Sunday 19 April 2020 – the date of my Farewell service to mark the end of my formal ministry, as I retire at the end of April. The planned service with all my friends around me won’t happen now, of course, because of the Coronavirus, so we are putting together a virtual service.
This is the sermon, reflecting on Mark 16:1-8
Early on the Sunday morning, the women go to the tomb, anxious about how they will gain access, in order to complete the last rites of the hurried pre-Sabbath burial. They had watched the crucifixion from the shadows, and they think they will be ministering to the darkness of death.
But the stone has been rolled away, and the body of Jesus is not there.
The sun has risen. God’s Son has Risen.
A young man in white, an angel, tells them to tell the men to go ahead to Galilee, the place where it all began, the start of the ministry, and the start of the ministry is to tell the good news.
The women have come out of the shadows. They are ordained as the first witnesses to the Resurrection.
It is all too scary – the whole thing: Jesus rising from the dead, the appearance of the angel, the mission to tell the other disciples, the commission to go back to the start, to the proclamation of the good news.
But we know that the women do come out of the shadows. They do tell the story; they do give the good news. It does not end in silence.
It does not end in silence.
This service marks the end of my formal ministry as a priest, 9 years here in Gateshead and before that in Annfield Plain and Harelaw, Fairfield and Elton, and Birtley. It has been such a privilege to serve as a priest in all these places, working with the faithful and loving people of God. Ministry has taken me to places and experiences I never expected: seeing angels of light at St Marks with the church treasurer just before we closed the church, travelling to China with St Aidan’s School, working with asylum seekers at Bensham. It has given me great joy.
But now I need to go back to Galilee, back to the beginning, to my home in Durham. I need to rest. My health has not been good over the last 10 months, and I am still seeing many doctors. In 6 months time, I will be given Permission to Officiate, and I will be able to help out in churches where it is difficult to find cover.
Now it is your turn to take on the mission, to be witnesses to the Risen Christ, to proclaim the good news in the places where you find yourselves.
Christ is Risen. Live that risen life, with faith and hope and love. Alleluia!