things.
Perhaps the chick that was inside the shell may have died when the egg fell out of the nest.
Or perhaps the chick inside the egg may have hatched, stretched its wings and gone off to grow and live!
So the emptiness of an egg shell can mean very different things.
It seems it can mean life or death.
I guess the emptiness of Jesus’ tomb looked at first as if it meant death and loss.
We know the women thought his body had been stolen.
They thought they’d lost their last chance to care for him. To prepare his body for the grave.
But that didn’t last for long because:-
The angels told them that this emptiness was a sign of life. They said:-
“Jesus isn’t here: he has risen!”
The good news of Easter is that this emptiness is a sign of new life. Jesus turned emptiness and death into the fullness of life for us all!
This is the Good News we celebrate today!
Now Jesus knows we aren’t perfect and that at some time we all do bad things, so he gave us forgiveness for all those things we have done and will yet do.
His death took away the negative power of sin and gave us new life.
Most wonderful of all, his death and resurrection mean that instead of empty nothingness after death, we can all enjoy the fullness of eternal life.
And that was bought for us on the cross and in the tomb.
I know sometimes we all feel as though we are alone and as though we are empty. Perhaps more so now than ever.
But the message of Easter is that even though we may physically feel empty Jesus is there with us and he fills the space.
Jesus turns our lives from emptiness to fullness
That’s why we are so happy today.
That’s what we celebrate today.
The fullness of Jesus’ risen life.
Alleluia He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
I serve a risen Saviour
God bless you on this Easter Day
Christ the Lord is Risen Today - join in this great Easter Hymn
An Easter Message of Hope for the people of St Matthew’s
These are scary times; unreal almost. It seems like the world has stopped and we are living in a dream from which we’ll soon wake up and things will quite normal……..but we don’t and things are far from normal! I wonder what it was like for the close followers of Jesus early on that first Easter Sunday, after the horrific events of two days earlier. But first, today’s reading from St John’s Gospel:
The Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
The Events Unfold – a retelling of the Easter story
What happened at dawn that morning in Jerusalem did not produce instant and overwhelming joy for those involved - though that would of course, come later. So imagine, if you can, that you are one of one of Jesus’s closest followers - one of his disciples even – and that you’d been amongst those who went to his tomb very early on that morning, and that you were still around later on during the day. Think about what range of emotions and reactions you might have experienced. The accounts in the four Gospels of the order of events on Easter morning vary, even differing as to who was actually there. I’ve drawn on them all and just tried to bring together the essentials.
After the events of last Friday, you’d have left for the tomb, in sorrow and probably before first light, carrying spices and maybe flowers. You’d have taken an unobtrusive route, using back roads and alleyways to avoid being challenged by Roman military patrols, or more importantly, by Jews out and about early, looking for trouble. On the way, remembering that the tomb had been sealed by a large boulder, and was probably guarded by Roman soldiers, you’d have been asking each other “who will roll the stone away from the entrance?”. You felt the rumblings of an earthquake - the second in three days - but you pressed on, perhaps apprehensively, and when you arrived, you found that strangely, the boulder had been moved away. Had the earthquake done that? Not only that, but Jesus’s body had gone -it just wasn’t there.
You were bewildered, and possibly disorientated. You felt a mixture of shock, even anger, and probably fear. “Who has done this?”, “How dare they invade and violate this sacred and special place?” What must we do? We must go immediately and tell the other disciples what’s happened. You raced back and found Simon Peter and John, telling them “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him”. And you wondered “what’s happening, what’s going on?”
At once you all left, Simon Peter and John running, back to the tomb, John getting there first, but Simon Peter going in first. When you arrived, things were exactly as you’d said. The boulder was rolled away, the body had gone, and just the grave clothes were left there, intact and in their right places. The men left, wondering ………….
But you stayed there, still wondering what’s been going on and what could have happened, feeling very upset, when suddenly two angels appeared on the scene - not an everyday occurrence. Something very strange and significant must have happened and you were a bit frightened. Yet somehow the angels were reassuring. “Why are you crying?” they asked. So you explained, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have laid him”. In Matthew’s account, the angels replied, “do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay”. The angels’ directions were firm and straightforward. Come and see; see that the tomb is empty; what you laid there is gone, a thing of the past, so leave it behind and move on; there is a way forward.
Then, turning round, someone else was standing there, a man, perhaps the gardener or the caretaker. Again you asked, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him”. And then you realised that it’s Jesus himself standing there, saying “do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”. Not expecting this at all, you experienced incredulity, fear and an overwhelming joy. You hurried back to tell the disciples about all this - and in Luke’s account, they just didn’t believe you, they thought you were talking nonsense and they had to go and check.
Later on, in the evening, two things happened. You were with a friend called Clopas, who had been in Jerusalem with you, and you were walking together towards the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. As you were walking and talking together about everything that had happened in the past few days, another man, seemingly unaware of these events, caught up with you and you walked along together. You explained to this stranger your despondency and disappointment about Jesus. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God, but our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and crucified. We had hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel. Yet some of us went to his tomb this morning and his body was gone. We met some angels who told us he was alive”. The stranger then seemed able to explain to you, the reasons for these events. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Later you ate together in Emmaus, and something about the way he broke the bread and gave it to you made you and Clopas realise that this stranger, incredibly, was none other than Jesus himself. And then he was gone.
You abandoned all idea of staying the night in Emmaus - you didn’t even finish your meal. Hot and tired as you were, you and Clopas just got up and walked back at once to Jerusalem, seven miles away, to find the other disciples. You were excited, confused, but you knew you just had to get back and share the news as soon as possible.
When you found the other disciples all together, they didn’t seem too surprised at the news. “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” they said. Then we told them what had happened on the way to Emmaus, and how we had encountered the stranger on the road and later recognised him as Jesus. And then, as we were talking about all this, suddenly Jesus was there again in the midst of us saying, “Peace be with you”. You were all startled and frightened, thinking you were seeing a ghost. But Jesus just said to us, “why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have”. And then he asked “do you have anything to eat? And there and then, right in front of you all, he ate the broiled fish you gave him. What could be more real than that?
The events of that first Easter Sunday, we believe, are the most significant and earth-shattering in all of history. They are at the very heart and meaning of our Christian faith. What a range of emotions are there. There is sorrow, apprehension, shock, anger, disorientation, confusion, incredulity and in the end, joy and hope. And it’s this joy and hope that we share today, on this Easter Sunday, knowing that God is always with us……….even in these scary times. This is our Easter message of hope.
Join in singing the hymn 'Thine be the Glory, Risen Conquering Son" from St Mary's Church, Portsea
The Methodist Church has a special web page for Lent and Easter.
Take a look at the Gift of Easter from the Methodist Church
To find out about our Holy Week and Easter Services go to our Calendar