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Posts Tagged "Easter":

Easter Sunday: A World Electric With The Presence Of God – Jane Williams


The Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus suggest that when people encounter him they do not immediately know him. On the whole, they are not terrified…they recognise what is in front of them as a living human being, but not a familiar one. Even the people closest to him need help to connect the risen Jesus with the man they loved. In today’s reading from John’s gospel, you can, if you like, think of all kinds of reasons why Mary does not immediately see who Jesus is as he stands beside her in the garden….the simple explanation must be the true one – that real life is something we are poorly equipped to understand. So Jesus gives Mary the gift of sight, the gift of being able to connect the new life with the old. He says her name, and makes a bridge for her to see who he is, in all his extraordinary life.

By ourselves we do not have the power to see or understand God’s vitality. By ourselves, we plod on, trying to be satisfied with the poor imitation that we call ‘life’, which is all about separation and death. But Jesus gives the gift of connection to the only true life, the life of the creator, which is about unity and sharing in the utterly real life of God…life is not ‘natural’ to us, but is a gift, reflecting the giver. Jeremiah puts into God’s mouth the words ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you’ (v.3), and that is the heart of it.

…But for the moment we must be content with the sudden and fleeting reminders of God’s eternal life that are available to us day by day. We have always before us the vision of the risen Christ, which helps us to recognise God’s life where we see it. We have his voice, calling us by name so that, like Mary, we suddenly look up and see the Lord of life, standing beside us.

And then, like Mary, we have to turn back to a world, utterly changed, yet devastatingly the same. We know this world now to be electric with the presence of god; we know our own lives now to be zinging with the resurrection life, and yet all of this is tantalisingly ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3.3).

We are not called to cling to the presence of the risen Christ. Instead, like Mary, we are sent to shout out what we have seen We are God’s spies, now, searching for evidence of him in the robes of the gardener, listening for the familiar sound of the beloved voice of the Lord in the unrecognised strangers around us, helping to build the bridges of love that will enable others, too, to hear Jesus’s voice and recognise the vast, free, unchanging, faithful love of God.

This is an extract from my favourite readings on the lectionary, by Jane Williams. (pages 58-59)

Alleluia, he is risen!

He is risen indeed!

A very happy Easter to you all!

Easter at Christmas: A Thought for Holy Week by Taylor Carey


The last time I heard Easter proclaimed triumphantly from the pulpit was actually on 25th December. Priests, you see, are exhausted for most of Advent, and leading the Christmas Day service is a bit like finishing a marathon. To add insult to injury, they’ve already had to address a congregation of boozed-up irregulars at midnight mass, in which the stench of alcohol threatens to overpower the incense. So, that Christmas morning, our poor priest hauled himself into the pulpit one last time, and gave a great cry: “Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Happy Easter!”

Of course, plenty of people had already stopped listening by this point, and so didn’t notice. They were probably thinking about their turkey, or the potential for their child to explode into a violent temper tantrum and demand presents. Some people, like the Churchwardens, grimaced (though perhaps this is the perennial vocation of Churchwardens), whilst others chuckled faintly. But, maybe because I’m an infuriatingly pious toad, I began to wonder if our unfortunate clergyman had a point.

I once read an interview with an Abbot, who said quite simply that Easter was the only thing Christianity had to offer today’s world. He didn’t mean the annual celebration, so much as what Christians take Easter to mean. If the celebration of the Incarnation at Christmas invites us to ponder the self-giving, endlessly generative potential of that which we call God, then Easter offers Christians a way into an encounter with what that God is like. To put it into the sharp formulation of a famous work of theology, God is absolutely Christlike, and it is thus through the suffering of Christ, nailed to a tree, that we catch a glimpse of God’s nature.

Christ rises from the tomb, because nothing can hold Him back. Such is His perfect response to the endlessly creative God; his total communion with the loving Father. Various strands of philosophy and theology have found the fleshly realities of Easter somewhat disconcerting, to say the least. Remember the twin influence of Hebrew and Greek thought, so deeply woven into the Christian consciousness. Jewish eschatology pointed towards a ‘last day’ on which the dead would be raised (hence Martha’s ironic misunderstanding of Jesus at Bethany, in John’s Gospel), but, for Judaism, life after death, in Sheol, was quite literally a ‘shadowy’ affair. Of course, the Sadducees, Hellenised as they were, thought life after death to be a plainly ridiculous idea. Christianity has been marred by a history of dualism, too; everyone from Christian Platonists to Puritans has, at some stage, slipped into a crude distinction between soul and body.

But here’s the point that I think our hapless priest might just have distilled. God’s relationship with us arises through the material reality of our universe. Creation is a relationship, not a process, and what the Church witnesses to is the consistency of God in that relationship. A witness to this consistency must involve historical memory – the Church actually living out the possibilities of Christian humanity.

