The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Holy Communion      17th April 2022
Easter is...
Jeremy Fletcher

Easter is…
What does Easter mean to you today? For many it seems it’s the freedom to get away for the first time in two years, and it’s a shame if that has meant queuing and travel chaos. For Hampstead Parish Church it is the sense of being unrestricted for the first time properly since 2019, and it is glorious to have worshipped with you through this Holy Week. I hope Easter has meant chocolate and joy and the enjoyment of sunshine and company and the beauty of this glorious place, enhanced by the beauty of creation. 
What did Easter mean on the first day of resurrection? We, at least, have been able to look forward to today, do some planning, get the eggs and special food, send the cards, decorate the church. It’s been in the diary. Not so for those around Jesus. Whatever he may have said beforehand, all they knew was that they had laid his body in a tomb. They knew exactly where he was. 
On a couple of occasions I’ve had something stolen. I can remember opening the curtains, and seeing the space where my car had been. It was not there, and all I could think about for ages was the absence, the gap. It was not where it should have been. Think of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter and John. All they can see is the absence. Those they tell about it can only think of the absence too. None of them got the whole thing straight away, though the Marys are ahead of the men
The news takes time, the realisation that it’s not an absence but a new presence is a dawning one. It’s a bit like a tweet, or a letter, or a box set, or a novel, which is picked up by just one person, who doesn’t quite get its significance, but passes it on because they know it’s something. Others begin to realise that it’s important too, though they are not sure why, and they recommend the book, or retweet the tweet, or copy the letter.
And then, for more and more of them, there is the realisation that the subject of the letter, the tweet, the novel, is actually there with them. That the life he now lives is their life, that what he had promised has come true. I talk about it as a dawning realisation because the Gospels show that they take ages to begin to understand. But the important thing is that they are there – that they read the letter, they open the book, they switch on their phone and get their tweet. For Easter to mean anything for us we must be in a position at least to look into the tomb, to listen to God’s voice, to at least own the possibility that Jesus is alive, and that he might want something from me.
We don’t have to understand the whole package. I would say that after four decades of active Christianity the mechanics and facts of the resurrection are as much of a mystery as they were when I was in my teens. But their truth has gone deeper and deeper. I opened the book, looked at the tweet, and started to think and to wonder. 
Easter means…facing my death and the death of those I love with hope and wonder. It means Jesus taking all the sorrows of the world and wrapping his arms around them. It means living a new life, and being in that amazing in between time where by body is decaying and my soul is growing. It means bursting with joy whilst being as sad as I can be when sharing other people’s hardships and grief. It means bring that new life in all its forms, challenging wrong, attacking injustice, bringing hope. 
The stone is rolled away and we can look in. Christ appears in his risen life and his followers now him even more closely. He is not just with them. He is in them. So today, just as the resurrection dawned on Jesus’s friends, it dawns on us. Will you open the book? Will you read the tweet? And most of all, will you hand the book on, and retweet the tweet? 
What does Easter mean to you? Life beyond life, and love beyond love. The absence is a presence. That is too good to keep to ourselves. Amen

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