Easter homily from Archbishop of York

Dr John Sentamu (Picture: Lars Karlsson)

Dr John Sentamu (Picture: Lars Karlsson)

Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu gave the following homily at York Minster this morning.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." (Luke 24:5b)

At early dawn on the first day of the week, the women came to the tomb with the spices and aromatic oils they had prepared to render the last loving service for their friend and Master.

But their fixed assumptions are challenged and questioned: 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, isn't here, but has risen as he told you he would'.  In all four Gospels, whatever other differences there may be, the basic fact of the empty tomb never varies.  The Gospels don't explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels.  Belief in the resurrection isn't an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.

Christ's resurrection is an event of cosmic significance, the first-fruits of the new creation. (1 Cor 15:20). Isaiah 65 also speaks of the Renewal of Creation in which God's people will be restored to a right relationship with him, and the whole created order will be renewed.  There will be unprecedented length and quality of life and fruitfulness of crops. Conflict between animal species will cease, and there will be peace in the Holy City.

The seed for this renewal of creation is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in Acts 10 we also see the community of God's people opening up to accept Gentiles through of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and their baptism in the name of Jesus Christ 'who is not among the dead but is risen'.

Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth has the following implications:

1.      It carries a pledge of the future resurrection of believers, for 'though in Adam all die,
in Christ all shall be made alive'  (1 Corinthians 15:22).
2.      Jesus isn't a memory, but a living presence - even the dearest memory fades.
3.      Jesus isn't a figure in a book but a living person to be met.
4.      To be a Christian isn't about knowing about Jesus, but one of knowing Jesus and trusting him implicitly.
5.      There is an endless quality of life offered by Jesus Christ. He isn't simply a model for life; he is a living presence to help us to live.

6.       Christ did for us that which we couldn't do for ourselves: He died 'with us', 'for us', and 'instead of us'. And his Resurrection cut us loose from the chains of death and made it possible for us to be given new life in a new community for all, where God's will is being done.

St John Christostom in his Easter Message 1,630 years ago said, "Those who were formerly living in the shame of sin are now living in confidence and justice.

They are not only free, but saints;

Not only saints, but men and women;

Not only men and women, but sons and daughters;

Not only sons and daughters, but heirs;

Not only heirs, but brothers and sisters of Christ;

Not only brothers and sisters of Christ, but his co-heirs;

Not only his co-heirs, but his members;

Not only his members, but temples;

Not only temples, but instruments of the Holy Spirit."

The reality and effects of the Resurrection miracle are seen in the living community which grew from his rising from the dead. A community whose life continued and continues to grow, because of the eternal life from which it began.

What we need is not more doctrines and arguments about dogma, but to live our lives in that free and transformed community, drawing others into the light of the reality that Jesus who died, is risen and is alive with us. Then we will not get the kind of statistics among our children which I read recently, which showed that 53% were unaware of the
religious significance of Easter and indeed 30% thought it was to celebrate the birthday of the Easter Bunny.

It is deeply sad that millions of children don't know the great news of the true meaning of Easter.  And there are many people in our society today, young and old alike, who are searching for meaning and a realistic spirituality that will bring them inner peace, as well as a fresh way of relating to the world and particularly to God.

I meet a lot of people who want to stop the world and get off. Some are filled with despair for our troubled world and, sadly, all they see around them is the hypocrisy of competitive, well-ordered society where materialism and signs of wealth have become all-important. A promised land paved with gold and silver has sadly turned into promissory notes.

And Mammon having being given a heavy pasting as the gambling casinos around our banks collapsed, people are hungry for liberation from the drudgery of life and all that enslaves the human spirit.

And sadly, the Church of Jesus Christ, with its message of new life, forgiveness, reconciliation and hope, has veiled this good news with morality, dogmatic statements, interminable debates and services, when what we should have been doing is offering people God's invitation to come and become friends with God and with each other in Jesus Christ.

We, as the Church, Christ's brothers and sisters, members of his body, instruments of the Holy Spirit, must live lives which make Christ visible in our communities, by loving God and our neighbour, as well as loving ourselves.  Let us do it. Let us do it now.



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