Easter with Pickles

Today we celebrate hope triumphing over adversity, of good overcoming evil. Today we are reminded to trust that all shall be well. Today we celebrate how the day was saved when all seemed lost. Today we honour the memory of our saviour, Pickles the dog, saviour of the national honour of Great Britain who 50 years ago to the day, retrieved the stolen World Cup trophy

Today is also Easter Day, and unlikely though it may seem there are parallels between the Pickles story and the Easter story.

Both events began with a terrible shock. The Jules Rimet Trophy, had been on show at a stamp exhibition in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. The elderly security guard went off for his lunch break and came back to find an empty display case. Thieves had slipped in and stolen the trophy and put up a ransom demand of £15,000 for its return.

The Easter Story, begins with the  shock of the empty tomb, the burial cloths lying on the ground, and the apparent robbery of Jesus’ body. As if the crucifixion was not bad enough, now the enemies of Jesus appeared to have taken his body, which his friends had not even had time to prepare properly for burial.

The news of the empty tomb was at first treated with incredulity, St Luke reports that the apostles considered the report of the empty tomb by the women to be nonsense. As Mary Magdalene lingers at the tomb, so consumed is she by her grief and despair that she failed to recognize the risen Jesus.

After one of the thieves had been arrested at the handover of the cash, Pickles the dog alerted his owner to a package under a neighbour’s car in South London; Dave Corbett, still in his slippers, took it to the police station, placed it on the desk and proclaimed:‘I think I’ve found the World Cup.’ His report was also at first treated with incredulity and the trophy was not recognized, ‘it doesn’t look very world cuppy to me son.’ said the duty sergeant who then sent him to Scotland Yard for questioning as the prime suspect.

After she did recognize the risen Jesus, Mary Magdalene went to the apostles and gave them the great news. He is risen and has appeared to her. The good news begins to spread among the faithful. Likewise when Dave Corbett and Pickles returned home from Scotland Yard, they found the press on the doorstep, and the good news spread around the nation.

Christians are called to be hopeful people, which does not mean that we must be breezily optimistic all the time; but it does mean that our faith in the risen Lord gives us a firm foundation of assurance in life. The resurrection of Christ enables us to see that if God can do that, then all things are possible with him, we must never despair, never lose hope, and give in to our problems. And if the world cup can be found under a car by a dog, are not other unlikely solutions possible to apparently insoluble problems? We must have hope.

Hope is the mark of an Easter people, as is joy. And the joy we feel at Easter is not the fizz of fleeting excitement but the joy that comes from the assurance of the presence with us now of the risen Christ, as alive as he has ever been, ever young, ever fresh, ever vibrant. In expectation of the Easter ceremonies Syrian Orthodox Christians circle the tomb in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In a great display of exuberance by this most beleagured of groups, they carry each other on their shoulders, beat drums and proclaim, ‘we are the Christians, we have been for centuries and we shall be forever and ever. Amen.’ 

Faith in the risen Christ should have a rejuvenating effect on us. Every day, we begin again with him. The apostles were not expecting the resurrection of Jesus, they had forgotten and failed to understand his mysterious predictions of rising from the dead. But the experience of the risen Christ left them transformed, as we see in Peter eloquently addressing Cornelius and his household.

None of us can plan our lives, But the Christian who lives in joyful hope lives a life that is open to the possibility of opportunities and challenges. We never know what unexpected blessings may be in store for us.  

When Dave Corbett left the house to walk his dog he never expected to return home with the World Cup. He was rewarded so handsomely he was able to buy a house with the proceeds. After England beat Germany in the final, he and Pickles were invited to an official reception. Pickles was so impressed that he cocked his leg and left his mark in the lift.  As the team went out onto the balcony Bobby Moore was able to raise the rescued trophy together with Pickles the dog to the acclamation of the cheering crowd.  

So do we raise our Easter acclamation:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!