The following sermon was preached at saint benedict’s table on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.  The service was live-streamed from our empty church building because of COVID-19. During these unusual times, you can join me Monday-Saturday for Evening Prayer at 5pm and at 7pm on Sundays for live-streamed liturgies on our church’s FB page.  The links to help you connect with me directly on social media can also be found on this website.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Matthew’s description of the resurrection is dramatic – Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” arrive at the tomb when “suddenly there was a great earthquake” as an angel who looks like lightening descends from heaven, rolls back the stone and takes a seat. (1-2)

Earthquakes and other worldly beings that look like lightening. Is it any wonder that the men guarding the tomb first shook with fear and then “became like dead men?”

Surely sheer terror is the most reasonable feeling to experience under the circumstances.

The angel says, as angels always need to say, “Do not be afraid.”  Fear is a natural, but apparently unnecessary, thing to feel in the presence of an angel.

The earthquake, the appearance of the angel, the stone rolling away from the tomb. Each one of these would be terrifying on its own but the angel is only just getting warmed up. He’s about to tell the two women that the impossible is in fact possible. That the world as they knew it has been changed forever. Life will never be the same.

The angel tells the two Marys that Jesus is no longer dead and shows them the empty tomb as proof. He then instructs the women to go and inform the other disciples that not only has Jesus risen from the dead, he has also gone to meet them in Galilee.

And the two women leave the empty tomb but they don’t have to wait until they have told the other disciples and travelled to Galilee to see Jesus because “suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.” (9)

Why did they touch his feet? I suspect there were a few reasons. The first, is that despite having been told over and over again not to be afraid, the sight of Jesus has terrified them and they fall to the ground.  Jesus’ feet might be all they can manage to see until they catch their breath and their hearts begin to beat normally again.

Second, I think they touch his feet because they want to know that Jesus is really there, that’s he’s not appearing as vision or as a ghost or that they aren’t in the middle of a really intense hallucination.

When they touch his feet, when they feel his human body, they know he is really there. That he is really alive. That he is real.

Jesus then repeats the instructions the women have already received from the angel, “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (10)

These women have been chosen and commissioned by Jesus himself to be the first witnesses to his resurrection and the first people to tell others the good news.

The resurrection of Jesus is a dramatic event that leads to heightened emotions -naturally, people are afraid. Naturally they are confused.  Naturally, upon seeing Jesus they flip from the deepest despair to the most profound joy in an instant.

It’s a time to feel all the feelings, and to feel them intensely.

Normally as we walk through Holy Week, our liturgies make intentional choices to guide us through a series of emotions. On Good Friday, even though we know that Easter is coming, we resist the temptation to tell that part of the story. We sit in the pain and the confusion and the sorrow of Christ’s death. On Saturday we push even deeper into those feelings, and then, normally, on Easter Sunday we lean deeply into the joy, the celebration, the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We pack this church and shout at the top of our lungs “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!” Not only do we feast on bread and wine and each other’s company, but we take it one step further and pop huge bottles of sparkling wine and lay out giant bowls of chocolate.

Not this year.

Christ has risen,  the story hasn’t changed. But this year, I want to remind us all that on that first Easter, the women who went to the tomb didn’t march there in Easter bonnets intent on a joyous celebration.  They were in mourning, and they were afraid.

All of the feelings were felt on that first Easter and it’s fitting that we make space for them today.

A few weeks ago, Susanna Singer preached at St Gregory of Nyssa church and I thought, “that’s my Easter sermon.”  In her sermon she asked the question, “Am I just looking for resuscitation or do I dare to hope from resurrection?”

I never want anyone to die. The death of a person is a tragedy and should be mourned, but I do think that there are a lot of things in my life and in this world that need to die.  Ideas, habits, ways of thinking, systems. For too long we’ve settled for artificial resuscitation instead of defiantly demanding resurrection.

Comedian Sinhu Vee, reflecting on her own recovery from COVID-19, said that because we can no longer go out, we must go in. This is a time to reflect on our interior lives, on who we are, who we are becoming, and who we want to be.

The pandemic will end, we will be able to leave our homes, we will be able to gather in this space again, but life will never return to the way it was, and I don’t want it to.  I want resurrection, not resuscitation.

Because a lot of my old ways, a lot of our collective ways, weren’t working.  Sometimes we pretended they were working, especially if they were working for us.  If we did acknowledge they were broken, we believed that that was just the way it was, that change was impossible. That a new resurrected life was impossible.

But we were wrong.

