In my previous parish, which didn’t ‘do’ the Easter vigil, I found myself slightly disturbed by the number of ‘Happy Eater’ and ‘Alleluia’ messages in my twitter feed from those returning from evening services on Holy Saturday, confident that the resurrection had already happened. I kept wanting to reply ‘Spoiler-alert – I haven’t had my resurrection yet!’ It made me think about the timing of our Alleluias – if you were here yesterday for the 8.30pm service, was the resurrection then? Or is it now, at the 10am service? What about those churches that have their Eucharist at dawn? Are they the ones who are really getting it right? Is their resurrection the real one?
Let’s explore this idea a bit more, using the time-honoured medium of chocolate eggs.
(I would hold up a whole egg, at this point).
Jesus’ tomb was a little like this egg – inside it’s dark and cramped, but when the resurrection happened, and Jesus burst out of the tomb, Good Friday is smashed once and for all, and new life is set free. (At this point I dramatically smash the egg into a bowl or basket.) There is no going back. This egg is smashed. This resurrection has undoubtedly happened.
But the trouble was, that nobody witnessed it! The solders (in that account, anyway) passed out and didn’t see Jesus emerge, and the next thing we know, it’s the women arriving at the tomb still expecting to find a dead body, and instead finding it empty. The actual moment of the resurrection happened in private. All that resurrection joy and nobody to share it.
On Easter Sunday we focus on Mary’s story – we just heard it as our gospel reading. There in the garden, the resurrection had already happened, but she was trapped in her own Good Friday – her grief and sadness kept her in the dark (hold up another, whole egg, at this point).
And we can tell the exact moment when the resurrection happened for her – it’s when Jesus calls her name. Suddenly grief is turned to joy. Mary’s Good Friday is smashed once and for all, the new life is set free in her (smash the second egg and handing it round).
That’s all very well for Mary but what about everyone else? At this point she’s still the only real witness. What about all the others? If you come back to church over the next few weeks you’ll hear more stories of how the resurrection became real to all of Jesus’ friends. But here’s a sneak preview.
– Thomas = doubt to faith when he sees Jesus’ wounds.
– Disciples = fear to peace of mind/joy when Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’
– Emmaus Road = confusion to recognition when Jesus breaks the bread
– Peter = guilt to new purpose when Jesus gives him the chance to say ‘I love you’ three times to make up for his threefold denial.
(For each one you can hold up and break a new egg)
You can also ask people to think in their own minds about what other sorts of things keep us trapped in our own Good Fridays, and let that lead into prayer that all may experience the resurrection in a way that’s personal to them, but absolutely connected with Jesus’ defeat of sin and death.
- For very small children, it can be good to act this process out – making ourselves small and sad, scrunched up with our arms wrapped round us, and then jumping up for joy.
I also wrote a hymn that goes well with the resurrection stories. Here it is.