Dear People of St Paul’s
Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia.
Haleluya! uKritu uvukile
Uvukile impela, Haleluya.
This is the link to our Easter service on YouTube, which includes a shortened Eucharist, with the Renewal of Baptismal Promises – 30 minutes in total.
For those with limited data, and who are able to view the sermon only, it starts at 8:02. Below is the text of my sermon. A separate audio version is also available.
I draw your attention to the Covid-19 national food parcel helpline 0800 601 011 for those needing it. It is for those who are unemployed or with a household income of less than R3 600 per month.
If you have missed any of the previous communications, or links please refer to the website www.stpaulsdurban.org.za
Have a Happy Easter.
Revd Dr Andrew Warmback
Rector: St Pauls, Durban
Easter Sermon, 12 April 2020, St Pauls, Durban
It’s encouraging to be able to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time. A time of practicing social distancing, of lockdown, in our struggle to overcome the coronavirus. It is a time of uncertainty for the world.
Today’s gospel account of Jesus’ resurrection is a dramatic one. The story starts as the first light of dawn appears. Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” probably Jesus’ mother, go to the tomb, most likely to anoint Jesus’ body.
They’re in for a big surprise.
There was an earthquake, and the appearance of the angel was like lightening. The first sign that the resurrection was to impact on everything; even the earth itself. None of life was to be left untouched.
This was a frightening experience for those at the tomb. We hear that the guards shook out of fear and “became like dead people”.
The angel says to the two women, “Do not be afraid,” Jesus has been raised. Words to these two disciples, yes, but also words that echo through the ages to us today. Do not be afraid, Jesus has been raised. Things have forever changed, and for the good.
The arrest and crucifixion of Jesus was a devastating experience for Jesus’ first followers. Their world had come to an end. They had lost all hope. They were terrified of what would now happen to them.
So you can imagine the joyful response of these women. They are told by the angel to go and tell the others of their experience and that they would see Jesus. They went away quickly.
The gospel also describes the two Marys as still being fearful. They do not lose all their fear. But the good news of the resurrection sustains them. It gives them courage to continue. They experienced the dawn of a new reality, of new possibilities.
These women are surprised again when they meet Jesus on their way, and they worship him. Jesus also says to them: “Do not be afraid”, and go and tell others, and they will see him in Galilee.
DO NOT BE AFRAID
The repeated message from the gospel that we should not be afraid is a welcome one. We too are fearful of what the future holds. We may be worried about our health or livelihood and the health and wellbeing of others separated from us. It is a difficult time for everyone. We are grateful for the decisive actions taken by our government. We are most grateful to all our health workers who bear the brunt of the fight against this virus. We must pray for them.
Later in this morning’s service we will renew our baptismal promises. We are given the opportunity to recommit ourselves to God, the trinity. We also make a commitment to live by different values. For example, we are asked to renounce “the wickedness of the world, its greed for possessions, power and status” and “all that corrupts our human nature, pride, selfishness and lust.” Then we are asked “with God’s help, by our life and witness [to] share in the Church’s mission to proclaim the gospel, and to set forward peace and justice among all people.” These commitments we make shape a new reality; they make for a more caring, compassionate and just world; one centred on the common good of all.
LIKE OUR BAPTISM, THE RESURRECTION CHANGES EVERYTHING
Like our baptism, the resurrection changes everything. Things cannot be the same again. Through his death and resurrection Jesus overcomes the ‘principalities and powers’ (Ephesians 6:10ff) of this world that deprive us of life, and oppress and destroy what God has created. Through this death and resurrection Jesus overcomes all that separates human beings from God and from one another. No part of life is left untouched – the personal, the economic, the social, and the political. God’s reign of love, mercy, reconciliation, and freedom is what will ultimately prevail.
Things cannot return to normal, and they should not. At the moment, staying at home can make a world of difference; and washing our hands has become a lifesaving act. Small actions go a long way. We will overcome the coronavirus one step at a time. We can call make a difference. That’s good news.
Finally, we are not alone in facing the future. In some verses after the ones we heard this morning – at the very end of this gospel – we hear the words of Jesus: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus meets us on the road, often unexpectedly. Jesus accompanies us.
“We are in this together.” “Let us not let fear overwhelm us.”
Happy Eater to everyone!