The first thing I believe needs to die in order to make way for resurrection, is the way our society privileges hyper productivity and frenetic busyness.  I’ve seen countless memes that say essentially, “If you don’t emerge from this pandemic with rock hard abs, the ability to speak 3 new languages, the great Canadian novel, and the world’s best sourdough bread you have let the entire human race down and you should be deeply ashamed of yourself.”

You haven’t let anyone down;  you don’t need to be ashamed. In fact, this manic drive to be endlessly productive has been kept alive on life support for way too long. It’s time to pull the plug and let it die.

Whatever gets your through these days, provided it doesn’t harm you or others, whatever gets you through is what you need to do… or don’t do.  Have an extra nap, have an extra cookie, turn off your phone, turn off your TV or put in an extra workout, learn a new low-calorie recipe, binge watch that show, write that novel.

Whatever gets you through.

I have a ham defrosting in my fridge right now. I’m going to cook it tomorrow. I’ve been meaning to cook it for awhile, in fact, based on the date on the package, I’ve been meaning to cook it since 2016.

It wasn’t an impulse purchase either, I specially ordered that ham from a local farm. It was an intentional choice. 2016 me wanted to be the kind of person who invited people over for a ham dinner.

But I never did.

And I didn’t just forget about it either. Every time I opened my freezer and I saw that ham it made me feel guilty.

It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, that if I was really trying I would just work a little harder and pull of that dinner party already.

So tomorrow, and frankly for quite a few days after that, we’ll be eating ham, and then the ham will be gone and hopefully the guilt will be gone.  But what kind of person will I choose to become?

I’m not sure right now which false idea of myself needs to die, that I am the kind of person who has people over for ham suppers, or that I am OK with the other choices I make that mean I am not that person. I’m not sure which one needs to die and I’m not going to push myself to come up with a quick answer.

But leaving that ham in the freezer was artificial resuscitation of an ideal, of a person I could never quite manage to be, and it needs to die. I don’t want artificial resuscitation anymore, I am longing for resurrection.

Resurrection might look like a slower pace of life where we all take naps without feeling guilty, make our own food because we want to and enjoy the process, and choose not to buy things that we’ll never use or don’t really need.

I’ve spent a large portion of my life working in food banks and soup kitchens feeding hungry people or working to help house people without homes. I am intimately familiar with the ways many our systems are broken. The ways we as a society say that some people matter more than others.

But do you know what I also used to believe?  That our broken systems would always be broken. Trying to fix them is just too complicated, the political will simply isn’t there, any change that is going to happen will be slow, incremental. Glacial.

I don’t believe that anymore. That idea has been on life support for way too long and, at least for me, it’s dead, never to be resuscitated again.

Because suddenly, all over the world, cities, including ours, have found housing for people who need it overnight.

It’s not perfect and it doesn’t solve every problem.  The issues that lead those people to be homeless still remain but what has become perfectly clear to me is that the issue has never been a lack of housing, the issue has always been our priorities.

When we want to house people, we house them. And we do it quickly.

Resurrection looks like safe, affordable housing for everyone.  Right here, right now.

Over 25 years ago I first learned about the idea of a guaranteed national income. It made a lot of sense to me. It seemed easier and way more effective than our current system.

A system that means that more than once in my life I’ve sat with someone crunched the numbers and said, “I know you want to work, but I think you need to stay on social assistance.”

Because the second you start working is not the same as the moment you have money in the bank.  As soon as you start working you’ll need to spend money on different clothes, on bus tickets, on childcare, on all sorts of things.

And the moment you start working, not only will you be cut off of social assistance, you’ll also lose you extended health care coverage.  And even if you managed to find a job that offers health care, there will probably be a waiting period.

And your kid needs new glasses.

Unless a person can leap from unemployment to a six-figure salary, our current system tends to punish people who try to work.

But a national guaranteed income is no longer a pipe dream for idealists. We’ve just put a version of it into action in this country – albeit for the short term because of COVID-19.

It didn’t roll out perfectly but is sure did roll out quickly.

So no one will ever be able to tell me that it’s not possible or that “these things take time,” ever again.

When we want to make sure people have enough money to cover the basic necessities of life, we make it happen.

Poverty as a complex problem that can only be solved somewhere off in an idealized future is an idea that has been given artificial resuscitation for far too long. It needs to die.

Resurrection looks like a country that ensures that all of its citizens have their basic needs met, regardless of their ability to work.

When Jesus died and lived again, life didn’t return to normal. It changed forever.  And while I am sure it was terrifying and confusing and unsettling on that first Easter morning, we have come to understand it as good news. Incredibly good news.

Today is a day of resurrection. May we all refuse to settle for resuscitation.

Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!