Sermon: “I shall rise again!”.
In 2019, Ken and I visited the St Paul’s Cathedral London, UK. We attended a worship service and took Holy Communion. Here is a photo before I entered the Cathedral. The original old Cathedral was burnt down by a Great Fire. The current St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren.
The story goes that after the old remains were cleared away Sir Christopher Wren asked a workman to bring a stone to mark the center of the new building. By pure chance, the workman handed Sir Wren part of a gravestone from the old cathedral. On the stone was the inscription RESURGAM, a Latin word which some of you will recognize. It means, “I shall rise again.” (Google Wikipedia).
Sir Christopher Wren was so moved that the words “I shall rise again” should appear on that stone strictly by chance. He had the word RESURGAM engraved on the exterior of the new cathedral, where it can be seen today above the great south door.
Jesus tried to tell his disciples several times before his death on the cross at Calvary: “I shall rise again.” We love to celebrate Easter with all of the different cultural traditions. It is indeed a joyful and exciting time to gather with family and friends, around food, music, worship and traditions. We find ourselves sharing stories, gifts of eggs, chocolate; flowers and laughter fill the air. Easter brings rebirth and new possibilities.
But one wonders how it was for the disciples on the first Easter morning. It seems like the disciples were unprepared to see Jesus back from the grave. The events of the few days before Easter morning filled their hearts and souls with gloom and despair. They witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross at Calvary; his body was taken away and laid in the tomb. It made them sad and filled their hearts with the sound of weeping.
Their spirit was broken with grief, some wandered off to the seashore, confused, uncertain and fearful of their future. The small band of disciples felt estranged and doubt crowded their minds. One can imagine why each one went their separate ways. The week leading up to resurrection day left them with feelings of hopelessness.
They were still in shock after the women went to the tomb and found it empty. I think we will all run away like the women did; either with fear that the stone was rolled away or in doubt of what the eyes behold. An empty tomb! How could they not remember Jesus said: that after three days, “I shall rise again.” RESURGAM.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
I shall rise again! Jesus said these words; then, today and always. It is the mystery of the Easter story.
A story is told of a mission group who showed a video clip about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It was the first time that this audience heard the Easter story. Little children sat in front and the adults in the aisles. As the story of Jesus unfolded and Jesus’ broken body was laid in the tomb, the sound of weeping was heard. Then one child suddenly spoke up: “Don’t be afraid,” people. “He gets up again! I saw it before.”
Ponder hearing the Easter story for the first time or watching through the power of motion technology and then to witness Christ rise again. Surprise! He who was dead is now alive! Christ lives in your heart, among the people in our communities, nature and in everyone who accepts the risen Christ. Alleluia!
Regardless of how many times we heard this Easter story; we come wanting to hear something new. Parents and grand-parents know very well that a little child can change our perspective on many things on life’s journey. A family was driving with their five-year-old child past a local cemetery. The child noticed a large pile of dirt beside a newly excavated grave, the child pointed and said: “Look, Mom/Dad, one dead person got out!”
The grown men and women found the tomb empty. “I shall rise again” is a daily story that makes us pause and think of God’s big story of Easter. The child’s perspective can shape our perspective too. Every time we pass a cemetery we are reminded: the One who first got out of the grave is Jesus.
Christ is alive! Christ has conquered death and the grave cannot hold us down. This is the mystery of faith in Christ revealed to the world through life, death and life in heaven.
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles . . .”
Have you ever wondered if the women were worried about the cost of the spices on Easter morning? No! They witnessed the most powerful life transforming event in history, and were determined to share the good news. Jesus said: “I shall rise again.” Resurgam!
These past two years we have been challenged with uncertainties, death, financial loss, grief and violence. The Easter story offers hope amidst life’s stories. The power of death, loss and grief can destroy a person. It can make us lose all hope. Jesus words to you: “I shall rise again” offers endless hope and healing, compassion and unconditional love. It is for us to accept - Jesus is alive and then tell someone.
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians wrote: Christ has conquered the final enemy—death. Easter is the celebration of that victory. Easter belongs to the community of faith and it is still a uniquely Christian celebration. It is a mystery! But we can make a difference through the love of Jesus by sharing that love with our neighbours.
The real presence of Christ lives in our hearts as we share in the body of Christ. Jesus shared this tradition with his followers and we do so through the mystery of the Easter story. A time of rebirth and new life because Jesus lives so shall you.
And all God’s people say Resurgam! “I shall rise again.” Amen.