Love is stronger than death - The Rt Rev Graham James’ Easter message

Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, for the 20th anniversary of his consecration. Picture: Denis

Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, for the 20th anniversary of his consecration. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Last week the Archbishop of York, the Prime Minister and even Jeremy Corbyn commented on the airbrushing of Easter from the Great British Egg Hunt at National Trust properties.

I can't imagine either Cadbury's or the National Trust were too upset by the free publicity.

Cadbury's said they wanted to open the event to people of all faiths. Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs never seem offended by Easter celebrations or think it would be better for them if the Christian religion became invisible in British society.

By contrast, the healthy and trusting relationships we enjoy between the different faiths in Britain is one of the hallmarks of our public life.

Less than 48 hours after Khalid Masood ploughed his car across Westminster Bridge and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and three senior Muslim leaders took part in a vigil of shared sorrow at Westminster Abbey.

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They resolved not to allow hatred to have the last word. Such cooperation between faith leaders is so commonplace in Britain we take it for granted, and give it too little publicity.

We don't realise how unusual it is, even in Europe, let alone the wider world.

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I doubt, though, whether many children receiving chocolate eggs this Easter will associate them with the resurrection of Christ.

There was a time not long ago when far more people went to church in this country at Easter than Christmas.

Now things have reversed. Although Easter is the major Christian feast, churches will not be as packed as they invariably are at Christmas.

But some Easter traditions have not faded. Easter eggs are as popular as ever, especially in their chocolate form (which only began in 1873).

This year nearly 80 million chocolate eggs will be sold in the UK. Each child will receive an average of eight eggs. I hope they do not eat them all at once.

The confectioners are keen on Easter eggs. We spend a lot of money on relatively little chocolate when it comes in the form of an egg.

Eggs are symbols of new life. They're wholly appropriate for Easter and its celebration of the Resurrection and new life in Christ.

Chocolate eggs even add something to the symbolism. The fact that most chocolate eggs are hollow means there's darkness within. So the chocolate egg becomes a symbol of the empty tomb of Jesus. One chocolate company promotes what it calls the Real Easter Egg drawing attention to the meaning of this tasty confection.

The tomb Jesus was placed in was borrowed. It was provided by a wealthy follower, Joseph of Arimathea, and hewn out of rock. It was a manmade cave, and undoubtedly dark within. There would have been many other burial chambers nearby. Jerusalem has a lot of highly visible graveyards even today.

Thousands of people in Norfolk (and throughout England) will visit the graves of loved ones this Easter, to place flowers, to remember and sometimes to weep.

That's what Mary Magdalene did on the first Easter Day – visit a graveyard and weep. Those like Mary who had followed Jesus and placed their faith, love and trust in him had seen him put to death after a show trial.

No wonder there were lots of tears. At first Mary is puzzled when she finds the tomb empty. Her grief and utter loneliness increases when she thinks Jesus's body has been stolen.

She's still crying when she meets someone she thinks must be the gardener. Then it dawns on her that Jesus is alive again.

Love is stronger than death.

Human beings in every age have a tragic propensity to harm and kill each other. We've seen it vividly in Syria recently. Easter's message is that sin and death don't have the last word in our world. Death isn't the end. There is someone and something more powerful – God and his love.

A very happy Easter to you all.

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