The Right Revd Mark Bryant Bishop of Jarrow has given his Easter Day sermon today (31st March) at a service at Durham Cathedral. The sermon was the first Easter Day sermons he had delivered since taking responsibility for the Diocese whilst a new Bishop of Durham is found following the enthronement of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury. In the sermon he talked about the resurrection of Jesus being a demonstration of the way in which God is always doing something extraordinary and new and said: “If God is indeed a God who is always doing something brand new that means that within our own different communities we need people who will have the imagination and courage to dream new ways of doing things that will really enable more and more people to flourish. The reality is that God has chosen to do his brand new things though fallible human beings like us who trip-up and get things badly wrong. I wonder therefore- whether we need sometimes to be just a little bit more understanding of those who are working in the public eye to try to bring about projects that are brand new.” Bishop Mark’s sermons are available via the Diocesan website: http://bit.ly/Easter2013Sermons In addition to the traditional method of delivering the Easter sermons, Bishop Mark, like many other clergy in the Diocese of Durham has been using social media to get his message out using the twitter hashtags #everthingchanges and #DDEC. In a video message released today via YouTube, Bishop Mark said: “My Easter message is that when things look really-really difficult or really-really bleak and we are not sure which way to turn, then that is not the final answer, because God through Jesus Christ has brought hope into the World. I am incredibly lucky to be able to go around the Diocese and see examples of this hope all around me, projects and actions that are bringing hope to some of the most vulnerable members of our community – and that is very very reassuring indeed.” The video message is available on Youtube via the link: http://youtu.be/EeOivIWdr4c http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeOivIWdr4c&width=600 Image Gallery [fsg_gallery id=”2″] Full Easter Day Sermon Transcript [SERMON PREACHED BY MARK BRYANT, BISHOP OF JARROW IN DURHAM CATHEDRAL AT MATINS EASTER DAY 2013] One of the things that I used to do in Coventry but fear I have not got round to doing in the North East was to read a daily local paper. And often I have to admit my eyes would stray to the In Memoriam notices on the back page. Time and time again I would come across a notice which spoke of granddad up in heaven with his slippers in his comfy chair with a pint in his hand. And I want to say “No, No, No, No”. Not because I want to question whether granddad is indeed in the life of the world to come, but because if granddad is in the life of the world to come I am utterly convinced that what he is experiencing is something far more wonderful than just doing what he did on earth, with his pint and his slippers and his pipe, because whatever it is that God has in store for us it is something utterly more wonderful than any of us can ever begin to imagine. This is surely what St Paul means when he says, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’. (1 Corinthians: 2: 9). When God raises our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead he does not resuscitate the body of the dead Jesus but what he does do is to bring him to a new and more glorious life than those who have seen Him on earth before his death have ever known before. (That may well account for the way in which the Risen Christ seems to be able to go through doors and suddenly appear, and it may help to answer that slightly tricky question about if Jesus leaves the linen clothes within the tomb, where does he get his clothes from). The whole point about God is that he is a God who is always doing new things, that’s why the Prophet Isaiah finds himself saying to the children of Israel in exile, ‘do not remember the former things or consider the things of old, I am about to do a new thing’. (Isaiah 43: 18) Here the children of Israel are in exile everything has changed for them, there is no longer a Temple in which to worship, everything that they have known and held dear has been taken away from them and God is saying to them don’t keep looking back, don’t keep harping on about how things used to be but look I am going to do something completely new. The Easter story is not about resuscitation but about brand-spanking-new life. Easter is about the ability of God faced with absolute catastrophe and tragedy to do something totally and utterly new. The prophet Isaiah is reminding us that there is no room for nostalgia in the Easter faith, there is no room for trying to reconstruct the past. God is not involved in a great Beamish style project to reconstruct what used to be, rather he is the God of the Angel of the North an exciting visionary and brand new project about which initially lots of people are likely to be highly sceptical. I wonder incidentally if what drives nostalgia is our fear of what is going on around us. Thus the elderly person made anxious by the group of young people crowding around the bus shelter longs and harks back to the day when the village bobby on his bike was able to give any miscreant a cuff behind the ear and march them back to their dad who would deal with them. We need to ask how much our looking back is really about our own fears and the difficulty we have in things changing around us. There is a real sense that harking back, even if there are understandably human reasons for doing it, it is contrary to what the Easter message is all about. So if the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is a demonstration of the way in which God is always doing something extraordinarily new it leads us back to that dictum of William Carey the Founder of the Baptist Missionary Society, that we should attempt great things for God and expect great things from God, for if God is truly the God of new things, the God who is able to raise our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead then we should be expecting Him to do great things in our Church and our society and in our own lives. Tonight I am going to Billingham to license a priest, as all the churches in Billingham combine to become a single parish. Billingham is no longer what is was. It is no longer the thriving future looking community of the 1960s with loads of ICI money sloshing around and so the church has decided to stop looking back to what may or may not have been the glory days with a brand new churches thriving in each community and to look forward and say to God we are looking to you through our new structures to do something brand new in the life of the churches right across Billingham. And tonight as I go to license the priest the congregations have said that they want us to sing the new worship song, Rejoice, Rejoice, Christ is in you. The reason for this is that the song has in it the words, ‘God is at work in us His purpose to perform building a Kingdom of power not of words where things impossible, by faith will be made possible’. The Christians there are seeking to bear witness to a God who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is saying to the world that the dreams that appear impossible can in fact start to become possible. I am going to preach to them about St Mark’s account of Easter Day where the disciples discover that they have got to go all the way back to Galilee to meet the Risen Jesus. And after all they have been through it feels a bit of a slog and rather a way to go but they go with hope knowing that God really is at work doing something new that things impossible will be made possible and journeying with that hope makes the journey somehow a lot easier. It is about – in words attributed to William Temple having the faith to believe that whatever is right is always possible, and that what is according to the mind of God is upheld by the limitless resources of his omnipotence. If God is indeed a God who is always doing something brand new that means that within our own different communities we need people who will have the imagination and courage to dream new ways of doing things that will really enable more and more people to flourish. In its time the abolition of slavery or the founding of the NHS which seemed initially to be impossible or unworkable suddenly became brand new ways of doing things, they were examples of what seemed impossible becoming possible. It seems to me what our society needs more and more is men and women who will live their lives believing the things which are impossible by faith will be made possible because God is a God who is always wanting to do something that is brand new. (Now the reality is that God in his divine foolishness has chosen to do his brand new things though fallible human beings like us who trip up and get things badly wrong. I wonder therefore – bye the way – whether we need sometimes to be just a little bit more understanding of those who are working in the public eye to try to bring about projects that are brand new) I have increasingly come to love the story of St Francis Xavier with his great passion for the Jesuit Missions in the Far East, saying how he longed to go into the rooms into the University of Paris and to tell the young men there to give up their small ambitions and to go and serve God in the Far East. Perhaps we need more and more to become men and women who give up our small ambitions and who dare to give up our small ambitions because the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, is a God who is always wanting to do something new. And that leave me with the Easter question: What would it means for me to give up my small ambitions and to start to dream impossible dreams for myself and my community – and even my nation – trusting in a God who is always doing new things?