Methodist President's message of hope for Easter

In his Easter message the Revd Stephen Poxon, President of theMethodist Conference, speaks of the emotions of Easter and a hopethat never dies.

The full text follows:

"Life is full of thrills…..some come unexpectedly whilst others wego looking for, perhaps on the latest ride at the theme park or funfair….the thrill of being thrown around, often uncontrollably,stomach wrenching and cries of laughter or fear! Yet sadly theseare also the emotions for many of us at the moment in our dailyliving and it isn't quite the thrill we were looking for! We arecaught in a recession that is beginning to bite and almost none ofus are immune. It evokes feelings of fear and uncertainty, worryand concern within us. We continue to be aware of the unfoldingevents in Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka with continuingnatural disasters around the world and all of this against thebackdrop of the recent G20 meeting here. So what has Easter to sayto the world and our nations? What is the good news we are calledto offer?

"The emotions of that first Easter morning are exactly the same asmany of us are experiencing now. The women and disciples came tothe tomb feeling empty, a sense of desolation, all their hopesgone….and they find the stone rolled away, the body gone, the tombempty. This is surely how many people are feeling today. Throughthe loss of a loved one, worry over a parent with Alzheimer's;concern over finances or employment…a deep sense of loss, ofemptiness. Yet is the tomb empty? There is a message: 'he is nothere, he has risen' and the women are filled with wonder andexcitement - their emptiness is replaced by hope……

"A woman from Brazil shared with me long ago that 'the last thingto die is hope' …and as I have travelled this year I havediscovered, no matter how dark a situation, wherever there has beenhope people have been alive to change and new life. Church peoplehave shown me projects that have come about because they neverstopped hoping and I witnessed exactly this at the opening of thenew church in Weymouth a couple of weeks ago. 7 years after theoriginal church was burnt down, after just finishing itsrefurbishment, there was a real sense of loss and emptiness - theynever let their hope die and it was a tremendous privilege to sharein celebrating their new life.

"As the disciples and women approached the garden that early Eastermorning I'm certain they were frightened. This was intensified asthey heard the message that Jesus had risen and was alive. Amixture of excitement and fear, what could it all mean?

"We live among a people who are frightened. Fear of the recession,fear of terrorism, fear of growing old, fear of speaking out forjustice, fear of…

"As Jesus meets and greets people that first Easter his first wordsagain and again are : 'don't be afraid' or 'Peace be with you' forit is only when He breaks through our fear can we see and receivethe love He offers us….and then there is only joy. It's thismixture of emotions I felt whilst watching Wales play England atthe Millennium Stadium during my district visit to Wales…wantingWales to win but the game so close and the fear building up withinme and most in the stadium…and as the final whistle blew theeruption of joy…In some ways the fear stopped me enjoying the gameto the full and this is perhaps where many of us are in our living- the fears and worries of everyday life are stopping us enjoyingfully being alive. The message of Easter is that Christ comes tobreak through our fear that we might know the joy of life….of beingalive and in relationships with others and enjoying all that Godprovides.

"Easter eggs will abound once again this festive season and I stilldon't know the answer as to whether it was the chicken or the eggwhich came first. Whilst in Wales I preached at a small villagechapel in Carew and here is one of the most historic Celtic crossesin our islands. In the Celtic design where is the beginning and theend? We are sometimes guilty of celebrating Easter Sunday as theend, the culmination of Lent and Holy Week. 'Christ is risen.Hallelujah!' And what happens next? The stories in the gospels tellus that those who encountered the living Christ couldn't keep it tothemselves and couldn't wait to tell others. So we celebrate thatEaster is not only an ending but a beginning.

"Life for us all is a journey of endings and beginnings. Our taskis to help lead people from their endings into new beginnings atwhatever age and stage of life they are.

"So the emotions of the first Easter are still very real in oursociety today. The challenge for us is to know how we can offer thehope, joy and new life that Jesus offers us all. One simple way isto believe and live these emotions in our own life that others maysee the risen Christ living in us."

You can listen to Stephen's message on the Methodist Web Radiopage: www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1633