The metal detector gave a beep, John started digging and found something glistening. Was it gold? So he filled up the hole and went home for his tea. Improbable. Of course. He would have continued digging looking for more treasure and would have taken the the gold ring back home and checked with the internet to see what he had found, contacted the farmer to make things legal, phoned up the historic treasures office, contacted the local coroner to submit the claim and no doubt went down to the pub to celebrate.
The disciples rushed to the tomb, found it empty and returned home. Improbable. Yes. But that’s what our gospel records.
Perplexing at least. Almost as baffling as those two men in the gospel of Luke who having heard that Jesus was risen from the dead left Jerusalem where it was all happening and were on their way back to Emmaus.
You know it has taken me almost 70 years to recognise the significance of this detail in the gospels. You see we are never too old to learn!
When you stand back this seems to be strange behaviour to be sure . This great news and they didn’t seem to react.You have to wonder what the disciples talked about when they got home.
I suspect the conversation could have gone something like this;
Wasn’t it exciting; he really was somebody. Do you remember how he cleansed the temple; that stirred up the chief priest. There were all those miracles; raised Lazarus who was as dead as a dodo. His teachings were so clear and really gave you something to chew on.
Just thinking about it makes you feel like he is still among us; why if we just think hard enough about it he could still be here among us.
I say that we are tempted to think this is the way the conversation went because they couldn’t comprehend what a momentous act had taken place.
And are we not like them trying to ignore the fact that what happened on that eventful day means that the world, our world, has been turned upside down.
We would like to celebrate Jesus resurrection in the confines of our worship and go on living as though nothing really happened to change our lives.
You have to ask the question how could people as unimaginative as that could ever come up with something like the resurrection.
Our advantage over those first disciples is that we have already heard the message proclaimed and know the ending: he has been raised; he is not here, and so our expectations should be high. We may be confident that retracing our steps along which countless disciples have travelled for 2000 years will lead us to joy and fulfillment when we see the place where they laid him.
But it asks the question what expectations do we have at this Easter time. Do we come on this Easter Sunday out of duty, do we come because it’s a tradition or are we still lingering around Calvary with the same expectations as Jesus disciples and followers; well isn’t that terrible he was a great man and we expected so much of him and it has all ended in disaster.
We can do the same and wallow in our feelings of guilt and despair; we all know we have failed Christ and we do it every day; all of us have deep shadows that we keep to ourselves and occasionally admit to God. Good Friday does a good turn and enables us to wallow in our guilt and to feel to sorry for ourselves, like Judas and Peter.
The problem is that resurrection, our resurrection sometimes never happens.
What expectations do we have on this day ? Great expectations.
Dickens knew all about tragedy and the human heart when he wrote his great classic in 1860. He knew how impossible it was for someone like Pip to get out of his station and become a gentleman; yet he had great expectations and tenacity. He clung onto his dream and allowed nothing; his station, the wicked Miss Haversham, Estella’s cold indifference, misfortune: he allowed nothing to break his great expectation of winning and reigniting Estella’s cold heart. The last scenes, from John Mills film – not the book -I believe are a lesson to us all with Estella broken into a morose apathy accepting her doomed fate in the darkness of Miss Haversham’s dark forbidding room surrounded by dust, decay and darkness; Pip transforms the scene by throwing open the curtains and shutters to let in the light and expose the room and Estella to the hideous nature of the situation to give her release and freedom.
Easter day brings freedom from the blackness of our sin and brings light to our future. That is the message of chrisitianity on this easter day.
So what are your expectations?
What can you expect over the next year; what will your prayers to God be for yourself. Will you expect that by next Easter you will have overcome some obsession or habit that has been worrying you; some conversation that has caused pain, a tendency to say or do something that deep down you know is wrong, a patching up of a relationship. Do you expect to have a deeper prayer life, a more open conversation with God. Do you expect a greater clarity of what god is calling you to.
What are your expectations for the church, this church?
We often get a distorted picture of a dying church from our perspective in europe. In reality the church is shifting its centre away from the western world; in 2005 there were 4 times as many christians outside the western world as in it. In 1900 there were about 10 million christians in Africa today there are over 350 million. By the middle of the century a typical christian will be a Nigerian living in a village or a Brazilian in a shanty town. People whose life style would not be too different from the original peasant class original christians of first century christendom before the church became associated with opulance and splendour.
St Michael’s in the gard, along with many other small congregations in france faces many challenges; members returning to the Uk, the effect of Brexit on those living here and the uncertainty holding back those who would deep down wish to come, and the inability to attact priests to fill vacancies.
These difficulties however can be seen as opportunities. A time to work together, to commit oneself to the work of God, to do things differently. But above all by coming sunday by sunday on the day when all christians celebrate the resurrection and to remember that the transformation that took place on that first easter sunday was not just an event in the past but a source of power to transform the present.
What are your expectations for God’s world?
A reduction in poverty; the make poverty history campaign has achieved great things as a result of the expectations and action of Christians in this country and world wide; Do you expect an eradication of killer diseases like malaria which has known methods of elimination, For a cessation to the brutal wars throughout the globe; for greater action to prevent our environment being destroyed.
Easter is a time to invite the risen Christ into our lives, our churches and our world to pray for his guidance to direct us in our actions. May our expectations be great and our resolution be firm.