We as a nation are grieving and mourning for what has happened in our world and to those we love. The Guardian reported yesterday on a special report of the lives that have been cut short. It was harrowing to read about Aimee O’Rourke a 38 year old, with three girls. It could have been me. Today I’m asking why does Easter Sunday make any difference to me today?
I am still finding COVID-19 surreal. Yesterday morning we were basking in the sun with our new fake turf and over sized paddling pool. Yesterday afternoon we were talking to a friend who is starting a new job at a pop-up mortuary. How can both these things happen in just one day? How can this feel like a precious time for our small family of 4 to be together and yet friends are desperately lonely? How is it possible that we are so busy, so tired and so unable to sleep and yet we are at home all day long? I’ve celebrated Easter Sunday for many years, but this year it has a fresh poignancy.
The death toll is rising around the world, potentially surpassing 10,000 in the UK on Easter Sunday. The prospect of losing loved ones seems more real each day. Today I’m asking myself why does Easter Sunday make any difference to me today? I’ve got to admit shopping for Easter eggs in a local shop yesterday was sobering. There were way too many people and the staff didn’t have proper protection. Choosing eggs did not have the same appeal as previous years. I won’t be returning for reduced ones on Monday morning.
But today I wake up assured that there is something about Easter Sunday that does make a difference.Tweet
But today I wake up assured that there is something about Easter Sunday that does make a difference. Today I want to be clear, the only reason that Easter means anything to me now is because I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. For me, right now that matters. As I watch a close friend spend their final weeks on this earth. I need to know with certainty that this is not the end of the story. I have a friend who is very unwell and I asked him months ago if he believed in life after life. He replied Nay, it’s the only thing that is keeping me going.
Can Easter Sunday make any different to us today? 2000 years ago Jesus died on Good Friday. Three days later Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary went to the tomb. They went to anoint the body of their dear friend, their former teacher, their one time hero, their now-dead hope for the future. When they arrived the tomb was empty. Two angels met them and comforted them. They said to them…
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen… just as he said, he has risen from the dead”. Luke’s Gospel
The women fled the tomb, in fear, but full of joy, running to share the news with Jesus’s friends. But the apostles did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. There was one though, Peter, the one whose commitment to Jesus had in the end fallen short. He both publicly celebrated and denied his friend Jesus. But it was Peter that got up and ran to the tomb. Maybe you feel, like Jesus’ friends that the woman’s message was nonsense. But maybe today for the first time, you’re surprising yourself. like Peter, you’re intrigued, you decide to take a look at this empty tomb for the first time.
The message of the empty tomb does not provide us with a solution to the problem of evil and suffering. Perhaps uniquely among all the religions and systems invented to account for evil, this is something the Bible refuses to do. The Bible refuses to deal with the problem of evil and suffering through an easy explanation, because to do so always seems to end up excusing or denying it. The most fundamental thing to say about evil and suffering the Bible maintains – is that it should not be this way.
The most fundamental thing to say about evil and suffering the Bible maintains – is that it should not be this wayTweet
On the cross we see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one. God knew what it is to see the life of his only son cut short. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it.
But there’s more. On the cross God in Christ not only identifies with us in our pain and suffering we experience. He also identifies with the pain and suffering that we cause through our self-centeredness. He takes the full weight of the guilt and isolation that flows from our self-serving lives. When Jesus dies you see him crying out to God. He says “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?”. He is experiencing ultimate God-forsakeness. He experiences what it means to be cut off from any hope of forgiveness and acceptance. Cut off from God, cut off from love, cut off from life. Jesus in his life chose self- isolation, rejection and death in exchange that we might enjoy community, acceptance and life.
The message of the empty tomb is this. This is not the way it should be. This is not the way it will be. Because God is love and love will win.
The message of the empty tomb is this. This is not the way it should be. This is not the way it will be. Because God is love and love will win.Tweet
If you’d like to know more about this then get in touch. Today at our church, the theme is “Shifted Realities” If you want to listen and discuss this then join us for our Facebook watch party tonight at 8pm. We’re going to listen to the short talk on “Shifted Realities” then chat on fb or join a Zoom chat afterwards! Or if you’d prefer, you can listen to the talk when it is uploaded to our Church website Southampton Lighthouse International.
Here is a description for the short talk by Sanjay Rajo, our Church leader. “We’re living in times where our reality has shifted. The reality of resurrection means that with God anything is possible! Death is not the end and every single one of us is invited to step into the reality of a new kind of life that Jesus offers”.