Congratulations are due to all involved in the preparing and running of the Experience Resurrection event which, although it took place in March, remains relevant to our thoughts at this time. Some 400 children came to learn the stories of what happened in those forty days from Jesus’ Resurrection.
The scene in which I was involved was the story of the Ascension – trying to make sense of the description of the disciples who paradoxically were filled with joy at his dramatic departure! (it’s the basis upon which many churches today have an Ascension Day party.) The disciples, by letting go of Jesus resurrection body, tied to one time and place, were able to experience him everywhere and for all time through his Spirit.
Our recent District Synod focussed on the theme “Courageous Endings” and clearly the Ascension was one of them. To turn the direction of travel upside down and use the biblical metaphor - the seed had to be buried in the ground in order for it to sprout up and bear fruit.
The church at Tenbury, about which I have written before, is another courageous ending – letting go of the idea of Sunday morning worship as the “main thing” and allowing other opportunities to grow so that new groups could flourish and discover God through different activities. (Perhaps Sunday worship will return alongside these.)
If we are to be about bearing fruit, multiplying the experience of the resurrection among those who would never join us on a Sunday morning, we too need to let go of any sense that Sunday worship, important though it is, is the “main thing”. Our Calling is to Worship, to Learn and Care, to Serve and to spread the Good News. All of these things happen not only at a certain time on a certain day, but throughout the week and across the whole world. To turn from looking inward is to be liberated and find joy at the vastness of God’s global mission which he invites us to join, alongside the risen Christ whom we experience through his Spirit. That’s worth celebrating!
We’re often challenged by the question: “how is the church relevant to the needs of our people and the world today?” Stabbings, shootings, climate change, war, poverty, abuse, extremism, neglect and political turmoil are all sad facets of today’s world and can seem far removed from the Sunday gatherings and singing of hymns that we engage in.
The image pictured here is taken in the church “Dominus Flevit” (Jesus wept) which is on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem. Facing the altar you look past the cross through the glass to the city – a microcosm of all that is wrong in the world today. It is through the image of the cross that we see the world. Of course, the cross that we contemplate again in the coming weeks speaks to us of our individual atoneness with God – that sense that it is a personal statement to each that we are forgiven, we are loved, that much.
But it is also a message for the world in all its groaning today. The Cross spoke, and speaks to a chaotic world of the power of sacrificial love – love for neighbour and for God. It’s an answer to the world’s problems that isn’t instant, but requires patience.
It doesn’t involve the use of military strength, and refuses to be caught up in tit-for-tat revenge and condemnation. It’s a costly answer which is about winning over the hearts of men and women to love one another in being drawn to him who is raised up and stretches out his arms for us. It’s an answer which carries the message “God is with us” and, through the resurrection can never be defeated. It’s a message of hope.
This is not an immediate, knee-jerk answer to today’s problems – but it is the answer, profoundly and perpetually relevant to all the needs of the world.
Praise be to the one who was born as man, died on the Cross and rose again for us!