Grief and Gratitude – in Death and Resurrection

EASTER DAY  :   Evensong & Benediction  :   SMAA  :   16 APRIL, 2017

In the light of the sudden death of our beloved priest and pastor, Father Andrew Starky, on Easter Eve, we at the Anglican Church of Saint Michael & All Angels, in the City of Christchurch, New Zealand, have managed to keep together: our mourning for our beloved Vicar, our prayers for his beloved wife, Kathryn and their beloved son, Daniel and their extended family, here in Aotearoa and in Canada; and our celebration of the Solemnities of the Easter Season.

______________________________________________________________

This was my sermon on Easter Sunday Evening at Evensong and Benediction

The most important fact of the Holy Week and Easter stories in the Bible must be the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As Saint Paul once said: “If Christ be not raised from the dead, then is our faith vain” We might all just as well go home and forget all about our belief in a God of Love, whose only-begotten Son suffered death on the Cross, and was raised from the dead – who appeared many times to his disciples, and who eventually was raised to the right hand of the Father, before sending the Holy Spirit into the world, to empower His followers to help redeem it.

Let’s just look – first – at this story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which we heard in the Lesson this evening. we know that one of them was called Cleopas, we don’t know the name of the other. They were not of the Twelve Apostles but were still the disciples of Jesus – so that might put them on a par with ourselves – if we had been in Jerusalem at that time. There they were, walking along the road to the village of Emmaus, discussing what had gone on over the past 3 days in Jerusalem when a young man fell into step beside them. They did not recognise him as Jesus – so we know that the resurrection body of Jesus was in some way different from the man they had known and spent time with in the days leading up to his crucifixion.

Interestingly, though, even though Jesus spent time explaining to them about how the prophetic utterances they knew of were actually fulfilled by the crucifixion and rising of the Messiah; they still did not recognise him – until, after they had invited Jesus to share a meal with them, and suddenly, when he broke bread with them at the table,.

It was not until he left them that they were able to put two and two together, and they recognised him as the one who had presided at the Last Supper a few days earlier.  

In most of the post-resurrection appearances, Jesus was not immediately recognisable – even to his most intimate disciples. This says something about the physicality of the resurrection body. St. Paul speaks of it as the fruit of a seed sown in the ground, which then appears with an altogether different look. What the disciples did recognise, however, was the characteristic loving ways in which Jesus had acted towards them while he was with them.

Beginning with his appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the tomb. We are told that she thought he was the gardener. It was only when he spoke to her, in his characteristically loving way, and the tone of his voice when he said her name: “Mary”. There was only one man who had ever spoken to her with that tenderness, and she knew him and wanted to embrace him, but he warned her not to touch him. Was that because his resurrection body at that point was not accessible to human touch? We don’t know, but it is something to think about.

So where does it leave us regarding our faith in the resurrection of our bodies after death? do we actually get reconstituted from the grave? The answer must be “No”. With our modern-day knowledge of physics, though, we do know that the atom can be split and that what is experienced as a physical body today, could assume another, different, reality tomorrow. Could it be that, in paradise, where Jesus spent 3 days with the penitent sinner before his resurrection; our new resurrection bodies are being newly created in the divine image and likeness of God, waiting there for Our Lord’s Second Coming on the final Day of Resurrection, to take us into God’s glorious presence?

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the Feast – Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity & truth! 

What we do know is that, at the coming of Christ, all who belong to him will be raised up with him and taken into the presence of the Father. Saint Paul has much to say about this process in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 15.

During the Good Friday Liturgy at Saint Michaels’s (Father Andrew’s final liturgical function in the parish) when we heard the Singing of the Passion Gospel, participated in the Veneration of The Cross, the Prayers for the World, and in the consumption of the Elements of the Eucharist – conveyed from the Altar of Repose, where they had rested after the Maundy Thursday Mass – Father Andrew recited this  ancient prayer, which I had never heard from his lips before:

ANIMA CHRISTE 

SOUL OF CHRIST, SANCTIFY ME – BODY OF CHRIST, SAVE ME

BLOOD OF CHRIST, REFRESH ME

WATER FROM THE SIDE OF CHRIST, WASH ME

PASSION OF CHRIST, STRENGTHEN ME

LOVE OF CHRIST, UPHOLD ME,  O GOOD JESUS, HEAR ME,

WITHIN THY WOUNDS, HIDE ME,

SUFFER ME NEVER TO BE SEPARATED FROM THEE

IN THE HOUR OF MY DEATH CALL ME THAT I MAY LIVE WITH THEE

THAT WITH THY SAINTS,  I MAY PRAISE THEE FOR ALL ETERNITY.

AMEN

There could be no better preparation for the death of a priest of God, within hours of his sudden death

Rest Eternal grant to our dear Father Andrew, Lord. May light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest now in your peace and rise one day with Christ in glory. Amen.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

P.S. The Office of Compline will be held at SMAA (InMemoriam) at 6.30pm               Thursday 2oth

        Solemn Requiem Mass on Friday, 21st April, 2017 at 11.00am

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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6 Responses to Grief and Gratitude – in Death and Resurrection

  1. Barry says:

    Thank you Fr Ron.

  2. Thank you Fr Ron. At the 8am service on Sunday when you broke the news it can’t have been easy for you but in your uplifting way, as you also grieve, you really did look after everyone at this service. Thank you with love.

  3. Michael says:

    Thank you for this Father Ron. I’m not really able to articulate my appreciation for the kindness Father Andrew shone over the years. There’s no amount of gratitude that can be given for the gift of such a kind priest and thoughtful human being. I have been quite at a loss since hearing on Saturday.
    I think of Donne’s Holy Sonnet 10, …One short sleep past, we wake eternally… If anyone is in God’s light and grace, I know Father Andrew is; he served He who knows us best until the very end. My prayers are with everyone, especially his family. I wish there had been more time.
    I am so grateful to all of you at S. Michael’s. I think times such as this it is important to say so, as we really don’t know the hour or the day. Kindest thoughts, condolences, and prayers.
    Humbly in Christ, Michael.

  4. kiwianglo says:

    Thank you, Michael.
    en Christo, Fr. Ron

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