I hope that you are all keeping yourselves safe as we fight this battle against Covid19. I hope, too that you are able to get hold of the food and medicines you require as you need them. These are strange and difficult times that we are living in and I am sure, like me, you miss being able to meet together to worship, or even just to wander into our church buildings for a moment or two of quiet. I know too that you will be missing the physical contact with real people. Those of you who have access to the internet and can use Skype and Face-Time are able to at least ‘see’ your friends and family, but that is no substitute for a hug with a real person. This will all come to an end eventually and, because of our Christian faith, we know that God is in charge and we can trust him entirely. The prophet Isaiah wrote that our names are written on the palms of his hands and Matthew and Luke write that he even numbers the hairs on our heads.
The events of this last week and this weekend are the most important in the churches calendar – when we focus on Palm Sunday, when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey greeted by crowds of people waving branches and throwing their cloaks and palms onto the road in front of him; Maundy Thursday when Jesus celebrated the Passover – his last meal on earth with his disciples – sharing with them the bread and wine and telling them of what was to follow. After his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane later that evening, he was condemned to die and on Good Friday led out to be crucified. During today, Holy Saturday, Christ lay dead in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, with a huge stone covering the entrance, sealed with the seal of Rome – to break it would have carried the death penalty – and guarded by a detachment of Roman soldiers.
Then comes tomorrow! The glory of Easter day and the resurrection. This year, because of Covid19, we will have to ponder on all these things at home, but that should not detract from the joy of Easter Day, when Christ conquered death for all time. By his death and resurrection Christ offers us the gift of eternal life.
The Church of England website will be live streaming an Easter Sunday morning service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury tomorrow morning, to watch it click the link below. You can also listen to the service on radio 4 at 8:00am
A prayer for all those affected by coronavirus
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A couple of F-15 fighter planes are escorting a C-130 Hercules across the sky and their pilots are chatting on the radio to pass the time. The conversation comes round to the relative merits of their respective aircraft. The fighter pilots contend that their airplanes are better because of their superior speed, manoeuvrability, weaponry and so forth, and they point out the Hercules’ deficiency in these areas. After listening to this for a while, the Hercules pilot says, “Oh yeah? Well, I can do a few things in this old girl that you’d only dream about.” Naturally, the fighter pilots challenge him to demonstrate. “Just watch,” comes the quick retort. And so they watch. But all they see is the Hercules continuing to fly straight and level. After several minutes the Hercules pilot comes back on the air, “There! How was that?” he asks. The fighter pilots reply, “What are you talking about? What did you do?” And the Hercules pilot replies, “Well, I got up, went for a walk, and made a cup of coffee.”
Many people do not recognise what God has done for them in the events of Easter. These days we have all sorts of hi-tech gadgets. We have computers with great graphics, telephones that take photographs, connect to the internet and do all sorts of things, as well as send and receive phone calls. (On Maundy Thursday, when usually about 350 clergy (including me) gather in the Cathedral to renew their ordination vows in a beautiful Maundy Thursday service, this year because all churches are closed and gatherings forbidden, we renewed our vows online using zoom!) We have all sorts of things that previous generations could only dream of. And when we hear the simple 2,000 year old Easter story, it feels like that great old C-130 Hercules. We think, “It was all written such a long time ago, what relevance does it have for life today?” But through the centuries and even with modern hi-tech sophistication and our increased scientific knowledge, no one can explain away the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Many have tried, and continue to try. One of the most common arguments being that Jesus did not really die on the cross, he just fainted.
One lady posted the following question on a question and answer forum,
Our minister said that Jesus just fainted on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?
The response was
Beat your minister with 39 lashes using a cat-o-nine-tails, with sharp metal pieces embedded in the thongs, nail him to a cross by his wrists and feet, hang him in the sun for six hours; run a spear through his side; then put him in a cold airless tomb for thirty-six hours and block the entrance with a one-and-a-half ton rock and see what happens.
All but four of the major world religions are based on mere philosophical propositions. Of the four that are based on personalities rather than philosophies, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder. In 1900 B.C. Judaism’s founding father, Abraham, died. In 483 B.C. Buddhist writings say that Buddha died “With that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind.” June 6 632 A.D. Mohammed died. In 33 A.D. Jesus died but came back to life, appearing to over 500 people during a period of 40 days. The resurrection is crucial to our Christian faith. For, if Christ died but did not rise again we, too, are doomed to death. As the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Christians in Corinth, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (I Cor 15:14). But if Christ has been raised to life, then he has conquered the power of sin and death, so that all who believe might have eternal life. Christ has indeed risen from the dead and is alive today.
There was a purpose to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Christ is risen. Alleluia!
May I wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter.
Reverend Canon Mary Garbutt