Easter message from the Bishop of Norwich
10:52 20 April 2014
In a month’s time I am doing a tandem skydive. As the days get nearer, excitement and nervousness grow. I don’t like heights, but I imagine I won’t have much time to be scared as we jump into the sky.
It’s a leap of faith, prompted by my admiration for a wonderful local charity. The Matthew Project brings new life to people affected by drug and alcohol problems, and to their families and friends.
It’s a great cause. It will still be the Easter season when I make the jump because Easter doesn’t finish at the end of this weekend. It lasts for 50 days.
It’s the biggest feast of all in the Christian calendar and the most important. It’s a time for taking leaps of faith.
I remember once visiting a primary school where the children were doing an Easter project. One group had been asked to produce a newspaper reporting the first Easter day.
They liked the idea of being journalists and perhaps one of them will work for the EDP or the Norwich Evening News!
But they were finding the task quite hard. No one sees Jesus rise from the dead. He doesn’t claim victory over those who crucified him. It’s all very low key.
Imagine what the Jerusalem Broadcasting Corporation might have put out in their news bulletins.
“A woman with a doubtful reputation says Jesus of Nazareth, crucified last Friday, has risen from the dead. There are no independent sightings. His disciples are nowhere to be seen. The authorities have dismissed the matter and say someone has stolen the body. Now for other news. The Emperor has sent two legions to the Northern Province to put down a rebellion. The price of corn has risen and there’s trouble in Africa.”
Probably Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus in the garden wouldn’t even rate a mention. As a news event the resurrection of Jesus Christ wouldn’t have excited any journalist.
Yet Christians believe this was the turning point in world history. It was the beginning of a new kingdom of love and joy which wasn’t defeated by death and evil.
That’s why from the very beginning Christians have not wanted to tolerate injustice or poverty or all the things which demean life.
That’s why in Norfolk today so many Christian charities work for the homeless, the young unemployed, and, in the case of The Matthew Project, for those affected by drugs and alcohol.
It’s why the churches are so involved in providing foodbanks. If you believe in new life, you want it for everyone.
I don’t think it’s surprising that Christ’s resurrection wasn’t world news at the time. Lots of significant events pass unnoticed.
Who reported the apple falling from the tree in Newton’s orchard? Newton understood he’d witnessed the effect of gravity. Other people had seen apples falling for years without doing so.
Anyone could have watched a kettle along with James Watt without realising the transformation of industry through the use of steam was possible. Mr Watt saw what others didn’t.
At Easter we should see the joy of new life. But it’s easy not to notice.
The journalist Monica Furlong once wrote about an experience when she was still a young woman.
“I was waiting at a bus stop on a wet afternoon. I was opposite the Odeon Cinema surrounded by people, shops and cars. A friend was with me. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, everything I could see shone, vibrated, throbbed with joy and with meaning. I knew it had done this all along and would go on doing it, but that usually I couldn’t see it. It was all over in a minute or two. I climbed on to the bus, saying nothing to my friend – it seemed impossible to explain – and sat stunned with astonishment and happiness.”
We can’t live at that sort of level forever but Easter challenges us to see the world throbbing with new life. Easter speaks of the transformation of situations which seem hopeless. It’s about renewal in the dark places of our world. It’s an explosion of life. The tomb of Jesus, represented by our Easter eggs, is cracked open. It’s worth a leap of faith, even a skydive!
A very happy Easter to you all.