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/ 23 April 2011

Easter Eve 2011

Location: St Paul's Cathedral
Date: 20110423

The dawning of a new day.

The women – Mary Magdalene and her companion – go to the tomb and find it empty.

The evidence of women as witnesses was not accepted in ancient Judaism – here is yet another way in which the resurrection is a new beginning.

Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. Galilee is where they all came from. It might be Ealing or Islington.

Do not be afraid.

A modern translation of the word faith might be “living god-ward with energy”.

The thermostat in modern church life is set to comfort and feelings. That is not wrong. It is part of the story but there is also challenge and campaign to pray down the Kingdom into present reality.

The test of an effective church is not how many came. We can celebrate the fact that there are never less than 650,000 Christians assembling for worship in this great world in a city in more than 4,000 churches. But the real test is not how many came but how many lives were transformed. Did the resurrection happen not far away and long ago in our bibles, or here and now in the lives of those who have declared in public that they will follow him?

How much liberation has there been from enfeebling addictions? How many people are able to resist or reject the drug habit or pornography? How many people are turned on to neighbourly love and thinking: voting and acting as a citizen for the common good?

How many people see and understand the darkness in the campaign to persuade us that the road to happiness lies in acquiring and consuming more and more things?

How many people are prepared to fight the attempt to edit out the story of Jesus Christ from our schools from our screens and our airwaves?

The sleeping giant of the church in this land – if it is woken by the resurrection like the frightened disciples energised by the news the women brought – is to be judged; yes, by how well it cares for us its members, but much more will we be judged by a great ‘yes’ to the question, ‘are we up for changing the whole world into something Christ-like?’

Ernest Shackleton the Antarctic explorer put an advertisement in the paper in 1913:

“Men wanted for a hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

5,000 applied for 26 places.

I am not cynical about new Christians. They are often put off because the Church seems to demand so little of the followers of Christ. The women were afraid because there is so much demand in the way which leads back to Galilee and beyond.

We are not all asked to go to the Antarctic but we are invited to live out our faith in our personal Galilee in the power of the risen Christ.

Then the Lord said to Moses
Tell the Israelites to go forward.

About Richard Chartres

The Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO was the 132nd Bishop of London from November 1995 until March 2017.

Read more from Richard Chartres

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