20 April 2020
The President's Easter Message
By the Revd Barbara Glasson, President of the Conference
As a Circuit Minister I have always found it impossible to write an Easter Sunday sermon until Good Friday has passed. There is a similar reticence in writing this Presidential message whilst we are in the throws of lockdown at the beginning of April. Not only could anything happen between now and Easter day, we are feeling much more in the wilderness than on a mountain top!
So, I will go to my favourite Bible story, the Road to Emmaus for inspiration, as in it we are aware of a path being taken which involves not only despair and confusion but also surprise and disbelief. And of course, it involves bread!
We are missing many things in our current situation, but mostly we are missing company. The whole notion of ‘socially isolating’ runs so contrary to what it means to be human and what it means to be Christian. We are people of community, we need to be together, we rejoice in each others company, we want to celebrate communion - all those words beginning ‘co’ , We are people of God in community, we are not meant to be apart! And yet, apart we must be, in order to protect each other, in order to protect the most vulnerable. If we imagine those disconsolate friends wandering along the road to Emmaus, at a social distance, it adds another level of melancholy to the whole sorry scene.
I've always loved the fact that Jesus came to walk beside them but they didn’t know it was Jesus. Over recent weeks we have all had the sense of other people walking beside us - strangers falling into step along the way, be it from the NHS or the local pharmacy. Just as the events of Holy Week brought the worst out in some people, it also brought the best out in others.
And we have also experienced a massive response online and through the post as Ministers and lay folk have connected in new ways to support the Methodist people as we cannot share in the community activities or Holy Communion that sustain us. And a massive thank you needs to go to the Connexional Team as they have de-camped from Methodist Church House but are beavering away on behalf of the Church to enable the necessary business to continue.
This falling into step alongside others, this opening up of conversation in new ways, begins to throw light on the presence of Jesus. Just as the disciples began to realise this was no ordinary companion, so we also see that a new story is emerging for us. We. like them, are not sure what it is yet, we are not sure what it means yet, we have no option but to go on walking.
Interesting isn’t it, that whatever the crisis is, the commodity that is first swept from the supermarket shelves is bread! If we have bread we have a sense of having the basics, the fundamentals, the possibility of life. The panic buying of bread in recent weeks has brought to mind in a new way the prayer ‘give us today our daily bread’. Just enough for the day, not a hoard. And if this prayer has taken on new significance in Britain, then it should also remind us of people for whom this prayer is a daily plea for survival. So, I hope we are currently being more than generous to All We Can!
The disciples recognised Jesus in Emmaus and on the lakeshore in the breaking and sharing of bread. And it is this breaking and sharing that is at the heart of our faith, our communion.
So, let’s celebrate Easter as we can. On Easter Sunday, in our own place and in our own way, let us take bread and break it and tell the story of Jesus, who even on the night in which he was betrayed shared bread with his companions. And let us continue to believe that our hearts will be warmed and our eyes will be opened and we will discover in new ways the presence of the risen Christ.
This article first appeared in the Methodist Recorder on April 10th