Sermon for the Easter Vigil
The Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon is a well-known minister in the Uniting Church, and someone I count as a friend. When she was the minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in the heart of Sydney, she wrote these words in her typical warm style:
Max is an old Aboriginal man and he lives in a pensioner’s hostel just down the street from us in Chippendale. Every day he is standing outside the door of the hostel as I walk past on my way to Redfern station. We always greet each other and exchange a few words. This day I was feeling rather tired and when Max said to me, “How are you, mate?”, I said, “I’m ok thanks Max, but it’s a bit wet today, isn’t it?” He smiled a beautiful smile, standing there in his bare feet and old clothes and he said, “Ah, but what about when the sun comes out?” I marvelled at the depth of his hope and his ministry to me.
Ah, but what about when the sun comes out? Isn’t that a wonderful thing to say? I think of this story every Eastertide. The last few Easters, I haven’t felt able to use the story because of the drought. Now we’ve had rain, and some of us at least may have longed at times for the sun to come out!
On that first Good Friday, a few friends of Jesus took his body down from the cross. Because the Sabbath was approaching, when no work could be done, they had to make heartbreakingly meagre, hasty preparations for his burial. There was so much cause for grief, so little time for grieving. Their hope was gone, most of Jesus’ friends had deserted him. Night came, but little sleep would have come with it. Passover, a festival of salvation and deliverance, must have mocked them. Bleak despair was theirs. Ah—but what about when the sun comes out?
Mary Magdalene returned to the garden that first Easter Sunday to find the tomb empty. She supposed someone—but who?—had stolen the body. She couldn’t even see Jesus in death. Returning with Peter and another disciple, she stayed. Weeping, she was probably overcome with grief. Even a vision of angels didn’t sway her from the body-theft theory; she didn’t recognise Jesus himself when she saw him. Imagine her elation when he spoke her name, and she knew it was the risen Lord! Ah—but what about when the sun comes out?
The stories of the other Resurrection appearances follow. Two disciples, numbed by what had happened, unable to stay in that bloody city of Jerusalem any longer, return by foot to their village of Emmaus, about eleven kilometres distant. A companion joined them, seemingly ignorant of the news which had devastated them so. Yet this strange companion made their hearts burn when he explained the Scriptures to them; and their eyes were opened, their minds were cleared, when he broke the bread. Their next action was to race back to Jerusalem with the news. Ah—but what about when the sun comes out?
And through the centuries, men and women have responded in faith to Jesus Christ, finding his risen life available to them through the Holy Spirit. Finding a knowledge of forgiven sin, of guilt taken away; knowing that God is love, not someone to hide from in abject fear; finding the power to live in love and service to others, because the only true life is found in walking with Jesus. Finding peace of mind, joy, and the transformation of our hearts. Ah—but what about when the sun comes out?
When the risen Lord Jesus directs us, guides us, leads us through life, then the sun has come out for us. In whatever circumstances of life we find ourselves, we are his. Jesus Christ is alive for ever, and he will never leave us nor forsake us. For us the sun has come out! Amen.