Matthew 28.1-10; Acts 10.34 -43; Colossians 3.1-4

The focus is on Colossians 3.1-4

(This address was prepared by SPB Priest Companion Chris Collinge, who was booked to celebrate the Eucharist at the Abbey on 12 April 2020 [Easter Day]. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions in place she was unable to attend but her address was read out by the Revered Mother)

It may be that in years to come people will speak of this as the Easter they missed - the Easter when they did not gather in church to sing their praises in the Easter hymns; the Easter when they did not hear the blessing of the Easter garden or share in the tension of the first lighting of the Paschal candle (although I realise you may well have shared that here!); the Easter when Baptismal promises were not renewed alongside friends and strangers and when the Lord’s Supper did not have the ring of the great Eucharistic celebration. Also absent were the bells, the flowers, the smiles and hugs, the exchange of chocolate eggs and meeting with family and friends; all-important physical, earthly manifestations of the new life that was born with the resurrection of Jesus.

However, though it may be spoken of thus, it would not be true to say that this is the year we miss Easter. Equally, the years we partook of all the physical signs of Easter joy were not necessarily years when we embraced the essence of Christ’s supreme gift. We can sing lustily without being spiritually moved. We are like operators with a dual purpose  which is fully to use the physical gifts of God in order to nurture our hiddenness; our inmost spiritual being. However, the dual purpose can become singular if we focus only on the things we experience. Easter can become only about the things we do and the things that happen to us. Matthew’s report of the resurrection is wonderful in its recognition of the corporeal impact of the resurrection - the violent earthquake; the fear, the joy and the clasping of our Saviour’s feet, followed by the attempt to wipe out the truth through bribery and corruption. Yes, God is present in the physical and desires our presence too but belonging to this is a much deeper mystery.

A dear friend of mine once said that in the depths of her illness all she could cling on to were the words “your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. She felt this should not have been enough. I had to disagree with her because, for me, these words are everything. They are so beautiful they make me cry. To be that close, that enclosed, that embraced that we are in Christ and he in God. That is the miracle and the joy of Easter; that is the temple curtain torn in two. Jesus, in dying for us and being raised by God to a new creation, finally broke down all the barriers that can separate us from the love that is God. This hiddenness in God is, to me, what we are promised through Christ’s resurrection. Here on this earth God has gifted us with expressions of that promise in the natural world, music, relationships - all the physicality we are missing now. Yet the glory to come that was revealed to us in that first Easter is beyond finding full expression here on earth and our complete taste of it is yet to come. However, we can get a taste, we can know it's there; we can catch the thrill of the promise.

It is there in the Gospels and the Epistles; it is there in the Jewish scriptures; it is there in Jesus death, the waiting of Easter Saturday and his rising in glory on Easter Sunday. It is there in the care given to the worship this morning; in our shared love for Jesus. If we look, the hiddenness is there for us to see. Like the hiddenness of the small Easter garden Beryl makes for you. We can rejoice in the joy to come! We cannot miss Easter.

The Revd Christine Collinge

Postscript: As a further reflection on the theme of hiddenness, you may like to read George Herbert's poem 'Colossians 3.3'. The photograph below is from a postcard from some years ago of the Easter Candle in the Chapel at Burnham Abbey.