20 March 2008
The really good news gospel - the Easter message from the Methodist President
Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist
"Donald English used to say that death and resurrection is not simply what happened to Jesus but is the deep movement God implants in all creation. The Christian God is a God of death and resurrection.
"Like many I have been challenged by poignant examples of death - its reality and hard consequences - and blessed by wonderful examples of resurrection - and the hope and joy it brings.
"I will never forget a conversation with a Sierra Leonian man, bearing the scars of the rebel war in the 1990's so powerfully depicted in the recent film Blood Diamond. He thanked me fervently for bringing the gospel to his land - he talked to me as if I was one of those first Methodist missionaries to West Africa! He explained with deep emotion how he had received Christ quite recently, in the war years, and this coming to faith had enabled him to begin to forgive those who mutilated him - and, as I learned a little later, killed his wife. I was moved to tears. In all his pain and lasting disability he knew that Jesus was alive, and there was hope in his life. He knew in a deep way that the gospel of Christ truly is good news.
"More recently, when in Uganda with MRDF, I met Christian folk who have so little, who live with the reality and proximity of death and suffering in a way I do not, yet who remind me more than most of the life and hope of Christian faith. Death and resurrection belong together.
"Or I think of some friends who have died in recent times. They knew their prognosis. They lived with the stark consequences of their impending death, for themselves and especially their loved ones. And at just the time when hope might be most lacking in these dear people and those who love them, they talk of the nearness of Christ, the wonderful love and forgiveness of God, the comfort of their faith, their trust in Jesus, the salvation he freely gave and their hope of heaven. In the most traumatic situations of life, it is often those going through them who embody and make clear that the Christian gospel truly is good news.
"Death and resurrection is also evident in the life of our churches. I was at Walworth Methodist Church some weeks ago. A church with a venerable past, 'Clubland' had a great ministry among local youths and others in that London neighbourhood. But there came a time when almost all signs of life disappeared, and a long three days of darkness ensued. But resurrection has come and new life bursts out everywhere. Methodist Christians, young and old, many (originally) from various parts of West Africa and beyond, share life and worship that exudes the good news gospel.
"Our world lives with death and resurrection in many ways and in many places. An 'average' news broadcast gives cause to both weep and rejoice. In places of death and darkness we must continue to weep with those who weep and 'look for the morning' as people of resurrection faith and hope. With those who rejoice in life and hope we must celebrate and point to God, the giver of it all.
"Our Easter faith is not death or resurrection, it is death and resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is not a reversal of death. It is much more than that. The risen Jesus is known by the scars of crucifixion. He is the Living One Who Died. But now he is alive forever. And, marvellously, he stands today with this needy world in the reality of death and the promise of new life. This ministry he shares with us, his Easter People Church, a people bearing the marks of both death and new life. A people who know and live out the profound truth that death and resurrection life both lie deep in the purposes of God, in whom all things will be well. Alleluia!"