Letter from the Vicar (April 2012)
At the heart of the message of Easter is hope. The reason why Jesus is important at all is that he satisfies the universal hopes and longings of humanity. What is that all of us want, all of us hope for? Surely most of us hope for happiness, however misguided we often are in our ways of achieving it.
The followers of Jesus believed that he had given them the hope of happiness. He had transformed their lives, bringing meaning where there had been meaninglessness, optimism where there had been despair. But all that had turned to ashes when he was seized, tried and executed as a common criminal. Their hope in him was smashed and we learn that many of them fled and went into hiding for fear that they would wind up the same way Jesus had. The reason why we believe in the resurrection as an historical event is primarily because it is inconceivable that those disciples’ hopes could have been rekindled to such a level of enthusiasm without it having happened.
But Jesus’ resurrection didn’t just restore hope to his immediate followers, it also brings hope to us. It brings us the hope of happiness. For if, in response to his gracious call, we put our trust and faith in Christ, if we make a decision for him we can know and enter the life of the risen Christ ourselves. Easter is not just about the memory of an event, however remarkable that event may have been, it is about entering into that event here and now. That is what we do each and every time a person is baptised or we share the Eucharist. We embrace the hope of happiness which Easter is all about. If you believe that happiness can be found in Christ, keep on embracing him. When we find happiness with another human being we want to go on embracing that person throughout our lives. The same must be true of our life in the church. We must embrace Christ every day and above every Sunday, for each Sunday is like a little Easter Day. Don’t miss out on being in Church every Sunday. Too many members of this Church attend every two or three weeks or even just once a month. But Christ invites you to share in the celebration of his rising day every Sunday, together with your brothers and sisters. To come less frequently saps the morale of the Church and implies that the hope of the resurrection is not really secure.
At the beginning of three of our Eucharistic Prayers we say that it is our duty and our joy to give God thanks and praise. That hits the nail on the head. It’s a joy, but also a duty. True happiness is like that. What we often think will bring happiness - doing what immediately seems pleasurable in the short term - doesn’t bring real deep contentment in the long run. There has to be an element of obedience, of duty. But when we live in obedience to God we find a real, genuine and lasting happiness, a deep down joy that will not be swept away. To find the joy of the Christian life we must also embrace the discipline. You can’t have the one without the other. And Christ will satisfy your deepest needs and hopes. He is the answer to humanity’s perpetual restlessness. In the resurrection we see the hope of every man woman and child becoming a reality. The risen Christ fulfils our deepest innermost needs and hopes, what we call our spiritual and psychological needs. But the resurrection also brings hope to a world of conflict and violence, a world where there is terrible suffering like that found in Afghanistan, Syria or the Sudan. We see such suffering and we feel a sense of hopelessness. Jesus’ disciples would have felt just like that when Jesus was crucified. Jesus is crucified again in all the afflicted millions of our world. But the resurrection of Christ remarkably overturned the despair of the disciples and it can work to overcome the despair of our world. Let the resurrection power begin its work in you, to overcome your despair and hopelessness. For the resurrection demonstrates that even death can be defeated. And if it can then its power is limitless. Put your trust in Jesus, the one who was raised up from the grave and who brings light and hope to a dark, dangerous and sinful world.