The events in Belgium cast a long shadow over this Easter day. It seems to go against everything that this day stands for: joy, peace, accord. The bright Easter day when the stone of the tomb is rolled away and light penetrated its darkest corners, now has a scudding black cloud obliterating the rays reaching us. We think of those people who lost their lives, we think of their families who grieve them, who saw them go to work or school or college that day and did not return, we think of the cloud of fear that descends on a nation and we think of those men who planned and perpetrated such work, the desperation and darkness of their thoughts and actions.
It is difficult for us to make sense of it all. But in Easter terms it seems as if we have returned to the tomb. That dark tomb that is sealed and secured and which light cannot penetrate. Instead of the tomb being empty, the stone being rolled away it seems firmly locked and nothing has happened. That Easter never happened. That Jesus remained in the tomb. That nothing has changed. People’s actions are the same. The war goes on in people’s hearts that victory has not been won. That instead of being a world redeemed it looks like a world that is the same, that has not changed, that cannot change. That men and women are just as divided, can just do the same things that they ever did.
We have come to this Church to celebrate Easter day, but the events of these days challenge any complacency that is within us. This is a redeemed world but that work goes on. This is a healed world but the work goes on. This is a forgiven world but the work of forgiveness goes on. This is a world set free but we are shown that sometimes people like the prisons that they create. Our Lord says that although the light has come into the world men have shown that they prefer the darkness.
It is our job as Christians to present through Easter a message of hope and healing and forgiveness and a world redeemed by the grace of God. It is a moment that cannot be changed or turned back from or turned off. The world has been redeemed, the world is forgiven, the world is healed, God cannot and will not take that back. Our message is not to wreak havoc, to rain down more bombs, to lock up people and fill our jails with people we are afraid of. Our job is to give a message of hope – the world has been renewed and healed. The tomb is empty, light floods its corners, the body of Jesus is no longer there because he is risen from the dead.
I often think it would be great if we could turn this church inside out. Instead of coming into this building and filling its chairs and spaces, the reality should be different, the building should be turned inside out and what is celebrated here should flood out of its windows, doors, spaces, a message of hope of profound hope. That everything has changed, that the world has changed, that people have changed, that the healing of the world is taking place as it moves forward.
How different this message that we are celebrating here is from what we hear around about us. Men plan revenge. People are in locked rooms planning further atrocities. Bombs and atrocities which create the present situation in far away lands goes on. That is not a message of hope, but it is more of the same misery, distrust, anger and violence.
Today, now, this day, is a good to celebrate Easter day. More than ever in a gloomy world Easter day is needed to remind us that we are more, much more than the bombs and the warfare and violence. We are created for good not evil. We are redeemed rather than lost. We are created for peace rather than conflict. We have an even greater need to hear the Easter message that Christ has risen, that the tomb is empty, that darkness cannot, can never triumph. That God is always stronger than anything. That mercy is always stringer than violence. More than ever we are needing to know that God is in the world saving us from ourselves, left to ourselves it is clear we cannot do it for ourselves.
The silence of the tomb is not so because it is closed, shut up, locked and bolted. It is silent because it is empty and the body of Jesus is no longer there. Its darkest corners are lit by the bright Easter day. The sadness of the women at the tomb gives way to the bright dawning light in their minds, he is not there because he has risen, he is not there because he has come out of the tomb, he is not there because he has come to bring a new life starting from him. Easter is about living with an unshakeable hope, with a new outlook on life, with an optimism that steps out and believes in a new and redeemed world. The tomb is empty, the stone is rolled away, where a body once lay there is nothing, where darkness consumed that space light now floods in, he is risen, he is not there why look among the dead for someone who is alive.