How do we know what these possibilities are? Well, they are laid before us most completely in the self-giving of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. It is Christ’s action which provides the basic focus of unity in all Christian language and discourse, and this to which we must return in thinking about growth in our lives of faith – and indeed the social, communal and political possibilities of the world.

Christians believe, then, that there is nothing which the outstretched arms of Christ cannot touch. Here is the essence of what Christianity has to offer. Easter is, in this sense, all we have to give the world; after all, what could possibly be more fundamental? At Easter, we know what that God, who survived a precarious birth in the slums of Bethlehem, is actually like. We are given afresh the possibilities of humanity, even amidst the most tragic realities of a compromised world; a world of suffering; a world that can see the unconditional love of God as a threat to be destroyed.

So, Happy Easter indeed. Given our brief reflections here, perhaps we ought to follow the example of that priest, and say it more often.


This reflection was originally broadcast as a thought for the day on ‘Marx My Word a Philosophy discussion programme on St Andrews Radio.

Taylor Carey

Cells In The Body Of God’s Universe? – Chris Fewings


The Christian Pentecost, celebrated tomorrow, crowns the 50 days of Easter. It’s a reincarnation of the risen Christ in the body of believers animated by the “Creator Spirit”. This rich sequence of spring festivals deserves a second look whatever your creed. You don’t need to assent to a fourth-century formula of the Trinity to enter into the poetry of the earth breathing new life, inspiring a babble of praise.

For most churchgoers in Britain, Easter pretty much finishes with Sunday lunch on Easter Day. After that, there’s only the rest of the chocolate, a few stragglers at evening services, and the bank holiday family outing. Following the intensity of Holy Week, with its numerous re-enactments of Passiontide events, there is no equivalent excitement in Easter week. There are Easter hymns for the next couple of Sundays, but few make much of the fact that the season lasts a full seven weeks, longer than Lent, whose 40 days still feature in the popular consciousness.

For over a thousand years the western church has buried a startling welcome to sin in the middle of the long and glorious Exsultet traditionally sung by the deacon on Easter night: “O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam, which merited such and so great a Redeemer.” This echoes Julian of Norwich’s equally startling medieval dictum, made famous by T. S. Eliot in Little Gidding: “Sin is behovely”, which I take to mean “appropriate”. For sin read separation: whatever separates us from each other, from the rest of creation, and from the source of everything. Pride, the ego’s attempt to rise above all around it, is the sin of Lucifer.

In a fascinating essay in the book Ecopsychology*, Mary Gomes and Alan Kanner probe the relevance of our sense of self to the environmental crisis, focusing on the early development of the child. So far as we know, newborn babies make few if any distinctions in their experience, not even between “self” and “mother”. These develop with time, but differently in different cultures: in ours we have built up the fiercest distinction ever known between humans and the rest of the biosphere, which has simply become a resource we can exploit in any way we please. This attitude, combined with our ingenuity, has led the biosphere to the brink of the sixth great extinction – the first conscious one. The essay discusses the “separative self” – we are still dependent on our environment for each breath we take, but our actions are based on the illusion of independence.

But separation is behovely. The child’s ego must be allowed to develop. Language, even thought, depends on making distinctions; a word or concept defines something by excluding other things. The fatal flaw arises from making separation absolute. Redemption is a dialectic: we think ourselves separate, rise up on angel’s wings, then are dashed down when the reality of total interdependence calls us back to earth. Like a parent picking up a fallen toddler, life sets us back on course, hopefully a little wiser. We fall at another hurdle, learn a little more. Eventually we may learn respect for our limitations, teamwork, even love – but we can and must still strike out on our own, to fall back again into the loving arms of interdependence, learned in a new way each time.

Easter, observed just after the first full moon following the equinox, is – like spring itself – a blaze of light bursting in on darkness. The light of Christ is an invitation to the dance – come closer, go to arm’s length, be pulled back. In our era we are better at learning this in relation to each other than in relation to the earth itself. We pull further and further away, crucifying not only other species, but our own fullness as part of an ecosystem. Even most models of environmentalism paint us as caretakers of a separate “natural world”. Paul’s cosmic Christ calls us to more than this – rediscovering ourselves as cells in the body of God’s universe.

This article was printed in the Face to Faith column of the Guardian in 2008, under the name Chris Duggan.

The discussion on the article is still on the Guardian website. My favourite comment is “Where does Jesus stand on subsidies for wind and solar power? Oh, he’s too busy dancing in the new moon or something.” Some others engage more deeply with the article.

*You can read part of Ecopsychology at Amazon:  ECOPYSCHOLOGY: Restoring the earth, healing the mind ed. Theodore Roszak et al. (2002)

The image is Creator spirit by: David Perry via Seed Resources

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