Alleluia Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It will come as no surprise to you that these words have taken on fresh significance for me this year. Words that proclaim Christ’s victory over death.
Faced as I have been with the death of my Dad I’ve been left asking fresh questions about the resurrection. About what it means for me and what difference it makes as I say goodbye to someone who has helped shape the person I am today.
That saying goodbye has taken place over the last months of his life. Sometimes that goodbye was spoken of and at other times it was observed.
Though he was still Dad bit by bit, day by day we said goodbye; to conversations once had about all sorts of things, to his laughter and smile, to his mobility and appetite for both food and life.
It wasn’t easy journey but it never is, as so many of you know having walked alongside loved ones as they’ve come to their final days.
It is the hardest thing in life to say goodbye to those whom we love most something Mary, Jesus’ mother knew as she stood at the foot of the cross to say goodbye to her son.
We can only imagine her anguish and pain though we know something of it through goodbyes we have had to say.
Yet even if you’ve not said goodbye to a loved one recently, we all know there are times in our life when we say goodbye.
Perhaps to a relationship, to a child leaving home, to a job, to a school, to not being as young as we were, to hair in my case. Goodbye is part of life.
Yet what the story of my life has taught me thus far is that though there are goodbyes, the God in whom I believe in is one who offers us hellos too.
Indeed on this day we celebrate and give thanks for the God who reveals through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that goodbye is not the last word we shall say. For goodbye leads to hello.
And God’s hellos sometimes arrive in surprising ways. Scrapbooks for example, something that my Mum is a great compiler of. Through them I have remembered afresh the story of our life with Dad. They have been a hello amidst the goodbyes. Helping us rediscover the man who led such a rich and full life.
There are hellos amidst goodbyes in the Easter Story too. Mary Magdalene, and Mary head to the tomb of Jesus, it was part of their saying goodbye. Perhaps they chatted on the way, they remembered the good times their tears were tempered by laughter.
They arrive to ‘see the stone rolled back.’ The angel serves as God’s hello ‘He has been raised; he is not here.’ What were they to make of it ‘terror and amazement’ seizes them and they are ‘afraid.’
‘He is not here.’ My Dad has died. His body is still here, yet I believe, I know that ‘he is not here.’
That sense of him not being here was made real for me a week after Dad died when I celebrated the Eucharist in our Chapel. It was a Friday just like any other at least on the surface, yet it has become a Friday like no other for as I spoke the words I knew that Dad was with us.
Now you could say that was just a feeling or something I’ve imagined well maybe, but for me Dad was present at that celebration. Present as part of the communion of saints that we speak of in our creed. It was a gift to me, a hello amidst a time of goodbye.
And the God I believe in is a God who says hello amidst the goodbyes of our lives. A God who will not let goodbye be the last word.
Just think about your own story. The goodbyes, the dying will certainly be there sometimes painfully so, but if we are looking, if we pay attention then there will be hellos, the rising too.
When that happens, as it has for me then that’s the resurrection at work in your life. For me this is what the words ‘He is risen indeed’ mean that where there is death God brings life.
This doesn’t detract in any way from what happened all those years ago. The tomb was empty. He was not there.
But to limit the resurrection to just a moment in time is to miss it’s transforming power for us now. A power we glimpse in the midst of this life for though there are goodbyes, with God there are always hellos too.
This stole of Dad’s I wear today is a kind of visual reminder of that.
It’s two sided on one side it’s purple a solemn colour. The colour of Lent. The colour for funerals so in a way the colour of goodbye.
Yet on the other side it’s white, joyfully bright. The colour of Easter. The colour of resurrection. The colour of hello.
All of this doesn’t mean I’m not sad, that goodbye is easy, that there aren’t tears but it does mean that there are hellos amongst the goodbyes.
Perhaps there is something or someone you need to need say goodbye too today, that goodbye isn’t about forgetting rather it can create creating space for a new beginning, a hello, for resurrection.
I hope and pray that my Dad having journeyed with us, having said goodbye to us in one way or another has said hello to the kingdom he proclaimed in and through his life.
For such a personal sermon which I hope you’ll forgive, I want to end with the last words from his last Easter Day sermon preached here in St. Mary’s.
They are words that have helped carry me through these days and I offer them to you to take into the goodbyes that lie ahead. ‘Do not despair. Christ the king does reign and will triumph. Alleluia.’
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!