Easter sermons: Presiding Bishop and Archbishop of Canterbury

The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at St. James Church in Florence, Italy on recognizing the risen Christ. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at Canterbury Cathedral spoke of the truth of the resurrection in our lives.

Easter Day Sermon by the Presiding Bishop

[April, 2009] The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, offered the following sermon on Easter Day, April 12, at St. James, Florence, Italy.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! This is the great feast of the Christian year, for “on this day the Lord has acted” (Ps 118:24), “This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice” (Isa 25:9).


New life has come out of death, for God has raised Jesus from the dead.

When I landed here on Wednesday, I had a phone message. It was from the woman who cuts my hair in NY. She’s a Brazilian immigrant, who’s been in the US for 20 years. Her English is pretty good, but one day she said to me that she couldn’t write in English, and she wanted to take an ESL course, but the fees that language schools charge in NY are beyond her. She asked me if I knew any churches that offered ESL classes. Well, I went back to the office and started looking, but I kept running into dead ends. I’m sorry to say that the churches where I left messages or made inquiries didn’t call back. I couldn’t find anything on the website of the Diocese of New York, and I didn’t have any luck on the internet. I had to go back to her the next time and say that I hadn’t been able to find anything.

Well, I kept thinking about it, and it finally dawned on me that there must be some community offerings. Somebody must offer ESL classes in NY! I finally found the city department of education, and a list of the centers where adult education classes are offered. And, oh yes, ESL is part of those offerings. I printed out one page that gave the contact numbers for the different adult education centers in NYC. The next time I went back to see Val, I took that single piece of paper and told her what it was, and that most of the centers seemed to offer ESL classes. I offered to help, and told her I could probably find some funds if the classes had a fee.

The phone message was hard to understand, but it was from Val. She had gone to her first class the day before, there was no fee, and she said they even offered help with looking for other employment. She was falling all over herself with joy. This was a different person, and that was evident even in a garbled recording.

Sometimes we can recognize something new in a different context, but other times we may see but not recognize what we’re seeing.

Mary of Magdala went to the tomb early on the first day of the week to finish the burial rites. She discovered the tomb empty and figured the body had been stolen. She runs home and tells the guys that Jesus’ body is missing. Peter and the other one – maybe John – run to the tomb, and there’s this fascinating series of encounters. The other one gets there first and peeks in, but he waits for Peter. Peter goes in and sees the burial clothes, but doesn’t get it. Then the other disciple goes in, and it says that “he saw and believed” even though it’s not clear just what he believed. The gospeller is careful to tell us that they didn’t understand what they were seeing. So they go home – essentially unchanged and apparently still clueless.

Read it all here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral:

Do you know that God exists? the interviewers ask; or, How do you know Christian faith is true? There are two tempting ways of responding, both wrong. There is the apologetic shuffle of saying, ‘Of course, I don’t really know; this is just the truth as it appears to me and I may be wrong’. And there is the confident offer to prove it all to the hearer’s satisfaction; here are the philosophical arguments, here is the historical evidence, now what’s the problem?

Two kinds of mistake: the first because it reduces faith to opinion and shrinks the scale of what you’re trying to talk about to the dimensions of your own mind and preferences; the second because it keeps you at arms’ length from the whole business by making it impersonal: here are the proofs and it doesn’t much matter what I or anyone may be doing about it. It’s just true in much the same way as it’s true that Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. You may say, ‘Well, there you go’ but are unlikely to fall to your knees.

St Paul in today’s epistle makes it clear that to speak of Jesus’ resurrection is also to say something crucial about who and where we are, not just to make a claim about the past.. Now we should not doubt for a moment that Paul means what he says and that he takes for granted that the resurrection of Jesus is not a piece of fantasy or wishful thinking but the actual emptying of a grave. However, the point of Paul’s entire teaching on the resurrection is to take us much further than that. This event, the emptying of the grave, has done something and has brought the Christians of Colossae – like all Christians – into a new universe. They are living in a new climate, with new ‘thoughts’ – a climate in which the various ways in which we’ve put up barriers between ourselves and God have been shattered and our old selves are dead. We may still go on trying to put those barriers back up again, but something has happened that opens up a new kind of future. Our selfish and destructive acts and reactions can be dealt with, overwhelmed again and again by the love shown in the cross of Jesus. Because of Jesus’ death and rising from the dead, our resurrection has started, and our citizenship in heaven has begun. There is a hidden seed of glory within us, gradually coming to its fullness.

Read it here.

Photo by Richard Schori

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