Romans 6: 3 – 11
Matthew 28: 1 – 10
I’m sure that we all know someone like this. Maybe it’s even yourself. We all know someone who isn’t very good at telling jokes. Sometimes that’s about timing. Maybe their timing is off. Perhaps they don’t have a sense of irony, and take everything too literally. Then again their humour might be too clever, or too dark, or too dry, for you to find funny. Sometimes if the punch line is too obscure, and the joker has to explain things, the joke falls flat, and no one finds it funny, except perhaps the teller. And some jokes, are just really terrible, or even cruel. There is a lot to making a good joke funny, especially if it is one that is retold over and over again. While some jokes never seem to be funny, other are funny no matter how many times they are told.
These last few weeks, I have the feeling that I have been trapped in the middle of a really terrible and cruel joke. This physical distancing, quarantine, self-isolation is wearing really thin. I am so done with it all. I want it to be over. If this pandemic is someone’s idea of a joke, it’s not a very funny one. If COVID-19 is someone’s idea of a joke, it’s a pretty cruel one. Things aren’t funny anymore. They aren’t even fun, and the novelty, or entertainment factor, lost its charm a long time ago.
Romans 6: 3 – 11
Matthew 28:1 – 10
There was a dreadful custom at one time practiced in some Anglo-Catholic circles, including in a certain monastery on the banks of the Charles River. For the last two weeks of Lent, beginning on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, (which used to be called Passion Sunday), and carrying on until Holy Saturday, after each of the Offices, Psalm 51: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses would be mumbled in unison. Our brother, David Allen remembers this going on here when he made his first visit to the community in the late 1950’s. He thinks it came to an end sometime in the mid-1960’s. You can just imagine the effect of a dozen or so men, sitting here in the Choir, mumbling the psalm in unison. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
It’s Easter! Alleluia! Today is the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead: Alleluia.
It was still very early in the morning, Matthew tells us, with just the first streaks of dawn, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. They had been there, in that garden, on Friday Evening. They had witnessed Joseph of Arimathea wrapping their beloved Jesus’ body in a clean linen cloth. They saw him lay the body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. And they watched as he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb. The two women had seen it all, perhaps through tear-stained eyes. Matthew tells us that on that dark Friday the two of them, the two Marys, were sitting there, opposite the tomb. They had seen it all, remembered every detail.
The year was 1922. The place Kiev, in the Soviet Union. There was to be a great anti-religious rally to be addressed by the revered Soviet politician and orator Nikolai Bukharin. Thousands had arrived to listen to his words. He stood up and spoke for over an hour – preaching atheism, pouring scorn on those who believed in God. Finally he sat down, and the chairman asked if there were any questions. There was silence.
But then, a man stood up near the back. He was elderly, with a beard, and dressed in the robes of an Orthodox monk. Slowly he made his way to the front, passing row upon row of people, until he reached the front, and climbed up slowly onto the stage, and turned to the silent, expectant crowd.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
Almost a century ago James Joyce wrote that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” [i] So many people in this world, throughout this last century, would understand those words – “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake” – and we know it is true for multitudes of people in our world even on this Easter morning.