Easter Day: a reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 15:04

Easter Day 2022 Year B

Many of you may well be aware of the ‘statement sculpture’ by the Turner Prize winning artist Nathan Coley in the grounds of the Modern2 Gallery.

“There will be no miracles here”

The sculpture in lights on the grey scaffolding poles is a quote from a 17th century French  royal proclamation in the town of Modseine. A town which had supposedly been experiencing rather too many miracles. Atop the Modern1 Gallery entrance there is a second sculpture with the legend:

“Everything will be alright.”

Which was commissioned by the gallery from the Scottish Turner Prize winner Martin Creed. I like both sculptures very much. Not least because they make me smile. I have enjoyed seeing them on a regular basis in ‘Lockdown’ when popping in to the grounds of Modern2 for a coffee from the ‘pop-up’ cafe. If you get the ‘miracle' one on the right eye line with the three towers of our cathedral the irony of it all appeals to my sense of humour.

The two sculptures also for me have a relevance to the events of Easter. Why? You might ask?

Simply because they make us think about what the words mean. Ponder for a moment how those women at the tomb and earlier at the foot of the cross might have felt some 2000 years ago. As Jesus hung dead on the cross, the phrase of there; ‘being no miracles here’ would have resonated loudly with the heartsick feelings of loss, those faithful few, would have felt. How could anything good come from Jesus’ ignoble death on that awful instrument of torture? His body broken and abused, his life force spent and all hopes for a better future dashed upon the rocks of betrayal. No miracles would have seemed possible. As for the second phrase that ‘everything would be all right’ – how stupid and facile that would have seemed. How could his death make things ‘all right’?

We post-resurrection members of the Church know that things were to change but those remaining few friends of Jesus on that first Good Friday could not have believed anything good could have come from his death. It is no wonder that today’s Gospel reading tells us that the women approached the tomb with trepidation and tears. They thought that they were going to perform one final act of love and tenderness towards the man they had hoped and believed in by washing, anointing and shrouding his mortal frame. They had loved him, they had been inspired by him and they wanted to show their respect for him by this one last kindness. It was all they could do for him now that he was dead.

As Good Friday closed, the lifeless body of Jesus had been buried quickly in a tomb. A grave originally prepared for someone else. At his birth Jesus borrowed an animal's manger as a bed and in his death he borrowed another’s final resting place. His immediate burial was meant to be a stop-gap before the dawning of the Sabbath. It had to be fast in order not to contravene the Jewish purity laws. Jesus had broken enough laws in his life and his disciples could not bear for him to break anymore in death.

Today, as on that first Easter morning, with the Sabbath over the women approached the tomb to do what many women have done since time immemorial. They went to clean the body and to make it decent. They went to ‘lay Jesus out’ ready for a proper funeral and internment. They did not expect any miracles to have happened nor did they expect everything to be all right. They would, I suspect, have had images of Jesus both in his life and in his death running through their minds, like a film. Listening again in their heads to his teachings and wise words in hope that they would comfort and inspire them still.

They were brave, those women; Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome because they were risking their own personal safety and reputations to do what they believed was right for the man they had believed in. Women, so more often than men, do this. The men might have been content to leave him in the tomb, dead and gone but not the women. They felt they had a task to perform and perform it they would. One last act of kindness to the human Jesus; regardless of their own security.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was proclaimed a king and was regarded as being almost ‘god like’ in the way his path was strewn with greenery. His feet were too sacred to touch the ground. These same feet were washed with tears and anointed, only to be bruised by torture and death. Jesus’ seemingly once sacred body was soon reduced to nothingness – an object to be beaten and broken - all too human now, not divine. His dead body is then more or less tossed into a tomb, quickly; to get it out of sight before the sun set and rules were broken. For me the love those women showed in their approach to the tomb that morning is overwhelming. Despite what had happened to him, they still loved him and wanted to care for him. The ‘Hosannas’ of Palm Sunday had proved to be false but the love of those women was, however, true and genuine. A seemingly simple act one might think, but an act that is actually ‘awesome’.

The story might have ended there with that last act of kindness and love but it did not. As we approach the tomb with those women we are confronted with a new reality – his body is not there.

The women must have been very perplexed, perhaps angry. Who had stolen him away? Could his detractors not even let him rest in peace? What actually happened we do not know, but something happened to Jesus and to those women. Whether Jesus’ body was resurrected physically or spiritually has been an argument that has raged for 2000 years and will continue to do so for many millennia still. Whichever view you take is right because as I see it the important thing is to acknowledge is that resurrection occurred. That Jesus came to new life and that he comes to each and every one of us afresh every day of our lives.

Resurrection is a miraculous event in that it is life changing and earth shattering. Human history has not been the same since that first Easter Day. A miracle did happen - in that perceptions were changed, as people experienced Jesus anew and spread his Gospel message across the world. Those women at the tomb were inspired afresh and they in their turn inspired the disciples and so on and so forth. That inspiration caused by the resurrection is still travelling throughout the world today – that for me is the miracle of resurrection.

The Resurrection happened in first century Palestine and it is that that enables us to believe that everything will be all right. Things might not work out as we expect but they will usually work out in ways we can learn to live with. We could leave it at that with these sentiments ringing in our ears BUT there is one more piece of the resurrection story not to forget.

The young man at the tomb told the women not to be afraid and to go to Galilee and tell the others. We could remain at the empty tomb this morning rejoicing but Jesus would not be there, what we have to do is seek him out. We have to search for the risen Jesus – the Christ,  in all we experience and in all we do. It is in this search and this continual going to ‘Galilee’ that we keep Christ alive. We are not called to dwell in the tomb with the un-resurrected Jesus but to seek Jesus in the people and places of the world. Above all things, the miracle of Easter is a call to mission, a call to take the message of the resurrected Jesus to the four corners of the globe.

The Good News is meant to be shared not kept to oneself and in sharing it we continue to allow the ripples of resurrection to move outwards from its central point, ever reaching beyond the here and now to the future and beyond. The miracle of the resurrection is still unfolding, let it inspire you each day of your life and let Jesus be your guide in all your endeavours. And, remember sometimes there; ‘will be miracles here’ and that eventually ‘everything will be all right!’

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!