Rector's Ramblings: Easter Day 2020

 

The questioning goes on endlessly: ‘What will things be like after Lockdown?’, ‘How will the world be different?’, ‘What will church be like?’. (It may be you are asking why God allows this. If so, read NT Taylor’s article from Time magazine at Latest News tab) There are more than enough TV programmes chewing the cud on all these issues. Mostly they depress me. ‘Too soon’ I want to shout. It may feel like months now but it’s only weeks. We are such hasty creatures wanting answers now.

    I understand why. We are living with uncertainty and don’t like it. We try to plan and map the future. We like to think we are in control. Now we are living through something that has come upon us so quickly, and changed our daily lives. We’re unsure when it will end and what ‘ending’ will look like. The experts try to tell us this and that but the fact is all are unsure. We don’t know. Uncertainty takes its toll on us.

    Yet this Easter Day we can have hope: Jesus was raised from death to life. That changed everything and gives us hope. Take you back in history. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed. For the Israelites it was the end of their known world: the Temple was destroyed and with it all the rituals of faith, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the ‘professionals’ of society all deported to Babylon in chains. Into their situation spoke the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; they speak of lament and agony and anguish. They voice the pain. Yet within their writings they speak of hope: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!’ (Isaiah 43:18,19).

     There have been many 587BCs ever since across the world and in the lives of individuals. The cycle of birth, growth, blossoming, ripening, and death is everywhere. It is part of life and is shared by all creation. It is only us humans in the rich world who try to deny the truth of it, and live as if we are not mortal. This present crisis faces us head on with the truth of our own mortality and also with the truth that, with all our planning, we are not in control.

    For me, hope lies in Jesus Christ. There is a bigger story. We see glimpses of it in the blossoming of spring around us this weekend, and in the acts of kindness and self-sacrifice that are everywhere.  The hope that we hold as Christians is that God in Christ came to earth and shared our human lives, up to and including the experience of death. Yet on the third day he was raised from death to life. The sting of death and power of the grave (however distressing and powerful to us on earth) have been overcome. The God who made us, who has walked with us through all the ups and downs of life, will also embrace us in death. Now I’m not just talking about going to heaven when we die. But the conviction that God holds our whole story invites me to surrender my whole story to him in the now, knowing he will always be there for me. That conviction invites me to walk freer in this life - in the words of a well-known hymn:  ‘Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be’. It invites me to play my small part as faithfully and lovingly as I can.

  Yet I have a conviction in an even bigger story than this. God made the universe, brought it to birth. The whole created order goes through cycles of birth and death and resurrection but God is bringing it to a future where all will be well and all manner of things will be well. That means not just me, or us humans, but the whole of the created order – at peace with each other and at peace with God our maker and our lover. He constantly says to us ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!’ (Isaiah 43:18,19). There is a journey’s end that is wonderful beyond what I can encompass, not just for me as an individual, but for everything.

   I’m not saying I don’t get anxious, get lonely or long for some certainty. I struggle with these things as much as any. Being a Christian doesn’t make us proof against such feelings. I have questions of others and of God that are not answered. Yet knowing there is a bigger story, a love story, within which my little life is held, does make it look so very different.

   May you all know this day that Jesus is alive and he is alive in his world today. Let’s have eyes to see him for he is there. May you know your story given meaning in God’s big story.

To end a prayer from a modern thinker Richard Rohr:

God, we ask that all who are affected by this virus be held in your loving care. In this time of uncertainty, help us to know what is ours to do. We know you did not cause this suffering but that you are with us in it and through it. Help us to recognize your presence in acts of kindness, in moments of silence, and in the beauty of the created world. Grant peace and protection to all of humanity for their well-being and for the benefit of the earth