During the octave of Easter we had a festival of lessons and praise in Fort St John in 2023. This is the Easter sermon preached at that service.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we are gathered together tonight to celebrate with hymns, to celebrate with feasting on the Word, to celebrate with feasting on food the atoning death and victorious resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May our joy be hearty on this night of the Easter Octave.

For we heard first how it was impossible for the grave to contain him. We heard first Matthew 28:1-10. We heard of the women astonished by a man who appeared like lighting, astonished by an earthquake and an empty tomb. We heard those words full of promise but full of questions, he is not here, he has risen. We hear the reminder – just as he said he would.

Jesus told them many many times that he had come to conquer death. He told them he would give them the sign of Jonah, three days in the belly of a whale and then he would rise again and walk upon the earth (Luke 11). Jesus told them that he was the resurrection and the life (John 11). In Matthew 17 and Mark 8 and Luke 9 he says plainly to the apostles“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him and on the third day he will be raised to life.”

God himself told them and they did not understand, believe or expect. God himself told them and they fled and scattered, betrayed and denied. But Jesus here was exactly as he is, faithful. His promises are sure. Without faith we cannot hold on to these promises and assurances. Jesus who is the resurrection and the life and who is risen from the grave, we beg you to give us faith that we may have a share in the victory you have won for us. In the dew of that Garden the risen Lord asked the women to instruct his apostles’ to meet him in Galilee. He appeared to them there and gave them the commission you and I both have, to share the good news of the resurrection with every living creature and to baptize those who are called and their children in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus had many other appearances in his forty days, and we hear of his breakfast on the beach tonight, with Simon, Andrew, John and Nathaniel. We read John 21:1-14. Jesus reminded the apostles of when he first called them to leave their nets aside, and that he would teach them to be fishers of men. We likewise if we are to follow Jesus are to be fishers of men. We have labours in this world but the purpose of this life is to pull those Christ should inable us to pull out of the depths of this perishing world into the new life he offers. The call on us is to share the risen life promised for us eternally and begun in us now as we live our lives with Jesus and his people.

God did use these men to gather many up out of the world and into the church, at Pentecost, through their evangelism and the evangelism of those they taught. We heard two readings about how the resurrection was being understood in the early church from the pen of St. Paul.

The first of these was from Romans 6:1-12. Now some people might say that since Christ is risen from the dead and won victory for us against sin and death, that means that our actions no longer have consequences and we can go revel in and enjoy as much sin as we want since it is already defeated. And to this Paul says, “by no means” and points to how the resurrection works us like a potter works clay to explain himself. In baptism we die, we offer up our lives to Jesus that our lives might be burried with his in the tomb. So our lives are not our own any more. Our lives are united to Christ’s death. And our deaths are united to Christ’s sure eternal life. So we should count ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ forevermore. Therefore it behoves us to put away all perishing thoughts and behaviours and loves, to let them be burned away within us as we are being purified every day of our mortal lives, prepared for an eternal hope.

The second of these writings of Paul we heard is the one read traditionally at Anglican funerals,1 Corintians 15:1-22. Here Paul sets for the gospel. The good news is this: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. The bad news is this, you have no power within yourself by which you may fix your life or cease evil or do good to the pleasure of God. The good news is this, you need no power within yourself, for the same power that raised Jesus from the grave will come among those united to him by faith, and will raise us from sin and will raise us from the grave that we may have a share in his eternal life. We will all die, and this is sad, but is not so very sad, because when we die we will finally cease sinning entirely. By faith in Christ the grave is no longer a sad place, it is a bed of hope, from which the faithful will rise to praise God forever.

And so we conclude with an image from St. John the Divine, of the risen Jesus, a lamb without blemish who was slain, worthy to open the scroll and bring about the end of our world’s rebellion against God.We read Revelation 5:1-14. Even here in the North Peace by his precious blood Jesus is gathering up for himself from every tribe and language and people and nation a kingdom of priests to serve our God. And so we can say now, as we hope to say eternally, worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive wisdom and power, and glory and strength, and honour and blessing, now and for ever. Allelujah Christ is Risen. the Lord is Risen Indeed. Amen.