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Sunday 17 April 2022: Easter Day

Love comes full circle
Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18

By Rosemary Wakelin

Supernumerary minister in the Central Norfolk Circuit of the Methodist Church

Context: an older congregation in a country town

Aim: to emphasise how the Power of Love overcomes the love of power

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Again we celebrate the climax of the first phase of the Divine Project. Before the universe began God had in mind a family, sons and daughters, not slaves or robots, but us, to share his nature and become real enough to ‘bear the beams of love’ (Blake) in his Kingdom of Love (Ephesians 1:4). But this carried a danger. It meant we would have real choices – power – and could choose what to do with it, which meant we could work with God or not – the love of power or the Power of Love. Built into this was the remedy if things went wrong – ‘The lamb slain before the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8). Love might have to go to its logical conclusion. We await phase two.

Did Jesus ever wonder – was the Cross inevitable? Think of that desperate prayer in the Garden – ‘If it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me’. But it was not possible. He accepted the only way. Love had to go the distance.

The lectionary reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is Peter’s set of first century bullet points outlining Jesus’s ministry, getting over to an astonished crowd how God had organised the salvation of humankind – not what they were expecting. So, what had happened? God in Christ had lived life the way intended, in covenant relationship with him and one another. This had begun with Abraham, but over the years had become frozen in rules, rites, rituals, exclusions, etc. Jesus had come and cheerfully knocked down these barriers and opened up the Kingdom of Love to all, thus undermining the control of the hierarchy and the exclusiveness of Judaism. So, they killed him, and he let it happen. He hadn’t come just to be there FOR the sick, the outcast, the downtrodden – he had come to be WITH them, to heal and restore from the inside – so he accepted the jeers, scorn, and ridicule of that terrible Via Dolorosa to the Cross, and the unimaginable agony and ignominy of the crucifixion. He took Love to its logical conclusion. But the full horror of human wickedness cannot defeat the Primal energy of eternal Love. God is Love.

Had we been given the option we might have handled the Resurrection differently – maybe a stunning appearance to Caiaphas and the chief priests pronouncing God’s judgment, or startling Pilate out of his wits and terrifying the soldiers. But that is not God’s way. Surely the disciples who had faithfully followed should have been first to know, or his family. Why Mary, a woman of dubious reputation, who had been mentally ill, with no position, and whose evidence would not be accepted in court? Let’s think back a bit. Jesus’ disciples had found it hard to accept his idea of Kingship. They were locked into human perceptions. James and John had even requested honoured places in the new administration. They were now all hiding behind locked doors. Jesuss family must have worried a lot at the implications of his fame. He was putting himself in danger. They had even tried to rein him in. They were frightened. But Mary, vulnerable, alone, while it was still dark, caring nothing for her safety, in an agony of inconsolable grief went to be with the one who had accepted, healed, and restored her. And Love, rising from the tomb, was met by her unconditional, answering love. Mary became the first witness to the resurrection and the apostle to the apostles.

To us a strange choice. Maybe what made her this very special person was that she came with no hidden agenda, no desire to control or manipulate. Consequently, she was open to receive his risen life with all its implications.

Ourselves – what is it to us? The Church down its long history has been all too keen to jump on the power bandwagon, to recruit God’s power to back its own ends. But the Church is God’s, not ours, and God has always worked through those open to Love with no hidden agenda. As again we remember that empty tomb do we meet Love with answering love, hear him say our name and commission us to tell the news to our brothers and sisters?

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