Easter Message



The President and Vice-President of the MethodistConference, the Revd Dr Roger Walton and Ms Rachel Lampard MBE,speak about confidence, suffering and hope in this year's EasterMessage.

"...Do we sometimes race over the reflection of holy weekand the pain of Good Friday, in order to reach the joy ofEaster?..."

"...The Christian vocation means feeling and facing thesuffering and injustice of the world, alongside God, until newcreation is complete. Staying with suffering and tackling injusticeis no easy option but is where Christian confidence takesus..."

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Full text below: 

A few weeks ago we both attended the launch of JPIT (JointPublic Issues Team) Yorkshire in Leeds along with about 100 otherpeople.  It was held in the grand surroundings of the CivicCentre, high ceilings, gilt-painted mirrors, and plaques listingthe great achievers of the industrial and civic life of thecity.  The self-assured grandeur of the surroundings sat alittle uneasily with the title of the conference: "Recoveringconfidence in the North". 

The building spoke of a confidence of a time long gone; theconference looked at how through the decades since that economicand cultural confidence had been lost.  The reality of povertyingrained in parts of various cities in the north, the loss ofindustry, the London economic magnet, sucking life out of therest  of the country.  But the speakers also spoke aboutthe confidence which exists in the North, and is even growing. It seems that northern businesses and politicians are takingup the notion of a 'Northern Powerhouse' though perhaps they arereshaping around themselves and their aspirations rather than theneeds of local people.  The conference ended on a note ofhope, with the signing of an agreement between the Methodist,Baptist and URC leaders in Yorkshire, along with Rachel as theleader of the Joint Public Issues Team, to work together on issuesof peace and justice in the region.

We sometimes struggle with the word "confidence".  OurSecretary of Conference, Gareth Powell, has encouraged us to bechurches of confidence and imagination.  But around us we seechurch membership declining and a huge demographic cliff of younger(and not so young) people who are simply not in our churches. We have a shortage of ministers to station, and for many people itfeels like a bit of a battle just to keep going.  Is it hardto keep preaching the gospel of resurrection if we have so littleconfidence in the present?.

Some of it is surely how we understand confidence.  It isoften portrayed as self-confidence that needs to be asserted, sothat our view and agenda triumphs over others, so that we get thatjob, win that debate, capture that vote, gain that poweradvantage.  Christian confidence is quite different.  Itis a confidence not in ourselves but in a crucified God, in Jesusraised from the dead and in the Holy Spirit making all thingsnew.   St Paul says that he had lots of grounds forconfidence in himself but that he has counted all that as loss orwaste - he uses a rather stronger word meaning utter rubbish - forthe sake of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection(Philippians 3.3-11).  This is the Christian confidence weneed as churches, a confidence that the crucified one has beenraised and that God's love is calling into a different kind offuture.

But we should note that Paul doesn't stop at knowing Christ andthe power of his resurrection but also includes the calling to'share Christ's sufferings'.  It is not easy to know what thismeans exactly but it suggests that the Christian vocation meansfeeling and facing the suffering and injustice of the world,alongside God, until new creation is complete.  Staying withsuffering and tackling injustice is no easy option but is whereChristian confidence takes us.  The English word confidencecomes from the root words of con "staying with" and fides "faith"Staying with the faith is a far more appropriate way ofunderstanding confidence at Easter.

I went on a Good Friday walk of witness a few years ago. While we handed out hot cross buns to slightly bemused passersby,we sang songs, led by a band from the local free church. These were songs of resurrection, of rejoicing, of the redemptivepower of the resurrected Christ.  The wooden cross, beingcarried at the front of the procession seemed rather lonely and outof place.

Do we sometimes race over the reflection of holy week and thepain of Good Friday, in order to reach the joy of Easter?  Andby doing this, do we deny the pain?  Are we really stayingwith the faith?

We visited Blaydon Foodbank a few weeks ago.  Thischurch-run foodbank, like so many others, stays with people throughtheir pain.  The volunteers help and hold people through theirhunger, pain and difficulties.  The church at Blaydon, wherethe foodbank is based, has doubled in membership, with volunteersand foodbank clients coming to learn more about this confidentfaith, a faith that stays with people through their pain, andallows people to catch the infectious hope that there isChrist. 

We pray that we will all deepen our confidence in Christ, as wejourney through the last part of Lent and Holy Week to the pain ofthe cross and the glory of the Resurrection.  May it allow usto stay with the suffering of the world with irrepressible hope,and may it inspire our imaginations so we share in a thousanddifferent ways the good news of Jesus, risen and alive.

Happy Easter

Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard