Just under 100 adults and children celebrated Easter at St Mary’s Easton this morning. They heard the story of Tommy’s Bunny and Mary at the tomb…as follows:
Tommy and Bunny (thank you for this story to Dave Thornton of Christchurch Winchester and for the use of Bunny) www.ccwinch.org.uk/
There once was a boy called Tommy. His mum had made him toy rabbit when he was born.This rabbit had been part of his life for years. His mum had said maybe he was growing too old for it now, but Tommy secretly still loved his rabbit. He called it ‘Bunny’.
Every night, when he was being tucked up in bed by his mum, Bunny was always tucked up in bed next to him.
One night Tommy slipped Bunny into the bed as usual, but when he turned over in the night, Bunny fell out. The next morning when he woke up there was no sign of Bunny. He didn’t want to show it, but Tommy was sad. He rushed round the house looking for Bunny and he found an ear…another ear…the body…some stuffing…its little white tail…
Tommy realised that his little dog, Darth Vader, had taken Bunny and torn him up. It was awful, poor Bunny was in pieces. That night Tommy went to bed upset. He had lost Bunny.He had lost his friend who had been with him through all his life –all the happy and the sad days. He was very upset.
But in the morning he woke up and who was next to him? Bunny was all in one piece. Tommy was so excited and asked his mum how it happened.
What makes you sad? One of the ways I feel sad is if I break something I am fond of or lose something I have had for years.
Like Tommy with Bunny. But much, much worse than that is if I lose a good friend. Worst of all is if a good friend dies. The thought that we will not see them again is more than we can bear.
But, like Tommy’s Mummy in the story we have just heard about Bunny, God made us – he made you and he made me – and he has a plan by which we can be made again, even when we have died. What happened to Jesus, show us what God can do for us. What his plan is for everyone. And it is really good news. It is what Easter is all about.
In our story from the Bible today Jesus had told his friends, his disciples that something terrible would happen to him but it was all going to be alright. His friends were very sad when Jesus was crucified –he was killed by the Romans and the important people of Jerusalem. He was dead.And that was that. But His friends had forgotten what he had told them, that would be alright.
They thought they would never see him again. His body had been put in a cave and a huge stone had been rolled in front of the cave door.
We take up the story when Mary (one of Jesus disciples) visits the tomb early in the morning:
John 20:11-18 (The Message Version)
Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.
As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head and the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her: “Woman, why do you weep?” “They took my Master”, she said, ‘And I don’t know where they have put him.”
After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there but she did not recognise him.Jesus spoke to her. “Woman why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, she said “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you have put him so that I can care for him” Jesus said, “Mary” Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!” Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, “I ascend to my Father, my God and your God.”
Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.
Mary was weeping outside the tomb.
As I said before, one of the most awful things we can experience is when a really good friend dies. And there will be many people here today who have experienced this. The death of a husband or wife perhaps. The death of a sibling or a child or grandchild. Absolutely terrible. And I think one of the most devastating aspects of losing someone close to you is the feeling of the pointlessness of life that comes with it. If you lose a loved one: it’s as if you have lost the reason that you live.
Mary was weeping outside the tomb.
Everything in Mary’s life was wrapped up in Jesus. She had cast off her old life and invested everything in him. And now he was gone. And the worst thing of all was she was not even able to grieve properly, to say goodbye, because someone had taken the body away. The crucifixion was bad enough – the final indignity was someone stealing the body, before she could lovingly anoint it.
But she did not understand the true situation.
The angels ask her ‘Woman why are you weeping?’ She replies ‘They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him’. She supposes, totally reasonably, that it is the Roman or Jewish authorities who have the body –to crush him in death as much as they have in life.
Then she speaks to someone she supposes is the gardener. She is so totally wrong and yet profoundly right. .She is speaking to the resurrected Jesus, not to the gardener.
But in another way Jesus is the gardener. Jesus is, to use St Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 22, the new Adam. The old Adam was the original gardener of the Garden of Eden. Made in God’s image he given the responsibility of managing the Earth for God.
Adam was tempted to believe that he could do without God; ignore God’s laws and decide what was right and wrong for himself. He commits the ultimate sin – seeking to be God. That is what the story of eating the apple is all about. The knowledge of good and evil seeking the ability to decide for himself what is good and what is evil.
The result was a catastrophic disconnect between humans and God called the Fall. Which each of us is still affected by today and is at the root of what is wrong with the world. But Jesus is the new Adam, the new gardener of Creation –the one who shows us the way to put all things right, the one who ushers in a totally new world – the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that is eternal, a Kingdom in which man and God are at peace with each other, a kingdom which begins now, will be realised in full later but can cross over now into eternity.
What are our lives for?
They are about whether we will choose to be part of that Kingdom or not. And the ultimate sign of this new kingdom is Jesus’ resurrection, which shows us the Way, how we can cross over death into new life. For ever. Jesus is the first one of us to be resurrected.
Those of us who choose to be part of that Kingdom, to take advantage of what Jesus did for us on the cross – how he paid the penalty for all the rejection of God that we and all others before us have been responsible for in our lives; those of us who choose to be part of that Kingdom; those of us who are in Christ, can be assured that our lives can be transformed now and that we will in due course have everlasting life with him in the new heaven and the new earth, which is God’s plan at the end of time.
The significance of Easter Sunday is that death need not be the end, but can be a beginning.
I love the way that CS Lewis describes death in the final of his Narnia books. Aslan the Lion (the Christ figure in the books) is speaking to the principal characters, the children, when they reach Narnia for the final time:“…all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ending: this is the morning.” Lewis continues: “for the children it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page:now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no-one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before”
In the scene by the Garden tomb in the shadow of Golgotha the place of Jesus’ execution,is the first evidence, given to Mary, that God has a totally different plan for all of us. A plan that our lives need not lead to futility, waste and destruction. An invitation to be with him for ever. An invitation which, if we accept it, will transform our lives now (whatever situation we are in) and for ever.
The question is – are we willing to accept his invitation and to follow him?
Thank you to everyone who took part this morning. Thank you to Penelope Kellie and her team of flower arrangers. Thank you to David Parker, Vernon Tottle and Tilly of the Worship Band. Thank you to Judy Bishop our Stage Manager, to Beccy and Paddy actors in the story of Tommy’s Bunny to Andy Tan, Jessica Duke, Elise Duke and Jessica Cragg actors in the story of Mary at the Tomb. Thank you to John and Elizabeth Bouldin for their prayers. Thank you to sidesmen Theo Mezger and David Poole, to sacristans Judy Bishop and Lucy Pease and to Anna Burness as Church Warden and to the ladies who organised coffee and to Sonia Cragg who did the Easter Egg hunt. All just great fun and thank you to all who took part.
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Allelulia!