Easter Message from the President of Conference

The Revd Will Morrey, President of the Conference:

Friends advise me to confine my singing to the car, andpreferably when there are no passengers! In recent days I'vefrequently been drawn to the couplet, 'Faith has still its Olivetand love its Galilee' in John Greenleaf Whittier's hymn, 'ImmortalLove, forever full, forever flowing freeÉ'

Faith's Olivet. The Mount of Olives and there the faith of Peterknows rebuke:
"Even though they all fall away I will not."
"Truly I say to you this very night you will deny me threetimes."
"If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all saidthe same.
And they all left him and fled...

The Mount of Olives Ð and Jesus prays, "If it be, let this cuppass from me." There have been trying times, but few approach theintensity of this time of testing. Luke tells of his sweat fallinglike great drops of blood, as he wrestles in himself to come to anacceptance of that night and what must follow.

Then swiftly a kiss, the betrayer has come, the followersflee.

The Mount of Olives Ð rebuke, test, and betrayal.

Love's Galilee, Jesus words, "I will go before you intoGalilee." Few resurrection appearances are recorded; but there bythe lakeside the loving restoration of Peter. Three times "Do youlove me." And the parallel with the three denials is obvious. "Thenfeed my sheep, tend my lambs" and Peter knows that love welcomeshim back.

Such is the background, the bedrock of the couplet, but wait,"Faith still has its Olivet, and love its Galilee."
Not history alone. Still has.
Let us ponder further. Encounter with a wide range of peopleincluding Christians who face life and death choices daily causesme to question my own living and to sense the rebuke of me, and ofmy complacency. Faith which knows complacency, ease, indifference,will be rebuked. Faith which is hasty in word, extravagant inclaim, and short on action, will be rebuked. Faith which flies fromthe realities of the world, cocooning itself in its own smallcorner, will be rebuked. Faith which lets us sit comfortably withour society, allowing us to not stand out as different; faith whichnever runs the risk of mockery, ridicule, or slander, will berebuked. Faith which has scant sense of the judgment of God will berebuked.

"Even though they all fall away I will not", said Peter. Andwhen the chips were down, when it really counted, when words werenot enough, what then? And you and me, here and now, how much forus does the crucified, risen, ascended, Christ matter? Howdifferent are we from them that say nothing about him? How thoroughis your thinking about lifestyle because of him?

Faith still has its Olivet. With Peter know the rebuke.

I don't believe in faith in isolation. Faith is not only anindividual matter, it is corporate, a body together Ð it was so forJesus too.
The time spent with his followers was not one-way traffic. Therewas a real bond between them. There is nothing vaguelyoff-the-cuff, still less flippant, about the way Jesus speaks withthose closest to him in that last week of his life. It is withmeasured voice that he speaks with Judas, Peter, James, John. Thewords are sure and weighty as they make their way to the Mount ofOlvies, "You will all fall away; for it is written, "I will strikethe shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered."
The kiss that signals which one is Jesus is the kiss of a friend,not an enemy. Betrayal and desertion are by those closest to him.They cannot cease to be his friends because in Jesus there is anoverpowering sadness for them.

There's a picture of Jesus painted by Herbert Beecroft. It showshead and shoulders, but everything is in the eyes. It's impossibleto find the collection of words that describe the look in the eyeswhich seem to follow you as you look at the picture from differentangles. The title of the picture is taken from the moment afterPeter has denied knowing Jesus, when we read, "And the Lord turnedand looked on Peter and Peter remembered." Whatever else is inthose eyes there is an infinite sadness for the one on whom helooks.

Olivet's betrayal and desertion knows not bitterness or hatred,but a profound sadness. If for us faith still has its Olivet therewill be times when we sense betrayal, or an awful sense of beinglet down by those who we thought trustworthy. To know that withinthe fellowship of the church can cut very deeply, but the key is inJesus. The brokenness is turned, and becomes sadness forthem.
That the sadness is there in Jesus, that he should thus look uponPeter in the firelight of the courtyard, is the first signal thatthe severe testing of Gethsemane has met with victory.
If faith still has its Olivet then faith is going to betested.
To use the image of the letter of James, faith passes through theassayer's fire. Do no expect an easy passage, but the testing willnot beyond endurance. The testing is not designed to destroy.

I had to turn down an invitation I would have very much liked tohave accepted. It was to an act of renewal of marriage vows. Iwould dearly like to have gone because I know something of what thelast six years have involved for the couple. Within the servicelove's Galilee was to be proclaimed, as there was expressed in therenewal of vows the restoration of the relationship.

Restoration is, I think, the right word, if we use it carefully.A building which is restored is one that is put back into shape,very much resembling the original form and appearance, but thecareful observer will notice the differences between the presentand the original parts of the building.

Restoration involves making whole as before, while alsorecognizing that the passing of time has played a part. In terms ofrestored relationships that means not that things are as they were(as though nothing had happened) but that things are as they werebecause a stage of the journey has been completed the bonds stillbind, and indeed, may bind the more strongly.
Love's Galilee is essentially about providing for and welcomingrestoration of relationships.
Love still has its Galilee.

Indeed, Olivet and Galilee belong together. Faith and love gohand in hand. Rebuke and the sadness for the betrayer look torestoration as their completion. Testing looks to the triumph ofpassing the test.
May we know and continue to explore Faith's Olivet and Love'sGalilee.