From the Chaplain
I write this message on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 2018; the week in the Church calendar when we focus our attention on the days leading up to the death of Jesus on the Cross, and beyond. This is the week when we re-tell stories that have many disconcerting elements: the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, on the back of a humble donkey, rather than a horse of war (Palm Sunday); the sharing of the Passover Meal with the disciples, and Jesus’ insistence that he wash the feet of his friends (Maundy Thursday); the killing of a truly good human being in the most shameful way (Good Friday); the numbing absence of “Holy Saturday”. All of this culminating in the most unanticipated news of Easter Sunday: Jesus being raised from the dead.
It’s been Easter in the shops for a long time now (I’m not complaining about the hot-cross buns), but Easter in the Church does not actually begin until Easter Sunday. This day of great celebration is then followed by 50 days of Easter (50 days of Easter eggs?): a whole Easter season. It is during these 50 days each year that we explore, and re-explore, what the resurrections means for us, in our age and circumstances.
I have noticed in my conversations with students that sometimes they get “resurrection” and “reincarnation” mixed up, and I touched on this difference in our Senior School Easter Service at St Mark’s Church today. Reincarnation is part of the belief system of the oldest religion in the world – the Hindu religion. I am not an expert on this, but what I understand is that to “be reincarnated” is to be re-born in a different form. Resurrection, on the other hand, is a word that looms large in the Christian tradition. In fact, without “resurrection”, there would be no Christianity. When Christians confess that Jesus was resurrected, they mean that he was “raised from the dead”, by God. Some people in the early days of the church said things like – “Maybe Jesus didn’t really die”, or “Perhaps he was resuscitated”, or “He must have been pretending”. But the Christian belief is that Jesus really did die, and that he really did come back to life.
And because of Jesus coming back to life, Christians also believe that there is the possibility that we will be resurrected too. Christians look forward to a time when all those who have lived as part of God’s family, will be raised from the dead: a time when we will be re-united with those we love. Exactly what that will be like is not clear – we live with the mystery – but what we do have is the story of Jesus’ resurrection, and that story is a promise from God, that “being raised” is the future.
One part of resurrection that I think is not well understood, however, is that it is not just about the future . . . it is also about the present. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus changes how we see the present, and how we act in the present. To see the world through “resurrection eyes” is to look with hope on the problems and predicaments of our times. It is to trust that, whatever dark holes we are heading into as a human race, God is not at a distance, but closer than we know. In the events of Holy Week we see God bringing light out of darkness, bringing healing and wholeness, reviving broken spirits. God, we see, will not let one good thing in this whole creation be lost.
For Christians, resurrection is not an abstract proposition or some fine piece of theological argument; it is the event on which all our hope and courage is based, and the starting point for really living and acting in the world.
May I wish you and your family every blessing this Easter-tide. You will be in my prayers throughout this Holy Week. I include a prayer below that you may like to pray, on Easter day, and on each of the fifty days that follow!
A prayer for Easter: the day and the Season
We rejoice today that you have triumphed over death
and that the victory is yours.
Help us to re-discover what it means to be Easter people.
May we be messengers of hope
and heralds of righteousness.
Deliver us from fear
So that we may speak your word of peace
as we live your risen life.
(from “The Little Book of Lent”, William Collins, 2014, p. 155)