First I would like to thank you all for the cards, flowers, chocolate and messages of love that have been sent while I have been off sick. I’m not very sociable when I feel ill, so thank you too, for not hassling me and for allowing me the space I have needed to recover.
It has been said that you cannot experience spring until you first experience winter and I’m certain that many of us are happily soaking up these first sunny days of spring and rejoicing at the sight of the buds on the trees, the sounds of increased activity and song among the birds and the flowers bursting into colourful displays in the gardens and verges. There are many times in our own lives when, no matter what the season, it feels like winter; when we experience bereavement, face a serious illness-either ours or that of someone we love-or maybe when something happens that causes a change in our circumstances, even if it’s an expected one, such as a child starting school or leaving home. These things, and many others can make us feel cold, lonely, bereft, as if winter has come. For some, it doesn’t take much to upset the balance of life so much that it begins to feel like C.S. Lewis’ land of Narnia where it is always winter and never even reaches Christmas.
In a similar way it has also been said, that you cannot truly experience Easter and the joy of Resurrection Sunday, until you first experience Lent. In the last few weeks each one of us has been on a Lenten journey, each in different ways; some will have done extra things, some will have given up things, but each of us will have journeyed with Jesus towards Jerusalem and the cross.
Many of us will have used this journey as an opportunity to take stock of who we are, maybe even looking through the shadowy places within ourselves and facing some of those things that we try and hide- things that hinder our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with those around us. Hopefully every one of us will have allowed God, through our prayers and studies, to take away those things that trouble us most, our doubts, sorrow, helplessness, anger, pride, extravagance and fear. And I am certain, deep within me that this year, maybe more than in previous years, many of us are truly anticipating the return of the light, warmth, colour and joy that comes with the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter resurrection.
What I have learned during my own Lent reflections this year is that it is much easier to talk about loss and desolation when one’s experience of that is confined to a story, in the Bible, which took place 2000 years ago. It is quite another matter to talk or write about these things when you are in the grip of sadness or desolation yourself. The disciples’ experience becomes more real and earthed in the present when personal grief or pain is still raw and occupying so much of one’s daily thoughts.
It has never occurred to me as deeply before, that the move from the desolation of loss on Good Friday to the joy of Resurrection on Easter Sunday is an almost impossible one to make. After all, how can any human make that jump in three days?
When this year I looked more carefully at the account of the Resurrection in Luke’s gospel, I found that, indeed, none of Jesus' followers could make that jump easily either. When they encountered evidence of the Resurrection complete with empty tomb and angels, they were frightened, perplexed, confused and even amazed at what they saw.
What I didn’t find, is immediate belief and faith. This it appears takes time to develop and come to terms with. In order to say that ‘yes’ to Resurrection faith, they first had to say ‘no’ to the grip of desolation and death, that held them fast. It all takes time, and different amounts of time from one person to another, because then, just as now, no two human reactions to a situation are quite the same. The gospel stories tend to speed up this process, but if you read them carefully you find, reassuringly in my opinion, plenty of hesitation and doubt in evidence amongst the followers of Jesus.
Of course we have an advantage over those first witnesses of Resurrection. We now know the end of the story. We understand that we serve a risen Saviour in Jesus Christ. We know where to look for hope in the middle of our desolation, our grief. We know where to turn, to feel the warmth of the sun again, in the midst of our winter experiences.
It was the experience of the disciples and it is our experience too, that eventually in Christ, grief and despair always give way as Resurrection breaks in. Winter will end and spring will always return- this is the wonder of our faith, this is our hope.
The overwhelming message of resurrection hope during this, and every other Easter, is that Christ died so that we might live, but no longer live for ourselves. He died that we might live for something bigger, that we might have life in all its fullness. The power of the Resurrection enables each one of us to transform a bleak today into a brighter tomorrow.
We should use that God given resurrection hope, which has been entrusted to us, just as those first disciples, to transform the world around us. When those around us grow weary and can only see winter, when they think it is finished, we can say with renewed vigour, No! NO! He is alive! We can show them the warmth of God’s love surrounding them, even in their darkest moments and remind them that spring will come again.
May we, this Easter, have renewed confidence in that hope. May we claim it for ourselves, may we claim it for those we know and love and may the power of Easter morning enable us all in renewed faith and great deeds.