Church Matters – April 2020

Church Matters – April 2020 This month we shall be celebrating Easter in our Churches. Although using the word ‘celebrating’ in this connection seems in some ways inappropriate. At Easter we remember two key events in the Life of Jesus – his death and his resurrection. The first, his death, is not of course something that we would feel comfortable rejoicing about; yet it is through his death in our place that our relationship with God can be restored. The second, his resurrection, is undoubtedly worth throwing a party over, for it proves that Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. Perhaps it is this bitter/sweet character to Easter that makes it a Christian festival that is less well supported in our Churches than Christmas is. Christmas may be celebrated by sending cards with images from the birth narrative: the baby Jesus lying in the manger, the Christmas star shining brightly to show the way, the wise men and the shepherds gathered to wonder at the child. Easter is not so well served by images of the events themselves; gruesome images of a cruel Roman execution will have only a very limited appeal, as will pictures of a shrouded body lying still and cold; neither is it easy to portray the resurrection graphically – a burst of light from the empty tomb seems most popular. And yet these two events – Christmas and Easter – are part of one and the same story. It is Jesus who was both the baby lying in the manger and 33 years later the body lying still and cold in a borrowed tomb. It is Jesus who was both the baby wondered at by wise men and shepherds and 33 years later was the ‘first born from the dead’ greeted in amazement by his disciples after his resurrection. The story of Jesus is only complete when the two are put together, along with all that happened in between, and all the wondrous implications that stem from both of them are realised. How it saddens me, then, that so few ‘celebrate’ both events. We have made attempts, of course, at producing Easter images that are more palatable. Eggs, bunnies, spring lambs and spring flowers are all symbols in some way of new life. But they beg the question as to what we are celebrating; Easter or a festival of spring? How many of our children will make the connection between their chocolate eggs and new life in the risen Jesus? Will they realise, and do we, that the baby in the manger and the Easter lamb are in any way linked; that Jesus is ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’? I could argue that there is so much more good news, so much more to celebrate, about Easter than there is at Christmas. Christmas offers the promise but Easter gives the fulfilment. I pray that for once this Easter Sunday our Churches may be as full, or even fuller, than they normally are at Christmas. That they would be filled with crowds intent on focussing on good news. On the first Easter morning the angel said to the women looking for Jesus’ body “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This Easter come and join in at a Church near you as we celebrate ‘the one who was, and is, and is to come’ – the living JESUS.