Reader Writes, April 2018
In the first week of March we battened down under unremitting Siberian cold with drifting snow and stinging faces. Even the ebullient sparrows took sanctuary under sheltered eaves to continue conversation out of the wind. Redwings and fieldfares sought the comfort of hidden corners of the garden to stare and contemplate their lot. And bullfinches, forgiven for their red-white-grey beauty, ripped up fruit buds in time honoured fashion. Someone in church, old enough to remember, said Ah, well the storm of ’47 didn’t start till the end of February! Yet notwithstanding this chilling easterly rebuke to our balmy maritime breezes, the earth is surely and gradually tilting to the sun. Day by day more light is tipped over us. Even the bees were out a week before when despite the freezing air their hive was warmed enough for them to come spilling out to forage for Spring nectar and pollen.
When Christians look at the cross of Christ it is like a storm of winter weather that we know has passed. From the cross, Jesus was laid out in a cold tomb, and on the third day he was raised from the dead. He passed through death; he conquered it. The despair of the cross led to the glory of the resurrection. It marked God’s triumph over evil in the world. As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it ‘He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’. All across the world, at Easter, believers greet one another with “Christ is risen!” and respond “He is risen indeed!” We have redemption; and if we receive it, that is something truly to celebrate. The great curtain in the temple was ripped from top to bottom when Jesus died. It was finished; the temple with its sacrifices was completed in the temple of his body on the cross.
We are entitled to ask why this is important for you and me today. There will be many ways of putting it, but let’s notice its personal context. One of the first to see the risen Jesus was Mary Magdalene, who seemed to have been a woman with a painful past. She had been delivered from demonic possession and her gratitude brought her to devote her life to serving Jesus. When she encountered the risen Jesus in the burial garden on that resurrection morning she didn’t recognize him until he called her by name, Mary! God calls each of us by name, personally, and in offering us ‘life in all its abundance’, he invites us to walk closely with him through life, with its challenges and pain, and into eternity. It’s personal; that’s one of the great victories of the cross.
Rowan Williams conjures a cosmic view when he called the resurrection the spiritual big bang that changed the world for ever. World history moved in a new direction. The temple was obsolete. The people of God became the Church. Jesus was alive, and his Holy Spirit was sent to us, always active, always inviting us to walk on in faith. Aslan rose, his bonds chewed through by the mice, and the bars of ice have begun to melt. The white witch has fled, still malevolent but defeated. We are an Easter people and we rejoice in our journey.