Methodist President rejoices in the here and now this Easter

In his Easter message, Revd David Gamble, President of theMethodist Conference, has called on Methodists to celebrate God'saction in the here and now.

David stressed the Church's responsibility to tell good newsstories, witnessing to God's love in action in the lives ofindividuals and communities in 21st century Britain and all aroundthe world.

He spoke of how the most exciting stories of the Methodist faithlie not just in the past, but in contemporary Church life. "Thereare some impressive and important stories to be told," he said."Not of how things used to be. Not of our Church's formergreatness. Not of our happy memories. But of God's love in actionin the lives of people here and now. The stories come from all overthe place. And it is important we share them."

The full text of the message follows:

"I am writing this in York, during a visit to the York and HullDistrict where I spent the first thirteen years of my ministry,from 1974 to 1987, first in Tadcaster and then in York itself. Ithas been an amazing and often very moving few days. Among otherthings, on the Sunday morning I preached at the sung Eucharist atYork Minster. In the evening I revisited Clowes Memorial Church inHull West Circuit, where I preached my first ever sermon in January1966. Needless to say, I used a different sermon this time round -though I didn't meet anyone who claimed to remember my earlierone!

"On the Tuesday I revisited Hull University, where I studied Lawfrom 1965 to 1968. I was shown round the much enlarged Universitycampus and met with the Director and Assistant Director of the LawSchool and then the Vice-Chancellor. We talked about the Universityas it is now and its vision for the future. As we arrived at theUniversity and parked the car, I noticed someone standing close towhere we were parking, as if making sure we weren't parking in thewrong space. I got out of the car and the person spoke my name. Itwas someone who'd been a Hull student (and a MethSoc member) at thesame time as I was there, who had seen from the local paper that Iwas due to be visiting, and wanted to come and say hello. After 42years! A very special moment.

"Back in York we drove round the city walls, one of York's manywell-known attractions. They are particularly attractive at thistime of the year, as the daffodils begin to bloom. By Easter Day,and given a bit more sunshine, the grass slopes around the wallswill be a sea of yellow.

"As I enjoyed the sight of the daffodils and reflected on my yearsspent in and near York, I remembered one or two funeral services Ihad taken at this time of year. I had sometimes spoken of theemerging daffodils as signs of new life outside the city wall - andsuggested that this was very close to what this time of Holy Weekand Easter is about. New life, outside the city wall. Echoes hereof the first verse of the hymn 'There is a green hill faraway'.

"I also recollected that I was a minister in York at the time DavidJenkins became Bishop of Durham and at the time of the controversywhen he was quoted as describing the story of the resurrection as'a conjuring trick with bones.' What he had actually said was thatit had to be 'more than a conjuring trick with bones'. And, rathermore importantly, he'd suggested that the real proof and point ofthe resurrection was not about the precise details of what happenedwith the bones of Jesus 2000 years ago. What really mattered wasour experience of the risen Lord now. That is why in our Easterliturgies we acclaim 'He is risen', not just 'He did rise'. Theheart of the gospel is about now, not long ago and far away.

"This year's lectionary gospel has been Luke, in many ways myfavourite gospel. The writer of Luke often emphasises the 'nowness'(if there is such a word) of God's action in Jesus. So, forexample, on the day at the beginning of his ministry when he wentto his local synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah he thensaid 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'(Luke 4.21). Here and now.

"In many ways, the challenge facing us as a church today isprecisely about witnessing to God's love in action here and now.Obviously that is partly about engaging with the story of whathappened 2000 years ago in Palestine. But it is also aboutwitnessing to God's love in action here and now in the lives ofindividuals and groups and communities in 21st century Britain andall around the world.

"Each year I have heard Presidents and Vice-Presidents returningfrom their travels, telling stories of some of the people they havemet and things they have seen on their visits. They have soundedexcited, moved and energised by what they have experienced. Nowthat I am three quarters of the way through my year of such visitsI know exactly why. There are some impressive and important storiesto be told. Not of how things used to be. Not of our church'sformer greatness. Not of our happy memories. But of God's love inaction in the lives of people here and now. The stories come fromall over the place. And it is important we share them.

"My March visit to the York and Hull District was a great chancefor me to revisit old haunts and to meet people from my past. Butit was an even greater chance to be reminded of the signs of newlife happening now - outside the city walls of York, but also inindividuals, churches and communities all over the world.

"The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia!"