17 For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;*
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
24 Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; •
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, •
‘His mercy endures for ever.’
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, •
and he has become my salvation.
15 Joyful shouts of salvation •
sound from the tents of the righteous:
16 ‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds;
the right hand of the Lord raises up; •
the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
17 I shall not die, but live •
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, •
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, •
that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; •
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me •
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected •
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, •
and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; •
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no
partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right
is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel,
preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread
throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power;
how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the
devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in
Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all
the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and
drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to
the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of
the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone
who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene
came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom
Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other
disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together,
but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent
down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not
go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He
saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’
head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and
he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture,
that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to
look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the
body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They
have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When
she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she
did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you
weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she
said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have
laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned
and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said
to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and
your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced
to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had
said these things to her.
Sermon for Easter Sunday
I have to pose a riddle today – “What is sticky and brown?” “A stick.”
This is a really old joke, but it is still a good riddle. This highlights
something that is part of the Easter story, the moment when Mary knows
… That moment of realisation can be in any part of our lives, at any time,
in any place – and we have no control over those times and places. – So,
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’”
That is the moment Mary understood everything. This moment of recognition
is something we all know, isn’t it?
I thnk we need to look at riddles and puzzles a little bit more. Do you
understand mathematical puzzles? Or are you like me? – I never can solve
any puzzle, I have to struggle to even see the problem clearly. To my consternation
there are some who are able to look at a problem and see the solution,
but most of us wait for the maths teacher to take us through what we consider
a riddle and explain the solution to us, don’t we?
When the master talks about what we could not possibly figure out, the
light bulb goes off in our head. Don’t we say, “Of course! It is so simple,
why couldn’t I see that!” Whenever we hear, or get, the solution, we are
so stunned at how obvious the answer is. Everything is like that when we
know, isn’t it? When we get better on a musical instrument, that passage
that we thought was absolutely impossible, becomes so easy when explained
and practised. Or that strange, new hymn – all of a sudden it becomes familiar
and our own. We can sing with gusto because we enjoy the melody and the
words mean so much.
Not just the little problems of trigonometry or calculus or the difficulty
of music, but there are greater events in our lives when we learn something
all of a sudden which clarifies everything. The mystery of the empty tomb,
the strangers in marvellous white garments, these all made sense when the
scales fell away from Mary’s eyes, when she was addressed. When she heard
her name, she knew.
That is an extraordinary moment in Mary’s life, in the life of the Church,
even in our own lives, as we read the story and relive it here and now.
– That Jesus in speaking to Mary also addresses each one of us individually.
We now see clearly.
We now have the chance now to say “My Lord and my God” to Jesus, just as
the doubting disciple did. We are all the characters in the bible at some
time or another throughout our lives. We all come to a moment when realisation
strikes us down from the heights of our pride and we understand in humility.
This can happen in so many ways and in so many places. There are times
in our own lives that confirm the truth of this, aren’t there? We have
to accept that the proverbial feather is floating out there waiting to
knock us over, some where, some time. — There is that flash of insight
for all of us. That lightbulb going off in our mind’s eye can happen with
the slightest of things. For instance I was walking the other day and thought
I saw a new building, but when I went along further, I realised that the
building had always been there, but I had never taken it in from that particular
angle. Little things all through our lives bring on enlightenment, don’t
they? They can change the way we see everything.
What about the extraordinary events that do this as well? In our lives
there are profound moments. When we experience something in a new way,
our lives are converted to the extent that the realisation figures in the
whole of our lives. My sight of that building does not do that, but I now
look at that building with a fresh eye, and I can reckon that lots of other
things might just change as well.
I suppose the most profound experience of insight is the moment when we
realise that we love someone – a parent, a child, a partner, a friend.
All of a sudden, we realise we love that other person. That fact cannot
be explained or dissected, it is what the philosopher calls “a given” –
something which no one can argue about. The given is that I love that other
person. No more, no less, no argument. That I now see that I love provides
me with an ultimate given.
We all have read lots of books, heard stories and seen films about the
pickles people get into when they love one another. My favourite romantic
story is that of Fitzroy D’Arcy and Elizabeth Bennet, how they both say
that all of a sudden they realised everything. Doesn’t D’Arcy say “I don’t
know the hour or the place, but I realised that it was true …” Doesn’t
Lizzy say that she wanted to be so clever by actively disliking a man who
was actually so worthy of love, and then she realised that reality? Both
characters have their lives turned upside down, but they begin to live
a life of extraordinary completeness and generosity together. Pride and
Prejudice describes the whole of their relationship before they are enlightened
about themselves, about “the given” in their lives. Afterwards, this love
transforms the whole of their lives. Don’t we also know the power of love?
That “given” into our lives, that “given” which makes us love other people
as well as the object of our deepest affection.
We all know how in a moment, in the blink of an eye, all can be changed.
Mary hears and sees in that moment, and so do we. We hear our names and
we see the teacher of our hearts, the Lord of the world’s salvation. In
that moment life becomes something in which to be delighted. As when we
love, the world is full of interest and delight. Everyone becomes an object
of affection. Everything becomes interesting. Nothing is to be neglected
– every thing and every one is to be cherished because we now see and call
out to the author of our purpose in life.
Today we should realise how our lives have been transformed by a loving
God. When we heard the Lord’s voice summoning us to be here and now, to
love God as well as to love our neighbour as ourselves – shouldn’t we reply
Let us name the moment when we believed in that love, when we realised
the reality of that given in our lives. The life of faith is that moment
when we, like Mary, heard the voice speak our names. We see clearly now.
So shouldn’t we be like Mary, expressing the whole of our selves in our