Death is a liar

BBC Radio Leeds
Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Easter Sunday, 4th April 2021

Holy Trinity Huddersfield church building with the tower illumimated red during the celebrations of being open 200 years
Holy Trinity Huddersfield illuminated.

“Death is a liar,” said Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio Leeds and other local radio stations this morning. Death lies by saying it is not the end, and if we believe that lie we can become selfish. But on that first Easter morning when Jesus was raised—yes was raised, like all the things that weekend it was done to him—and the power of death is defeated.

This has been the second Holy Week under lockdown. On the Thursday my wife took a short time off work to join myself and our daughter, son-in-law and their daughter to go around the interactive Easter trail that Holy Trinity had put starting at the bottom gates of Greenhead Park, Huddersfield and ending in the churchyard. At each stop there was a QR code which linked to the story of the Passion of Jesus. Later that evening I watched the Maundy Thursday reflections from the Ordinary Office. Good Friday saw a live service from Holy Trinity streamed on to Facebook live. We were among those watching on Facebook. As for Holy Saturday, I don’t get Holy Saturday, I don’t even care that people wrongly call it Easter Saturday, it is not that important.

What is an Easter Croissant? Is it simply a croissant eaten at Easter or does it need to be eaten smiley side up? These questions, as well as Easter greetings were in the side chat window of Holy Trinity’s YouTube service before the service started. At least we ate well this morning. Licensed lay minister Bev lead the service and Vicar Mike preached.

Before the reading, Mike asked, What would someone from another culture see if they came here and came to Tesco? They’d see bunnies and eggs, what would they make of that? We make Christmas the main event, but Easter is the main event and is misunderstood and misrepresented.

The reading was John 20:1–18, please read this before continuing with my sermon notes.

Mike continued after the reading: There is a conspiracy around Mary Magdalene, variously described as a prostitute or as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. There is no evidence of this in scripture. Her life is presented in a sexualised way from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar to the novels of Dan Brown. What we do know about Mary is that she was from Magdala on sea of Galilee. Luke chapter 8 says Jesus cast seven demons out of her, her life was transformed by Jesus. She was a person of independent wealth and supported Jesus in his ministry. Mary was a devoted disciples. Mary’s response to Jesus is utter devotion.

At the crucifixion, when disciples had all fled, Mary and other women were still there. Mary followed Joseph of Arimathea and saw where Jesus was buried. After finding the tomb empty she fetches the disciples who see it empty then leave. What had happened to the body? She would not pull herself away, she wants to honour Jesus in the herbs and spices she has brought to give him a decent funeral.

What we see next is Jesus’ compassion. “Why are you crying?” He asks. There is a lot written about why mary did not recognise Jesus, but the answer is probably simple: You don’t expect to see a dead man, and her eyes are full of tears. Many in the past year and a bit across the word have shed millions of Covid tears. If we turn around and see that in the suffering that Jesus is not gone but he is still here and alive. We don’t worship a dead Lord, we are not keeping the spirit of a dead teacher alive.

The resurrection is not tidy, but full of questions and frantic running about. The main witness woman, a Jewish court would not have accepted the testimony of a woman unless there was a man there to corroborate it. Yet the starring role is a woman, untidy in that culture. You wouldn’t make it up.

Jesus sends Mary to tell others that Jesus is alive. A Christian isn’t just someone who can recite a creed. Mary is the first to bear witness, trusted with the most powerful message in history. Mary is the apostle to the apostles.

Stoop down and see the emptyness of the tomb, it means everything to you. Look to Jesus. Look at the evidence.

Now encounter Jesus’ love. Has your back has been turned? Turn around and encounter Jesus. May we express the devotion of Mary to Jesus and tell that Christ is risen. Jesus is alive.

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