Vicar’s Letter May/June/July 2019
At the entrance to Jerusalem’s Church of All Nations, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, there is a sign warning every visitor: NO EXPLANATIONS INSIDE THE CHURCH. This was intended to discourage talkative tour guides from disturbing the prayerful ambience of the church with shouted lectures, but it has always struck me as very good advice for preachers on Easter Sunday.
There is nothing wrong with addressing peoples’ doubts, or wondering what facts might lie behind the Easter narratives. But that is work for another day. Easter Sunday is for proclamation, not explanation. “Hallelujah Christ has Risen! He has Risen Indeed Hallelujah!” The Easter Proclamation is about meeting the one who changes everything, it’s not a question of looking back and reminiscing. The central question of Easter is not what happened to Jesus way back then? But rather Where is Jesus now? — for us, and what must we do, or rather what must we become? We are Easter People, our faith today must be an Easter Faith, we live in the light of the resurrection, and, resurrection has consequences. The resurrection is more than an idea we talk about or believe, it’s something we become, something we “prove” in the living of our life stories – we are part of Gods’ narrative.
On the 27th July 1981 at 10 pm I sat on a bench outside the Chester City Mission and was challenged by two students from Chester University (who had befriended me), to give my life to Jesus, to accept that he died for me and that by his resurrection I could experience new life in him and be renewed and transformed. It was a simple yet passionate request by two Christians for me to surrender my life to God. What did I have to lose? My life was going nowhere I was on a path of self-destruction. I sobbed as they held me in their hands and prayed for me, between tears, I asked Jesus into my heart and life. That prayer had serious consequences, it didn’t happen overnight, but my life was transformed beyond recognition. I stand before you today as having experienced the power of the ‘Risen Lord ‘to transform the poverty of our nature into his glorious nature.
I know that my redeemer lives and because He lives, we can face tomorrow all fear is gone. Whatever happens, no matter how difficult life gets, no matter how uncertain or unstable our current political system is, we are ‘ Easter People ‘ we do not despair, as the world does, we look to the ‘Risen Lord‘ He is the basis of our hope, summed up beautifully in the hymn, ‘All My Hope on God is Founded’ Jesus is Alive! He is still showing up as a transfiguring, transforming presence in a world fraught with darkness, despair and emptiness. The church, his body is still a symbol of hope to those who suffer. It was heart-breaking watching the news and reading about the Sri Lankan attacks on Christians and innocent people. The one thing that caught my eye in an article by one of the survivors who was interviewed was the sentence ‘ In the Darkest of times the Church continues to be a Symbol of Hope.
That is the Easter Message. The first disciples, so scattered and shamed by the events of the Passion, made this perfectly clear when their broken and bewildered community was restored to life. So it is for all of us who follow. Resurrection is about the healing and restoration of the wounded and severed relationships: relationships between God and humanity, between human persons and, ultimately, amongst all the elements of creation, including the environment. Resurrection isn’t something we explain. It’s something we live and breathe to the glory of God.
“ Hallelujah Christ has Risen “
“ He has Risen indeed Hallelujah “