31st March 2024 10.30am – Easter Day – Eucharist

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The Readings

Acts 10.34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’


Mark 16.1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings

Down the years, people have responded to Easter in two principal ways.
Some have said Easter changes nothing. Others have said Easter changes

Let me explain. Beginning with those who say Easter changes nothing.
You can see why people might say that. After all, think of the land to which
Jesus came. Think of these last days of his life.

Jesus and his followers, male and female, had made their way to Jerusalem
to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover, along with crowds of others. The
city was full. It was tense. And it was under Roman occupation. The Roman
governor, Pontius Pilate, sent extra soldiers to Jerusalem at this time each
year, to keep public order, because there had been insurrections. Barabbas,
you will remember, who the crowd asked Pilate to release instead of Jesus,
had been imprisoned for insurrection and murder.

Violence was never far away and the prudent resident in Jerusalem would not
go out at night without being armed. When Jesus went into the Garden of
Gethsemane on the last night of his life, the disciples had swords with them:
one was used to cut off the right ear of the slave of the High Priest.

Into the middle of this violence came Jesus, a man of peace who taught his
followers in both his parables and his living that they should love one another.
Now look at this same land today. From the horrific attacks on Israelis by
Hamas combatants on 7 October to the continued holding of hostages and
the relentless bombing of Gaza, this same land remains a place of violence.
Two thousand years after Jesus said ‘love one another’, nothing has
changed. And in between the time of Christ and today there roll two thousand
years of wrong.

This is the reality some people will fasten on. You can see why they might say
Easter changes nothing.

In a sense their thinking stops at the place where Christ was buried. Stops at
the tomb. Doesn’t look inside the tomb. For them, Good Friday was the last
word on the life of Jesus. He died; and everything he was and stood for died
with him.

The English poet, A.E.Housman, wrote a poem called Easter Hymn. It has
two verses and the first verse captures very well the sentiments of those who
stop at the tomb, those for whom Easter changes nothing. This is the first

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

In other words, if the world has gone on its way with all the man-made evils
that Jesus came to save us from, perhaps he didn’t rise from the dead after
all. Perhaps he sleeps in that Syrian garden.

But what if you don’t stop at the entrance to the tomb. What if you do what the
women do in today’s gospel. They stoop down and look in... as other
disciples will also eventually do. And when that happens they have to come to
terms with another reality.

The tomb is empty. And over the next few days their understanding of reality
will be pushed even more. Their crucified Lord will show himself to them – to
Mary in the Garden, to the twelve in the upper room, to two others on the
road to Emmaus.

They will struggle to make sense of their experiences. Thomas will not accept
what the others tell him until he sees the marks of the nails in the Lord’s
hands. The two who meet him on the Emmaus road will only know him when
he breaks the bread at the end of the day. But gradually they will find the
words to describe what has happened. The one whom they saw crucified.
The one whose body was laid in the tomb, is not swallowed up in death, but

And that changes everything. If Christ is risen, we can have him present with
us. If death is not the last word on his life, it will not be the last word on ours
either. Even if the struggle to overcome violence, the struggle to love one
another, must continue in every generation, the Risen Lord will be there for
us, to give us the strength to go on and make a difference. He sees and will

That poem I mentioned had a second verse. It goes like this.

But, if the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion, and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

Christ is risen. And that changes everything.

The Prayers

In joy and hope let us pray to the Father.

That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his
glorious and life-giving resurrection
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That isolated and persecuted churches
may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That God may grant us humility
to be subject to one another in Christian love
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may provide for those who lack food, work or shelter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That by his power war and famine may cease through all the world
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick,
the weak and the dying,
to comfort and strengthen them
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That, according to his promises,
all who have died in the faith of the resurrection
may be raised on the last day
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon his people,
so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection,
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant that, as his death has recalled us to life,
so his continual presence in us may raise us to eternal joy;
through Christ our Lord.


Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council