"My Favourite Island Church

- Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman CBE (1906-1984)




That’s why from then up until this point on Saturday evening, Holy Saturday is a liturgical wasteland – no sacraments or solemn celebrations. The time since the burial of Jesus on Friday afternoon has been one of desolation for all his disciples. That is true every year, but how much more clearly the case this year when all our churches are closed, and like Jesus’ first disciples we are scattered, each to our own homes.


The Bible tells us, however, that although his body lay in the tomb, Jesus was not idle during those hours, but went in the spirit to set free those whom a well-known hymn describes as “the long-imprisoned dead”. This means the myriads of men women and children who had died before the coming of Jesus.


In one of my favourite images of the Resurrection, Jesus is has just emerged from the darkness of the underworld and is standing on the shattered gates of hell. He is surrounded by some of those he has delivered - Kings David and Solomon, Daniel, John the Baptist and other prophets. But the real focus of the image - which appears in countless icons, frescoes, stained glass windows and so on - is of Jesus reaching down to pull Adam, the first human (who


represents us all) out of the gloomy pit beneath. One of the most striking features of the picture is how Jesus takes the initiative. His hand is grasping Adam by the wrist and hauling him up. All Adam can do was stretch out pleadingly to him. Powerless to do anything to help himself, he is completely dependent on the will and power of Jesus to save. And Jesus does not disappoint.


Imagine Adam’s delight and relief. God is the master of the utterly impossible. The world and the grave do not have the last word!    So this evening’s liturgy marks the beginning of a completely new world. That’s why this is the time above all other times in the year for the celebration of baptism and confirmation. New life in Jesus for those who were dead in the darkness of our common humanity. This year, we cannot enjoy that new life liturgically, but we can, as we do every year, renew our own baptismal commitment. I hope many of you will be able to take part in a streamed Easter Vigil online, but for those who cannot, this sermon will end with an act of renewal. Making our Easter confession is a normal part of preparing for this, but this too is impossible this year, and I know that for many people this will be one of the hardest losses to bear. Do not doubt however that God forgives “all who truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways.”

Take the opportunity of our present restrictions to spend some time on those words from the Book of Common Prayer, asking God for the grace of repentance, for love for our neighbours, including seeking to repair damaged relationships, and for the intention to lead a new life.   Think too about this. Just as Adam represents us all, so too does Jesus. Ask what it means you today, here and now, that with Christ you have been betrayed, agonised, abused, condemned, crucified, laid in the tomb: yes, all that, but now, think what it means that you have been raised with Christ.  This is a question for us to live with and to ask ourselves every single moment of our life. St Paul sums it up concisely, if we have been died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

The point of Easter is not just to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but to rejoice at how he draws us into the wonder of his own risen life.  He has been doing this all through these great Three Days - he did it as he washed the disciples’ feet and taught us to wash each other’s feet, not just in mutual service, though that’s important enough, but also in learning to offer ourselves for each other, to forgive and to be forgiven


He did it as he agonised in the garden, as he submitted to indignity and mockery both during his trial and on the wretched way of the Cross.     He did it as he died.        All that was truly horrible, but then, wow!


Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed Alleluia!       I wish you all a very happy and holy Resurrection Day and a permanent share in the risen life of Jesus.      


The Renewal of Baptismal Vows


In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:          Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?

All:    I reject them.               Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?     All: I renounce them.

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?    All:   I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?     All:    I turn to Christ.    

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?        All: I submit to Christ.

Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?    All:    I come to Christ.

May almighty God who has given you the desire to follow Christ,  give you the strength to continue in the way.

Brothers and sisters, I ask you to profess the faith of the Church.


Do you believe and trust in God the Father? All: I believe in God, the Father almighty,creator of heaven and earth.


Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ?  All:    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,  who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,    born of the Virgin Mary,   suffered under Pontius Pilate,  was crucified, died, and was buried;   he descended to the dead.     On the third day he rose again;   he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,  and he will come to judge the living and the dead.


Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?   All I believe in the Holy Spirit,  the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,  the forgiveness of sins,   the resurrection of the body,  and the life everlasting.   Amen.


Almighty God,  we thank you for our fellowship in the household of faith with all who have been baptized in your name.  Keep us faithful to our baptism, and so make us ready for that day  when the whole creation shall be made perfect in your Son,  our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,


that you may be rooted and grounded in love


and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.



Easter Vigil 2020 Godshill, Saint Alban's


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


I am sure we all know what it is like to be in a situation from which there seems no escape. It rare though for such an experience to be so universally shared as the present crisis through which almost the world is currently passing.


Every experience of that sort is a symbol of death which awaits us all and which seems to have the last laugh over life. After all, even (and if) the present crisis is past, we shall all die and (even if the optimists are proved right) at some point in the future the world and human history will come to an end. That’s not scaremongering. It’s just the way things are.


Since the afternoon of the first Good Friday, Jesus, who had described himself as Life itself, had been lying dead in the tomb. It was the end of everything.




Kindly made for us by +John who was due to take our Holy Week services at St. Alban's Church this year.