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Happy Easter, Christ is Risen! (April 2021)

Dear Friends

Happy Easter! A year has rolled round and a second Easter dawns with the world locked indoors. In all sorts of ways the agonies continue: no normal Holy Week and Easter worship; no familiar gatherings together to celebrate not just our faith but the sheer joy of togetherness; many family meals missing someone at the table; fears for jobs and health and wellbeing. What an incredible year we have lived through! What challenging times! What losses!

Happy Easter! Might that simple greeting ring just a little hollow? Can it be, really, a happy Easter when we have lost so much and still long for so much to be returned? Who am I fooling? And yet...

‘Happy Easter’ still fits doesn’t it? This is the season more than any other in which the Church rings with celebration and thankfulness. At its heart is the story we will hear again of the most solid ending being transformed into the most glorious beginning. Our gospels tell different elements of the story and recount different highlights. But they all agree on two things: Jesus died upon the cross, and Jesus rose from the dead.

When the women ventured to the tomb to do what was right to honour their dead friend and teacher, they understood that so much had ended for them. The men couldn’t even get that far in their fear. The women had found in Jesus a man who treated them with a respect that society seldom gave them. He had taught them with a conviction they had not heard before. He had healed and worked miracles that enraptured so many. These things could and would live on in the stories they might tell and the memories they might treasure. In the deep dark days to come, they might find some strength and hope in remembering these things. But the grand idea, the story they thought they were caught up in of God’s kingdom come, salvation’s story, gasped and died as he slumped upon that cross.

And then the incredible. It begins as if grave robbers have rolled away the stone, or as if the gardener has somehow relocated a corpse. It includes messengers from God and the wrappings of death neatly laid aside as if by someone escaping them. It becomes meetings in garden, in upper room and on the way to Emmaus with Jesus. Not some sense of his presence. Not some ghostly apparition, trick of the light or work of overworking imaginations. But simply, impossibly, him. There is much fear. But the fear gives way to joy. The doubts give way to certainty. The impossible becomes reality. He is risen, and the grand idea they thought lost in failure is the brightest, truest reality they have ever encountered.

Think how many times Easter has come amidst nightmares and disasters. Easter during wartime and during plague. Easter amidst famine. Easter during economic collapse, industrial disputes, natural catastrophes. Easter dawning on the day a loved one dies, or the sickness is diagnosed, or the painful treatment carries on. Easter coming as violence and abuse continue, as anger rages, as hope collapses. In so many, many ways, Easter changes little of the realities we wrestle with.

And yet, Easter marks God’s refusal to give up and to walk away from us and everything we face. Easter signals God’s power which overcomes death and undoes all that would defy God’s kingdom. Easter is an absolute ending; not to the outworking of God’s loving purposes but to the clutch of death and sin. And thus it can be a season for rejoicing amidst the imperfect world we know so well. And, whilst last Easter saw us just beginning to live lockdown lives with little sense of what lay ahead, this Easter brings the miracle of vaccination and the slowly growing hope of release. Happy Easter. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

Yours as ever,