The Bishop of Chichester's 2016 Easter Sermon

And this is where the oddity of today’s celebration touches our lives in challenging ways. If I may speak personally, I find it increasingly difficult to resist the onslaught of information that is directed at me or required from me. My life feels as though it is regulated to the point of near extinction, by Government, by economic responsibility, by social and cultural suspicion, by commercial bureaucracy. And this is before I start on the day job! My space as a human being sometimes feels so thoroughly invaded and occupied that I just want to switch off, cut the wifi, abandon the mobile, stop the emails, and regain some quality of human and spiritual equilibrium.

It is no wonder that so high a percentage of young people in Britain today register anxiety as a dominant emotion. The tank of our potential for human flourishing is cluttered up with too much stuff. It’s as though we’ve filled the empty tomb so full with an unhappy blend of debt, regulation, kitsch memorabilia, and a craving for novelty, that there is no longer any expectation of room for glory, space for mystery, allowance for the confounding of limited expectation.

This is a situation that was recently described by Jonathan Sacks, in his masterly book, Not in God’s name, where he observes that we have attained “unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence”¦.[and] the result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning”.

Which is why the symbol of the empty tomb is so powerful and haunting. Here is the sign of our mortality and death. One day the frame of this body will come to resemble that tomb, when the breath stops and the agency of control and demand is lifted from us. Then, as now when we celebrate the dawn of Easter glory and the glory of life, the very breath of God will be able to fill the space within us, to satisfy our deepest longing, to give freedom to our best and greatest loves, to perfect our every thought and deed that has already expanded the meaning of goodness, truth and justice.

As Easter celebrations begin, those of you who gave up alcohol, sweets, cakes and biscuits, can look forward to your Easter gin and tonic, the glass of remarkable claret, and unbridled pleasure as you accept the offer of a chocolate after lunch. This is your enactment of the reception of divine love in the glory of resurrection; you have made an empty space in your appetites and desires, in order to rehearse what it will be like to receive, all over again, a perfect and eternal gift in the new creation that evokes something you have already known so well. The full to overflowing font is the symbol of that perfect gift and what resurrection means. It is the recovery of our total capacity to expand into the divine life of God, as in baptism we are united with Jesus Christ: “In him the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form, and you have come to fullness in him” ”“ is how St Paul describes it (Col. 2.9) So, happy Easter. Savour the gin, raise a toast to the CofE with the claret, enjoy the chocolate, and expand into the freedom of a bank holiday. But more than these transient celebrations, attend to the eternal fulfilment they betoken. Don’t run away from the empty tomb; it is your destiny. Let its haunting beauty inspire you. Make space for the glory of God to begin its transformative effect in your life now.

Read it all (emphasis mine).


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