28 March 2018
Easter Message 2018
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Loraine N Mellor and Mrs Jill Baker, focus on the Resurrection in this year's Easter Message.
The Revd Loraine N Mellor says:
There is song that I like called I can only imagine. It reminds me of that first Easter Sunday morning when Mary and the women went to the tomb, and I often wonder what their faces would have been like. At first they would look afraid, sorrowful and their faces would have betrayed the inner emotions of grief and sadness. Then, as realisation dawned, their faces would have turned to smiling and happy in incredulousness at what they had just witnessed and now what they had to do.
Can you just imagine the scene, the Easter Resurrection story we know so well? As we read it and hear it once more, what do our faces say today, and what would our faces have been like as we encountered the risen Christ? “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me, I can only imagine.”*
No resurrection erases the tragedy of the Cross. Nothing erases the violence and the horror of Good Friday, but now is a time for joy and of hope; of great rejoicing as the Resurrection symbolises divine intention for life to survive. It is a mistake to say that Jesus’ death was a good thing: it was and should be seen as a tragedy. But, it is now time to rejoice and to smile and for our faces to display hope, for the tragedy of the Cross could not shut holy love out of the world. The death of Jesus shows how the world responds to a life with love at the centre. As Christians today, we claim the last words as God’s – and those last words are life, hope, love, grace, truth, blessing. “I can only imagine. Surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel?”*
And what will our faces say when we wake on Easter Sunday morning? As Christians today, our hope is in a God who raised his Son from death to life in order that we too can have life and life in all its fullness: a life rich in variety, a life of hope and of grace and of truth and of love. So whatever our circumstances today and for some that will be very difficult, we can know ourselves loved, cherished and having hope in eternal life.
Let your faces this Easter display your joy, your worship experience, your thankfulness for what God has done through Jesus. Let’s rejoice and be glad, the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, alleluia!
Mrs Jill Baker asks:
What are we waiting for?
This year, Loraine and I are both doing a great deal of travelling, quite often by train. Thankfully, that has generally gone smoothly, although on one occasion my train finally pulled into York station, "125 minutes behind schedule". (I assume the guard thought that sounded better than "over two hours late"!) Journeys often include necessary waiting time – at stations or airports or at busy road junctions and traffic lights. The journey of Lent and Holy Week is no different: it is a journey of changing pace and rhythms, of movement and of waiting.
Of all the gospel writers, I find that it is Luke who particularly offers us this strong sense of journeying as we travel with Jesus. From the moment when Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51) there is a relentlessness to the movement towards what Luke (alone) describes as the “exodus”, or “departure”, Jesus will accomplish by his death (9:31). The rhythm which Luke has described of Jesus going weekly to the synagogue (4:16) picks up speed as the end approaches; by chapter 19:47 we read that Jesus is teaching in the temple every day – and withdrawing to Bethany each night.
Then comes Good Friday with its crescendo of activity, travel and noise. The journey through the streets of Jerusalem is described in great detail: Jesus is led to Pilate, then sent to Herod, back to Pilate and then along what we now call the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrow, to the Cross. Encounters with Simon of Cyrene and the women of Jerusalem add poignancy and colour to that final walk. Different voices speak: the soldiers, the other criminals, the people, the rulers, Jesus himself – and then he breathes his last, the land falls into darkness, the rhythm is interrupted.
The story of the next forty hours or so is told in just nine verses, bare facts and little detail. This is the watching and waiting time, the quiet time, the still time. What is there to do? Little or nothing.
We all know that sense of helplessness which the women must have felt as they waited through the long hours of the Sabbath. Death is often followed by such helplessness, such inertia – until the need to plan for the funeral and the future takes over. Illness can make us stop and wait, so can redundancy or a relationship breakdown. Suddenly the rhythm of our life is interrupted and the silence can be deafening.
What are you waiting for at this point in your journey of life or of faith? What are we waiting for, or hoping for in our congregations, circuits, districts, in the Connexion? What are Loraine and I waiting or hoping for at this point in our year of office? As we all, in a sense, hold our breath at the end of Lent, preparing for the rhythm to sound again like a renewed heartbeat with the coming of Easter, we have each reflected briefly on that question.
I have always been drawn to the quiet, shadowy vigil of Holy Saturday and feel a strong identification with the women waiting throughout that night and day and another night... They were lamenting the death of their dearest friend, and so I find this a time to remember those whom I have loved and see no longer. Many names and faces and precious memories. Within the longing and the grieving, the idea of also waiting and hoping is powerful, strong and comforting. Somehow, even on Good Friday, there is the hope, the trust perhaps, that love is stronger than hate, that good is stronger than evil, that life is stronger than death. As Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “we do not grieve as others do who have no hope”.
And for the Methodist Church? What hopes do I have? What am I waiting for? Firstly, that we will be a community of people who are willing to wait through the long night with those who struggle. That we are people who know about Good Friday, as well as Easter Sunday. That we are not afraid to weep with those who weep and to lament the injustice, the tragedy and the sheer unfairness of much of life. I hope that we do not shy away from recognising the horror and wrongness of a cancer diagnosis, an untimely bereavement, a relationship betrayed and broken; but are prepared to make that long, relentless journey with those who are on the way of sorrow.
Then, after the forty hours, or forty days, or maybe forty years, of waiting and watching, we will be ready for the sun to rise in splendour, ready for a dawn of unimaginable glory to break. Thanks be to God.
*Lyrics originally released by the Christian band MercyMe in I can only imagine (Bart Millard, The Worship Project 1999, © Simpleville Music/Small Stone Media BV Holland (Admin by www.songsolutions.org)