This is where life begins;
this is where the church begins;
this is where you and I and the world around us begins again.
Here in the darkness (you must close your eyes and imagine the
darkness!) - in the darkness, the emptiness and the silence -
before any candle was lit we gathered together. We had nothing, -
all our success, our status, our prestige, our respect and position
in the community, have been stripped away. Like the Lord we saw
crucified yesterday we stand naked. Ecce Homo : Behold the Man
said Pontius Pilate, as he presented the Christ to the multitude.
Homo in Latin but Adam in Hebrew - Behold Man. Here we
behold ourselves - humankind - stripped of our pretension -
revealed as we truly are.
We saw ourselves as we came to the foot of the cross in
yesterday’s Liturgy of Good Friday. We have seen both the cruel
barbarity of which our kind is capable; and we have seen the
heroism, the endurance, the patience, the forgivingness of which
our kind also is capable. And then it ends. We are left with our
human predicament, having the knowledge of good and evil -
just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. We are still fallen
humanity. The psalmist was right: ‘I am a worm and no man’.
We turned away from the cross as the man died and with him our
hope. But as we turned we heard him whisper. We turn back : he
does not repeat himself. Indeed he cannot repeat himself. His
eyes are closed; his heart has stopped pumping; he is dead. But
did we hear aright? Didn’t he say: ‘It is finished’? Not I’m dead or
it’s all over but ‘It is finished’. As though like an artist he had
stepped back from the masterpiece he had just completed and
knew that it was very good. As though ‘It is finished’ meant the
work is completed and brought to perfection.
We have been here before. We have heard similar words, at the
beginning of all things. When the universe was ‘null and void’ -
pitch black and silent - God breathed upon the face of the waters
and created the heaven and the earth. And last of all he created
creatures of unsurpassed loveliness that reflected the image and
likeness of the creator himself. God spent himself to the
uttermost, gave his all, when he uttered his Word that brought all
things into being. And God looked at the paradise and the
human creatures he had created, and said ‘It is very good. And
having spent himself to the uttermost in loving creation into
being, he rested on the seventh day from his intense labours. It
And finished, brought to perfection it would have been, had not
his lovely creatures grasped at more and more, aspiring, not
simply to share God’s likeness and his love, but
to be God. This Eden, as that first beautiful garden was called,
would have remained our human paradise, had not Adam and
Eve, our mythical forebears (who are yet so real) regarded
Godhead as their property and equality with God as something
to be snatched at, hoarded and appropriated. At that moment of
their disobedience the world (beautiful though it still remained)
changed. And humankind, still bearing the loveliness of its divine
origin, changed as well. In their pursuit of god-likeness they had
forfeited the one thing that made them god-like. Not power or
glory or success or even free will. The thing we had forfeited was
intimacy with God. We would never again call God Father, Abba,
dearest daddy. We, through our first ancestors, had turned our
back on heaven which was our home and stormed off to the far
country, like the prodigal son in Luke’s famous parable - thinking
that we knew better.
End of story? Not quite.
For God who is love never fails and his Word, so the prophet Isaiah
reminds us, does not return to him empty. He followed us into the
far country and sent his Son to bring us home. This Son, though he
did indeed have equality with God, did not snatch at, hoard or
appropriate his godliness, but (as we have been remembering several
times in the course of this last week) the Son showed Adam and
Eve, and us their descendants, how daughters and sons should
respond to the love that is lavished upon them. This Son of God -
this new Adam - emptied himself, took human flesh, indeed he
humbled himself as a servant, and, more than that such was his selfsacrifice,
he became obedient unto death even death on a cross.
To reverse the legacy of Adam; to contradict the disobedience of
our forebears; and, through a self-giving love at which we can
only wonder, he restored that precious intimacy with the Father
which we had lost.
That is why the Son hanging on the cross could whisper even
through the tears and anguish of his dying ‘It is finished’.
God’s work in creation has at last been brought to its perfect
conclusion. Jesus was placed in a nearby tomb, in another garden,
and the God again rested from his labours as he did at the dawn
of creation and he saw that it was very good.
We have gathered here in the darkness, in the emptiness and in
the silence. We have nothing - all our success, our status, our
prestige, our respect and position in the community have been
It is precisely at this moment that God recognises the features of
the one he has loved from all eternity. He sees what terrible
disfigurement his human brothers and sisters have inflicted on
him. But yet he recognises him even from a distance and he runs
to meet him to bring him home. He orders sandals for his feet,
the royal robe to be brought, the ring of kingship to be placed
on his finger and the fatted calf to be slaughtered. ‘For my
disfigured son has come home : he was dead and is alive’.
And at that moment - if I make so bold with Luke’s beautiful
parable - at that precise moment, the Son reveals to the Father
how far he has gone in obedience to the Father’s will. His
bending down to embrace our human condition has involved
him going to hell and back. And with him he has brought Adam
and Eve and every mortal since whose intimacy with the Father
has been lost and is now restored - including us. One of the
beautiful paintings we saw at the National Gallery on Tuesday
was a scene of the Resurrection by Duccio. That beautiful ikon
portrayed Jesus striding from the shattered tomb with the shards
of the wooden cross beneath his feet. And out of the tomb he
grasps two people by the hand - a man and a woman. The
blessed Virgin and St John maybe who stood beside him as he
breathed his last?
No - those two are Adam and Eve, our forebears. Jesus has been
to hell and back to find them and bring them home; home to the
Father That is why we are here. So that we can learn to say again
Our Father - Abba - Dearest Daddy; so that we can feast with
the Son at the banquet he has prepared; so that we who were in
the pigsty can enter again into paradise, where we are given the
name that is above every other name.
It is finished! Well the sermon maybe - but everything else, by
God’s grace, has just begun.
Alleluiah Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluiah!