The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference have invited people to step into the Easter story with their Easter reflection.
"To them and all the world comes the message that Christ is alive. God has raised him up and affirmed that his way of taking up the cross in suffering love is God’s way of creating, redeeming and perfecting the world," said the Revd Kenneth Howcroft and Gill Dascombe. "God still seeks to raise us up to be Christ’s body and live his way through what we say and do, and how we think and pray (and, in a few weeks, how we vote) in the world around us."
The full text of the reflection follows:
On our visits to the different parts of the Methodist Church we see many examples of death and resurrection. There are so many places where God’s Spirit is doing incredible things in us and through us.
We have tried to explore this in two reflections on how people experienced the events of the first Easter. The woman’s is by the Vice-President, Gill Dascombe. The man’s is by the President, the Revd Kenneth Howcroft.
The characters and events of Holy Week take us through a vast range of human experience: from jubilation through conflict, hope, betrayal, anger, power, fear, to grief, pain and loss, bewilderment and desolation where all we can do is wait. In this we are moving along the way that took Jesus through Good Friday to Holy Saturday, and on towards Easter Sunday’s good news of new life.
In our travels, we have begun to realise that true renewal is always shaped by a dynamic of death and resurrection. It is stamped through with the reality of a cross and a tomb. Both begin with a body. Both become empty. They are inextricably linked.
To them and all the world comes the message that Christ is alive. God has raised him up and affirmed that his way of taking up the cross in suffering love is God’s way of creating, redeeming and perfecting the world. God still seeks to raise us up to be Christ’s body and live his way through what we say and do, and how we think and pray (and, in a few weeks, how we vote) in the world around us.
Why did I go to the garden so early? It was still dark! The night-world was a place of shadows and menace and all around was the gloomy silence of death. Unsure of my way, I was stumbling over boulders and getting caught in bushes. Overcome with frustration and despair, I sank down and wept.
I hadn’t been able to sleep, of course. Not that night or the night before. Like all the bereaved, I didn’t want one day to end and the next one to start. Each new day dragging me further from his presence, each day the pain of separation gnawing anew at my insides.
Later he was to tell me not to cling to him, not to hold on, and at the time I thought that it was the most unutterably callous thing I had ever heard. Of course I wanted to cling on! To cling on with all my might. To squeeze out every last drop that was left to memory. It was all I had left.
But it was into such darkness and emptiness that God spoke the first words of creation, bringing light and life. Could it be that on this blackest and most dreadful of all nights the world stood once again on the brink of something new?
The dawn began to break. There was no blinding brilliance, only the usual cold grey mistiness. Enough for me to stumble on to the tomb and look inside and find, to my horror, that it was empty. There was no body. Nothing left to cling to.
And then, a voice spoke once more into the void. A Word. And it was my name. I turned around in astonishment and joy, and held out my arms.
And he said: ‘Don’t cling to me. I haven’t come back as before, I have moved on to new life. And so now must you.’ The sun rose into the sky, gaining strength and filling the garden with warmth and life. I became the first witness to God’s new creation. The universe re-made by love. I haven’t come back, I have moved on, and now, so must you.’
And now, so must we.
Why didn’t I go to the tomb? I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want to think about what people did to him. Or what God allowed to happen to him. I had given up everything for him. But it had come to nothing. Darkness. Emptiness.
I didn’t want to picture the awful way he was killed. I hadn’t been able to face it when it happened. When the soldiers came, we ran. But most of us also ran away from the horror of it all inside ourselves. Some of us fell asleep when he asked us to stay awake and pray while he prayed. He was praying that God’s will, not his, be done not just in heaven but in what was happening to him here on earth, even if that meant that he would have to drain the cup of suffering. We were meant to be praying alongside him that we would not be brought to our breaking point or led into temptation. Yet some of us went on to deny that we knew him. Some of us thought he had betrayed us and so ended up betraying him.
But something brought us back together. We huddled together, hiding from the awfulness of it all, from the rest of the world, and perhaps even from God.
We huddled together, not facing what had happened, yet somehow hanging on to it. Then something happened among the women. Some of them had not betrayed or denied him. They had not run away, but had been there at his barbaric execution on a cross. They had not merely said that they would follow him. They had actually followed him.
Now they were running in, telling us a jumble of different things. His body had vanished. He wasn’t dead. He had risen from the grave. Or, rather, God had raised him. Someone had told them. Or an angel had told them. Or he had appeared and spoken to them himself. And they were to tell the rest of us that we were to get out of our huddle and get on with his mission, saying and doing what he had taught us to do. If we did, we would find that he was with us.
Can we face it? Can we trust that their message is good news? Can we let go and let God raise us to new life with and in Christ - and, through us, the world?
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