Rev. Andrew Cunnington
1st April 2018
Next Steps From The Empty Tomb

There is a narrow alley way not far from here. Steep broken steps between the office blocks and all scattered with litter. The smokers and the gossips gather there and after dark it’s a shadowy place for those up to no good.

There’s a bus shelter just over the road from here and if you stand in line there is the promise of constant bus services to Reigate and Woodhatch, Reigate and Woodhatch, and not much else.

Just beyond these walls, there is a slow set of traffic lights. They seem to be red for most of the time, but there will be a few short seconds when the bleeper goes, the green man flashes and if you scuttle for all you are worth, you might just make it across alive.

There are the entrance ways to the large office blocks of AXA and Towers Watson and at 1pm and 5pm employees stream onto the street as if there has just been a mass walk out over pay and conditions. But it’s lunchtime and time to hot foot it to Co-Op and Costa before the queues get impossible.

A narrow alley way. A bus shelter. A set of traffic lights and a lunchtime rush. For we are standing before an empty tomb and the news is that Jesus has risen from there and like the disciples of old we are looking at one another and wondering what our next steps should be.

There are four Gospels and each of them gives an alternative route for those who do not want to give this story its ending on Calvary, for those who do believe love. Light and hope will always have the final answer and even the last laugh.

They believe that resurrection is true.

Run and hide – whispers St Mark

Worship and wait – advises John

Come and follow – says Luke

Go and tell – commands Matthew

You pay your money and you take your choice.

And where do we stand with these competing instructions ringing in our ears.

The Gospel of Mark is a bit of a let down isn’t it?

The first account to be written. It’s slimline volume brimful of miracles and stories and lives being changed at the drop of a hat, and yet here at the climax, it’s all disappointingly deflated.

Say nothing. Do nothing, for you see we are afraid.

Understand this, it’s not that they did not believe, don’t think that for one moment.

It’s just that this motley collection of misfits and randoms found that , in the end, it was just a bit too much.

Say nothing. Do nothing. It’s our starting point if we’re honest.

Do you remember that day you first had an inkling that Easter might be true, and that like it or not it was going to have an impact on the sort of person you would turn out to be. Of course, maybe you went shouting from the roof tops immediately… do you know what I believe in God ….but more likely for a while at least – you said nothing to anybody for you were afraid.

I started out at church when I was 7 but what did I know or understand about any of this. Nothing really, but there came a point, years on when I had to make a decision to stay or to go and I was unsettled about what I would become if I stayed. For I was afraid.

Like a narrow alley between tall office blocks scattered with litter and smokers and gossips. A hole in the corner of my life, that’s what all this was So do not decry the end of this Gospel. It’s where some of us began.

In Luke’s Gospel there is no such fear – from just a few chance encounters – the news that He Is Risen spreads with all the wild fire of an Easter candle let loose. Women at the tomb. Friends on a journey home. Jesus creeps up behind them and taps them on the shoulder and says – can’t you see – here I am.

He breathes his peace. He opens holy words to earthly meanings. It is so vibrant, Jesus has to restrain them.

Worship and wait he whispers. Don’t go far. Don’t struggle and strive to make sense of all this. Stay in the city and in your own time and in your own way you will be “clothed with power from on high” and then, and only then, you will know what to do.

It is in obedience to that that we gather. We worship Him and we wait for Him and we are not sure we’ve been clothed with anything very much, but we are, each time we come and each time we go.

Like passengers at a bus stop is the worshipping community of a church. Believing there is a moment coming soon, coming now, when we clamber on board to the same departing service. Reigate and Woodhatch. In seven minutes.

Sometimes the waiting goes on longer than that so we ring for a cab instead.

I dreamed of this life when I was 10 but much of it was naivety and nonsense back then – I was 20 years at the bus stop.

So when we worship and wait we need to be still enough for him to clothe us. Have you ever tried to dress a wriggling child? It’s impossible and if we are wriggling all the time – he can’t get near us.

Then we come to John’s Gospel and here Jesus meets individuals and calls each and every one of them.

Come and follow me – Mary Magdalene at the tomb

Come and follow me – Thomas so doubtful

Come and follow me – Peter so embarrassed

Come and follow me – John, so quiet and so loving.

Tell the others – Mary. Touch my wounds – Thomas. Feed my sheep – Peter. Follow on behind almost unnoticed – John

Somewhere in all that is surely you!

A calling, like traffic lights that suddenly go green when you least expect it and if you dither they will go red again pretty quickly.

You’re mad said my bosses when I told them I was leaving. Everyone knows the church of England’s on it’s last legs. You’re throwing your life away. That was 1985.

Running and hiding leads to worshipping and waiting and worshipping and waiting leads to coming and following and coming and following leads to Going and telling.

And that’s what we find in Matthew.

The resurrection of Jesus in this Gospel causes the powers that be to get their knickers in a twist.

Guards and soldiers. Priests and elders get in a mighty scramble here. This story needs hushing up. The ring leaders need putting away. Let’s concoct some fake news about his friends stealing the body, that should do it.

But Jesus quietly gathers his disciples – he takes them to a lonely mountainside and he gives them the great commission – Go and tell – take the message into the whole world…and know that I will be with you, always with you..

How they must have streamed back down the mountain from that, see them setting out into the town, like the office workers over the road from here. But these would not be back at their desks at 2. Going and telling – you never know where it takes us.

Shoe shining in the Belfry for Holy Week. Rev Helen and I and the clergy from St John’s. Shoe shining as a reflection of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples – of church saying – here we are ready to be of service. And the conversations we had with people who had no idea why we would do this and not charge and not even collect for charity… Go and tell – how shall we do that in this day and age.

Not just asking for a confidence to raise our voices – but realising we have a responsibility to do so.

We live in a time when nearly ever voice of authority is discredited and the church is no different. We have to work hard for the right to be heard in our community and to be taken seriously.

We stand at the empty tomb for here we are. We have a candle by our side and a service sheet in our hand. We have a life to live and challenges to face. Each of us needs to see where our next steps will take us.

Say nothing to anyone for we are afraid – the little alley way of faith

Worship and wait – the bus shelter where all the departures travel in the same way

Come and follow – the traffic lights which switch to green when you least expect them

Go and tell – a stream of people with a task to hand.

Next steps for this Easter morning and somewhere there are His footprints and yours not far behind.

MARK 16 : 1-8