‘Resurrexit’ He is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia - Easter Sermon
The Revd Canon Chris Moody, 21 April 2019
There is a story that when Sir Christopher Wren was surveying the devastation caused by the Great Fire of London a workman excavating through the rubble of Old St Paul’s, the medieval cathedral which had stood in the centre of the city for centuries, brought him a fragment of a tombstone he had found. It was a Roman remain, predating the old cathedral and it had a single word inscribed on it: ‘Resurgam’ meaning ‘it shall rise again’. Wren took this as a divine prophecy for what he was about to do in building an even more glorious cathedral in place of the old.
My reflections this Holy Week and Easter have been bookended by the two big events that have happened: the terrible fire at Notre Dame which appeared at the time to threaten its very existence, and the demonstrations that are still going on in London by the environmental movement ‘Extinction Rebellion’. Both have been shocks in some sense that have reminded us that the human spirit which flows through all of us, which we all share in, is far more profound than we commonly imagine - the fire at Notre Dame for the obvious threat it posed not just to the physical building but to French people’s sense of who they were; and the demonstrations still going on in London because they seem to be animated by deep concern and compassion for the whole of creation, including ourselves, rather than a spirit of rejection, anger and protest leading to division. The latter are an example of the power of passive resistance which had been used by its founder Gandhi, first in South Africa and then in India, and then by Martin Luther King in America - a way of unmasking the forces of resistance to necessary change both global and within each one of us, provoking us to question ourselves and our way of life to that point. I don’t think it is entirely accidental that this happened during Holy Week. In a way the obstinacy of the demonstrators, their decision to say put whatever happened reminded me of the Reproaches we hear sung on Good Friday, words from the Lamentations of Jeremiah put into the mouth of Jesus as he gazes in compassion on all of us from the Cross.
‘Does it not matter to you all you who pass by? Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?’
What is it within us which stops us from changing? Are we really willing, because of our lazy indifference, to condemn future generations to a disastrous future?
Both events are to me an indication that the Christian spirit in its broadest sense animates our culture as a hidden spring far more profoundly than we are usually aware of. The spectacle on the news of all those sophisticated Parisian faces gazing in horror at what was unfolding before their eyes, people probably even more secular in their general outlook than we are, but moved in a way that they did not fully understand. All the reports mentioned how it was the silence of the crowds above all which impressed the commentators.
For me these are both reminders of the resurrection life, the life founded and achieved for us by Jesus on the Cross, revealed triumphantly in his Resurrection and bestowed on all of us by his Spirit at Pentecost. And when I am tempted to doubt the depth of my humanity and to become cynical and afraid, entombed in my own grief and resentment, it brings me back into the light and gives me hope again in my humanity, my own and other people’s and the spirit which animates it.
‘Resurgam’ It will rise again.
‘Resurrexit’ He is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia