First, let me wish you all a very joyful and holy Easter here in our newly renovated church. It’s the first Easter Day service we’ve been able to celebrate in person in this building since 2019. For those of us who attended site meetings here during the long process of renovation, it truly seems like a resurrection of sorts: that an elderly, rather dilapidated and dark building, with lots of problems and limitations, could be stripped right back, gutted upstairs and down, reduced to its bare bones, and then built back and transformed into this welcoming, light, accessible space.
Transformation and new life are at the heart of Easter: renovations of our lives, if you like. Easter comes into the rubble and debris of our lives when they’re turned upsidedown, and transforms them.
There’s a song I know from El Salvador, coming out of the terrible time of civil war in the 1990s, with the appalling violence inflicted on ordinary people who wanted justice in their land. The last line of the song says, “Queremos revolucion, queremos renovacion, queremos resureccion.” “We want revolution, we want renovation, we want resurrection.” The three are deeply interconnected, and they’re all Easter themes at root.
It’s been said that Good Friday shows the worst that humanity can do, while Easter shows the transformation that God brings. Good Friday shows the full extent of human sin that causes so much suffering. And we gathered here two days ago to look at that harsh reality, to listen to the story of the crucifixion again, and see how perennially present evil is in our world today. That same day there was a Good Friday walk downtown in the Sherbourne and Gerrard area, winding through the back alleys which have seen so much poverty and despair and premature death. There is so much that is wrong in this world; so much that we inflict on one another and on ourselves, And it breaks people down and causes terrible pain.
But the Easter resurrection shows us the response of God to this, the transformative power of God’s perennial grace at work in the worst, most hopeless places. God is not just the master builder, but also the master renovator. That’s why people struggling for justice have often welcomed Jesus as their inspiration and hope, the revolutionary Jesus who turned over the money tables and stood up for the poor and the outcast. That same song from El Salvador asks who Jesus serves: is it the rich and powerful, or the poor and downtrodden? You don’t have to read very far in the gospels to know the answer to that question.
Our Easter gospel isn’t about spring flowers and eggs and bunnies: it’s about revolution, renovation, resurrection - and turning things completely around in the direction of new life, justice, healing, restoration. Easter turns us back to the direction of God’s light, God’s way; what Jesus called the kingdom of heaven on earth.
We’ve all suffered since we gathered here for Easter three years ago. Some of us have lost loved ones in the pandemic. Some have lost jobs, relationships, security. Many of us have struggled with stress and depression. And we know that those already struggling with poverty and discrimination have suffered even more. Our eyes have been opened to the vast challenges facing us, including the perilous state of the earth itself, and so there’s a significant desire not to get back to the old normal, but to create a better, new normal. Renovation, reconciliation, restitution, yes, even revolution – they’re all aspects of resurrection, as God works in the world to reshape us anew.
Here at St Aidan’s we have this beautiful renovated building. So how are we going to use it to serve the needs of the world around us? How are we going to cooperate in God’s great renovation project? How can this church be a little centre of revolution, as we turn things around towards a better path for all, not just the rich and comfortable and privileged? - and as we seek to change the things that need to change – systems, policies, attitudes, habits.
When Mary and the other disciples encountered the risen Christ, that wasn’t the happy ending of the story. It was the beginning of a whole new chapter, a whole new life for each of them. It set them on a path that required courage and outspokenness and action and deep faith. (You can read about some of what happened next in the Book of Acts.) And it’s the same for us. Celebrating Christ’s resurrection is the starting point for a journey of transformation.
Last Tuesday our diocesan bishop Andrew Asbil gave a talk to the clergy of the diocese in the cathedral. He talked about some of the hard and painful things we’ve been through as individuals, as Christians, as Canadians. He acknowledged how broken we’ve been. And then he recounted bringing communion to his parents in their seniors’ residence. His father has been very ill, and the family has been through a lot of turbulence. Bishop Andrew said that after his father had received communion from him, he looked up at him and said, “I have been put together again.”
I have been put together again. That’s resurrection: putting back together that which was broken. The coming of life and hope into places of pain and despair. The risen Christ puts us together again, and says, “Go, share this, tell this, live this. Be changed and bring change.” That’s the gospel imperative.
So welcome to the Easter revolution! Welcome to the light and hope of resurrection. Welcome to a renovated church that exists for those outside its walls. Christ is risen, and he calls us to follow, and to be good news for the world. Amen.