After a long, cold and often wet winter, we are starting to emerge into the warmth of Spring. Whilst we have had some incredibly beautiful days, surrounded by snow capped mountains, the spring flowers and warmer air bring a sense of joy, a whisper of excitement as new life emerges around us in the form of flowers, trees, crops and lambs skipping through the fields.
It is this sense of joy and new life that we are reminded of at Easter in the Christian Faith. As we enter into Holy Week, we are reminded again and again of God's love for each one of us. We go on a journey through the week, of welcome on Palm Sunday, uncertainty on Maundy Thursday, loss on Friday and celebration on Easter Sunday. This can often mirror our own journey through life, as we are always somewhere on that cycle of life, death and resurrection.
The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the last supper. Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, did not like this - and when Jesus insists, Peter asks Jesus to wash his whole body. So Jesus explained to him that the disciples did not need their whole bodies washed, as in baptism, because they are clean and don’t need a bath - but they do need to clean their feet, as this is the part of the body that gets exposed to dirt and needs to be regularly cleaned. This is the same as the invitation we have to receive Communion each Sunday. Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” His invitation does not remove our imperfections. It is an opportunity to keep bringing to God those issues or habits in our hearts that hinder us from experiencing a deeper level of love and from allowing ourselves to be transformed by that love as we let go and surrender our lives to God on an ongoing basis.
Then, as we move to Good Friday, we see Jesus demonstrating this surrender as he goes to the cross. We are told in Philippians that Jesus emptied himself on the cross. God holds nothing back from us. He poured out his love for us on the cross. This isn’t the act of an angry God punishing his son, but a demonstration of self giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love.. as one of my favourite writers puts it. It is this act of love that Jesus demonstrates that creates that whisper of excitement and promise of new life, whilst recognising that sometimes we need to go through suffering to get this.
Another favourite writer of mine, Father Richard Rohr says this: “We suffer to get well. We surrender to win. We die to live. We give it away to keep it.” The message of Christ is counterintuitive. Jesus didn't fight for power. He didn’t seek comfort or his own gain. We are told in the book of Corinthians that through his life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, God was reconciling the world to himself. He suffered to bring life and demonstrate his love for us.
Sometimes we wander away from the path of love. We pursue things that build walls around our lives, and that seek our own comfort rather than what's best. In doing so, we can hinder that flow of love between us and God, others and ourselves. The message of Easter is that God is love, and is always reconciling. He never turns his face away from us. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection. What was dead has been brought back to life. Death has been conquered, and in that moment we all have the offer of new life. So as we celebrate Easter this year, let's take time to pause and ask ourselves, where in our lives do we need reconciliation? What needs to die to bring forth new life? My encouragement is that God is for you and wants you to experience greater freedom and joy in this life.
Happy Easter from Reverend Dave