The Archbishop of
Easter 2017 Sermon
by Justin Welby,
Archbishop of Canterbury
"Today across Egypt, but most
poignantly at St George’s church Tanta and St Mark’s church
Alexandria, God’s people have already gathered to worship the One who
was dead and is now alive. Seven days after the horrendous bomb attacks on
these Christian communities the resurrection will be proclaimed and
experienced. Because the church is established by this day.
happened: the testimony of the witnesses whose words we have just heard is
clear, and the history decisive. Christian faith is not a cause where the
fallen standard is picked up and carried by others, who sense that the
flesh is gone but the spirit goes on.
Christian faith starts with One who
literally (that misused word) rose from the dead. This is an event for
Jesus. Laid stone cold dead in Joseph’s tomb on Friday, on Sunday
morning the tomb is empty, he is physically, bodily, tangibly alive. Why would
we presume to know better than these first witnesses what took place?
happened: the witnesses are those who met him. Today the calling of every
Christian is to be a witness to the Resurrection. It is the calling of the
church as a body to testify to this event as the event of history, the
second big bang (Rowan Williams).
greatest mystery is that the greatest event went almost unnoticed and
spread to conquer the known world without drawing a sword, without taking a
life, winning an election or starting a campaign.
women whose story is told in Matthew’s gospel find that their lives
have not just shifted on their axis, have not just got a bit more
meaningful, or been given a new perspective; they find a new beginning for
a new world because it happened. To find the sun rising in the west would
be less of a change than has occurred in the resurrection.
the resurrection the world did not merely shift, a new world emerged in
embryo, in which all is right and each of us who are witnesses to the
resurrection have begun to experience it, a world which will be completed
when Christ returns. Before we have met the risen Jesus we are living as if
in a dream, in a false vision of reality.
Consider the women; they thought death
ruled, that despair had conquered, that stones could not be moved. They
were wrong on everything. Death was conquered, despair fled, the stone was
God acted and raised Jesus everything is different: we know the truth about
God, through the resurrection. The cross revealed the love of God, the
resurrection reveals the truth of Jesus, that He is God and human, both
fully, both at once. The Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero di
Cantalamessa, said last week, “The resurrection is God’s powerful
‘yes’, his ‘Amen’, to the life of His son
resurrection is a reality that changes everything in our lives. “Set
your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”
(Colossians 3:2). Everything we are and own and see is to be lived, and
held and understood through the resurrection.
But be under no illusion, this is utterly
counter to how the world runs itself, and so we live in the now of a world
in which the resurrection has happened, and the not yet of a world where
there is still evil.
in Egypt live surrounded by bombs and terror. We and those we love know the
grim, grey moments of illness, suffering, arguments, poverty, ill health
mental and physical, prison, guilt and failure. We experience a world of
pain and despair, grief and death.
But, the words Jesus says on that first
Easter day he says to you and me now; ‘Do not be afraid’. These
things overshadow our lives because we fear they may have the last word.
These things lie, they deceive, they pretend to have power that they do not
have, when they say they are final.
There is only one finality: Jesus the
crucified one is alive. In the hard journeys we all face, in every moment
of loss, the community of witnesses to the resurrection must come alongside
and, with love and gentleness, bring restoration and hope.
church, all of us, is that community. The world around us unknowingly
awaits our testimony to the new world of which they may dream, but that
they have not yet known. In our world today the only certain ground for
hopeful expectation is the news of today; it happened, Jesus is alive.
Welby, Justin. "Easter Message
2017." Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury. 04 16, 2017. http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5857/the-archbishop-of-canterburys-easter-2017-sermon
(accessed 07 20, 2017).