Bishop Paul’s Easter morning sermon 2021

In his Easter sermon, preached this morning in Southwell Minster, Bishop Paul speaks about the hope that the resurrection of Jesus brings to our world.

Please do join the sermon at our YouTube channel here.

Bishop Paul said, ‘The resurrection of Jesus means that hope was not simply restored, it has broken through to new and astonishing heights. Death had been defeated.”

He also said, “In a dark time for our world, for all who long for hope, there is no better place to look than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Paul also urged people to pray today for those countries where infections are still rising:

“While we celebrate this Easter on a cautious path out of the restrictions, we remember in our prayers those in other parts of our world where infections are rising again.  We must also pray for patience and care for our neighbour to prevail in our country over the coming days.”

Read the full sermon to follow with Bishop Paul.

Easter Sunday in Southwell Minister – 4th April 2021

John 20:1-18

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…”

In his Gospel, John is quite deliberate in drawing attention to this: that the most wonderful thing that ever happened in our world emerged out of the darkness. Light and darkness is a key theme from the outset in the Gospel, including the well-known Christmas reading: ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

Those words are always good to hear in the middle of winter in a candle-lit church or cathedral, but especially so this past Christmas and into a new year as the darkness of the pandemic felt overwhelming for so many in our world.

And just as a wintery blast can return when you thought spring was here to stay, so it has been with the virus. While we celebrate this Easter on a path out of the restrictions we remember in our thoughts and prayers those in other parts of Europe where infections are rising again. And we must pray for

patience and care to prevail in the UK so that more lives and livelihoods are not unnecessarily lost.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed…

God begins his greatest work while it was still dark. This is not only the darkness of the night but also the darkness of despair and grief that had hung over the followers of Jesus since his brutal death on the cross. They will soon understand that God’s work of salvation, the triumph of light over darkness, is being accomplished in an act of sacrificial love even as the sky turned black and then vindicated through the victory of Easter morning, just as a new day was about to dawn.

God continues to do his best work when we find ourselves in dark times and difficult places. Of course we long to get through it to a brighter day but the light of his presence is with us in the darkness, and he is always at work: sustaining us, comforting and encouraging us. Which is why one of the most famous prayers of the Bible says: ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ God doesn’t promise to take us out of the storms we face but he is always with us in the storm. And he wants to lead us through it, including the storm of death itself.

When Mary first saw the stone removed and the tomb empty, she didn’t understand straight away what this meant, neither did the other disciples. But Mary doesn’t leave the garden, she stays by the tomb weeping with sorrow and distress. And in this fog of despair she doesn’t recognize Jesus when he first stands before her. We can be like that too. But he is patient with us. The dramatic change happens when she hears a familiar voice speaking her name, ‘Mary’. In an instance all her anguish is dispersed by the presence of the risen Saviour standing before her. And in no time at all she went back to the disciples with an update: ‘I have seen the Lord’.

For many of us, familiarity can cause us to miss the wonder and joy contained in these few words. Hope had not simply been restored it had broken through to new astonishing heights. Death had been defeated. Light had overcome the darkness. Jesus had opened a new and living way into the presence of God for all eternity. This is why we celebrate today and every day that Christ is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

We’ve become quite adept at waiting in queues over the last year. Queuing for the supermarket, queuing for the vaccine, even queuing to get into church.

While it may be frustrating, the cost is no more than some extra time on our day and that’s a small price compared to what some have endured on the frontlines caring for the sick and vulnerable.

Recently when one of the world’s largest container vessels became wedged sideways in the Suez Canal, the cost was staggering. Holding up $9.6bn dollars of trade each day must have created fairly high levels of stress for the captain and all those seeking a resolution, including 450 ships waiting in the queue.

For a whole year the coronavirus has presented what has seemed an unpassable challenge to our world. As well as the desperate loss of life and grief for many, it has held things up for people in other ways that have not been easy to bear: for businesses, students, people wanting to get married, as well as for those longing to visit someone they love. There is an emotional and relational cost that can’t yet be quantified. And while the amazing vaccines have opened a way forward, a lot of uncertainty remains.

Until Easter morning it was as if the route to life beyond death was blocked by an immovable supertanker.

From that moment on a new and living way was opened by Jesus. And his suffering and death was the price he paid out of love for the world.

When it comes to knowing peace with God there is no queue or qualification required. The things that might cause us to fear God’s disapproval or rejection are swept away in an instant through the cross of Jesus. And his resurrection brings bright hope for the future that nothing, not even death, can take away.

In a dark time for our world, for all who long for hope there is no better place to look than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And Mary Magdalene’s part in the story assures us that Jesus has a special care for those whose past has been broken or wounded by personal suffering and despair. That was Mary before she met Jesus.

As the church that bears his name, in the days to come, may we be a place where people who least expect it, will find love and hope and peace in Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.

May God bless you and fill you with his joy and peace this Easter!