A Sermon by The Most Rev’d Geoffrey Smith, Archbishop of Adelaide

When I was a university student I spent five summer holidays working as a volunteer sea turtle researcher with the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife service, sometimes at Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg, but mostly on Heron Island which is a coral cay about 40 kilometres off the coast of Gladstone in Queensland.

Our job was mostly to monitor nesting female sea turtles. Mainly Green turtles. The turtles would come up on to the beach at night to lay their eggs and our job was to tag those that hadn’t been tagged, to measure them, to count their eggs and mark their nests as well as record their visit to the beach.

Sea turtles nest at night and they can easily be spooked by bright light, and since our aim was to disturb them as little as possible, we walked the beach all night without torches on looking for turtles coming up the beach or already in the dunes.

One of the features of Heron Island is called beach rock which is sand compressed into rock and found on the beach. Some of the beach rock sticks well up from the sand, and some just sits a little bit above the surface. Beach rock is classed as a soft rock, but it is very hard when you kick it with a bare foot or toe.

I clearly remember one particular night. I was making my way up one side of the island and it was about 1 or 2 in the morning. There was no moon, and it was inky black. I was making my way up the island in the darkest of dark trying to look for turtles and trying not to kick any of the beach rock. It took me a long time. I was very hesitant, and the walk was very difficult.

When I got to the end of the island and rounded the corner, I found that the moon had come up on the other side of the island and it was just above the horizon. The night was crystal clear and the moon was full and huge and the change was incredible. Instead of inky black this side of the island was flooded with the brightest light. I had literally walked from darkness into light. And the effect of the light was incredible. I could see down the entire side of the island. I could have run full tilt with no danger of kicking anything or falling over anything or missing any turtles.

The light absolutely transformed my experience that night. I went from a stumbling hesitant in-the-dark situation, to being in-the-light, seeing things how they really were and being able to be confident.

Today’s gospel reading was from John’s gospel and in John’s gospel Jesus refers to himself and is referred to as ‘the light’. For instance, John chapter 8 verse 12 says this: Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’.

In John’s gospel there is a contrast between Jesus the light, and the darkness, with the darkness describing ignorance of God, all that takes away life for people and distorts Gods good creation. It also describes evil and the forces of death. Darkness describes anything that diminishes the life God has created us and the entire to creation to enjoy.

On Friday we remembered Jesus’ death on the cross. It looked like the darkness had won. It looked like the forces of evil and death had succeeded, and Jesus had been defeated. Today however is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeating the darkness. Jesus defeating death and evil and all that robs us of life . Again, from John’s gospel: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5).

We heard in the gospel reading this morning of the stone in front of Jesus tomb being rolled away and Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene alive.

The darkness of sin and evil could not defeat Jesus, but he broke through it bringing light and life to the world. Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of the end for evil and death and for all the darkness that distorts God’s creation and robs people of life. The end of the darkness is assured, but it’s very clear that even though its end is assured the end has not yet come.

We continue to see much darkness over the world. We continue to see the reality of the darkness of Covid-19.  The darkness of the more than two and a half million people who have died as a result of the virus. The darkness of grief that envelopes their families and friends. We have seen the darkness of racism and the darkness of domestic violence and the darkness of gender inequality and the abuse of women. There continues to be much darkness in the world. Much that is not right. Much that dehumanises people and destroys our environment.

Thankfully light has begun to shine in these and other areas.  There has been the light of vaccine development, the light of people speaking out, the light of public awareness. The light of a greater realisation that we need to protect the planet, not take it for granted. Yet, more light is required.

The resurrection of Jesus celebrated at Easter is a declaration of the transforming power of Christ in the overcoming of darkness and the bringing of life and hope.

As Christians who are transformed by the light of Christ and empowered by his resurrection, we too are called to be lights into the darkness.  We are called to share in the mission of the risen Jesus.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the reason why we know that there is an answer to the brokenness of this world that leads to this darkness. There is hope and salvation. There is a light that cannot be overcome. And we have a role in bringing that light to situations of darkness.

Where there is injustice, we bring justice. Where people are treated unfairly, we speak out. Where there is racism, we work to show love and inclusion. Where we see wrong, we do not remain silent and make excuses. As we confront the darkness with the light of Christ and in the light of Christ we will see the darkness dissipate and the light flood in.

All those years ago the brightness of the moon on the beach of Heron Island transformed the way I saw things and the way I acted. That light dispelled the darkness and changed things for me that night.

The light of Christ has come into the world and the darkness could not overcome it. The resurrection of Jesus has changed things for all of us and the whole creation.

 The resurrection of Jesus has changed our present so we live as people of hope, knowing that the end will come for evil and death. We live as people with a vocation because as Jesus disciples we know his light and we shine it in places of darkness to bring light and life and goodness.

The resurrection of Jesus has changed our future because we know that ultimately the darkness will not win. The whole creation will be renewed. Heaven and earth will be joined and the kingdom of God will come. Death and sickness and tears will be no more.

That’s why Easter Day is so important not just for those of us who accept it but actually for the whole creation.

May we all this Easter know the transforming power of the Risen Jesus, be filled with his light and so be a light to others, to the glory of God our Father. Amen.