Easter Day4 April 2021
Easter Day 2021 - although a rather muted occasion when we cannot really meet each other except perhaps by zooming. But we can wish each other a Happy Easter, even remotely. Which I do to you.
Good Christian folk the length and breadth of the country will be celebrating Easter. Far more good folk will not. Far more will recognise Easter simply as being a religious event for those who like that sort of thing, and a bank holiday as well. For the great majority of folk in this country, Easter is a holiday weekend and nothing much more.
Good Christian folk may also wonder about the story of Easter. They've heard it so many times that much of it could be recited from memory - the story-line anyway. Some will, in their own private way, walk the way of the cross and strive to get as close to the events of those day as possible. Others may wonder about it, but hesitate to ask the obvious question "Did it happen like the story says?" That question is hard to avoid if we look the story from two thousand years later. But perhaps that's the wrong question, anyway. The story is two thousand years old, and the story is not told in the same way by any of the gospel writers. Indeed, Mark's gospel ends with the three women going to the tomb, seeing an angel and running away terrified and telling no-one. This was thought so unsatisfactory that alternative endings were thought up - they are printed in most versions of the Bible.
Should we not be thinking of 'resurrection' rather than 'the resurrection'? Should the question not be "Did it happen?" but rather "What does it mean?" Surprisingly, taking the Bible stories literally is a relatively modern feature, beginning around the 1700s. It is a feature of modern society that we are almost forced into deducing and discovering and delving into things that in former times were simply ignored or accepted as the way things were. We modern scientific people have to ask why, how, when about everything. That's good, but we must not lose the facility of just looking, feeling, being. For me, Easter is recognising the reality of renewal. Those early disciples, all of whom seemed to desert Jesus just when he needed them most, nevertheless went on to realise that in very obvious ways, Jesus was still with them. The message and the messenger could not be forgotten, and the Jesus Movement began to revolutionise the society of those days. The single most damaging event in the history of the Jesus Movement was the pronouncement by Emperor Constantine that Christianity should be a favoured religion, and the revolution died there and then. The Jesus Movement became the institutional church, as it still is.
But the truth continues. Resurrection, restoration, renewal, recovery, replanting, rebuilding, reformation - what is it about the letter "R"! Regardless, resurrection is at the heart of our message - a message that needs fewer words but a great deal of action and activity.
The word resurrection has its root in the Latin 'resurgere' which gives us 'resurgent', and Collins reckons that means "something is becoming stronger and more popular after a period when it has been weak and unimportant." That seems to me to describe very clearly the experience of those early followers of Jesus, who hid away after the crucifixion but then emerged strengthened and reinvigorated to set the world ablaze with new hope. That's resurrection!
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