Easter's hope, joy and peace has never seemed more relevant in 2021
- Credit: Diocese of Norwich
Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher offers his traditional Easter message
Garden centres apparently have been selling out of barbeques, gazebos, and outdoor seating.
Online plant sales are up 350 per cent. Now that spring is here, we’ve decided to join Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don sprucing up our corner of Eden or getting out into the park.
The government’s gentle easing of the Covid restrictions that we’ve all been living under means that we can now meet up to six others outside.
The great British tradition of the garden party is beginning early this year, even if a little muted. Expect to see the steam rising from the hot tubs, hear the sound of lawn mowers, and smell wood burning in firepits.
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Easter Sunday dawns in a garden.
The first Easter morning didn’t dawn as a day for a party. Heaviness was in the air and people were afraid. All their hopes had died with Jesus’ last breath.
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The sound in the distance would have been of Roman soldiers getting ready for another day of keeping the peace in an over-full city of Passover pilgrims.
The smell of charcoal fires baking bread would have drifted in the air. The taste of tears was on too many lips.
In the half-light a group of people with tear-stained faces came early in the morning tentatively finding the path under foot as the first birds began to announce that a new day was dawning.
At the tomb in the garden they were to complete the strict burial rites of anointing a battered, torn, and bruised body and wrapping it in fresh linen cloths.
That group had walked the highways and the byways of the Galilee together, had entered Jerusalem just one week before to the shouts of ‘hosanna’, and then they had had their world shattered by the events of late Thursday night and the brutality of Friday. Nothing it seemed would ever go back to normal again.
In that garden something happened – an encounter – which re-energised them and enabled them to re-create and re-tell their story.
Of course, near the beginning of the Bible narrative is another garden. The garden of Eden was a place of perfection that was spoilt by disobedience to God’s will.
Beauty had turned to tragedy. Joy had turned to fear.
Now in this garden of Resurrection tragedy is turned into beauty and fear into joy.
It was a woman who had arrived first; the first witness of the Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene was left confused and as tears ran down her face. She supposed in that half-light that a man who is there must be the gardener. When he spoke her name, she recognised he was Jesus.
Down the centuries he has kept on calling people by name, ordinary folk like you and me, because we too are precious in his sight.
Jesus then says to Mary, “Do not hold on to me…but go to my followers”. There is much that we have tried to hold onto over the past year. Some things have slipped through our hands.
People have died and others remain unwell, we’ve not been able to grieve as we would have wished, businesses have ended, and our routines changed beyond all recognition. How we wish we could hug those we love; to hold on to them and hold them tight.
In and through all that we have been through in this most challenging of years Jesus hasn’t let go of us.
Yes, he yearns for us to let go of all that constricts us, including past mistakes, as well as the selfishness and greed that have messed us up. But he wants us also to embrace the new resurrected life that he offers.
Easter offers us hope and joy and peace. That’s its bright message we can enjoy as we see our gardens and parks blossom with abundant life.