Alleluia! Christ is risen.
At last week’s Ministry Team meeting, we reflected on what a great Easter celebration we’ve had across the Benefice. From the Holy Week Messy Church, at which there were over 80 people, to the dramatized ascent to St Michael’s at Brentor, which drew over 200; from the dawn service on the Pimple, where Christians from across the town’s churches gathered together to celebrate Easter, to wonderful children’s service at Gulworthy; and from the Stations of the Cross in Tavistock to the choir singing the ‘Alleluia Chorus’.
The Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, which we celebrate now at Easter, is the greatest and also the oldest of Christian feasts. Christians regularly aver that ‘Jesus is alive’ and that he lives in us. These are truths that weave through our liturgy, our theology and our songs, but what does it mean for us in our day-to-day lives?
Someone commented to me recently, “We’re not very good at being Easter people.” I think I know what they mean. If the central truth of our faith – that Jesus was dead, as dead as can be, and then, three days later, by the power of God, was alive again – is true for us, one might think that this ought to radically change the way we live our lives. It certainly did for those first disciples! I wonder if the reason it doesn’t is because we’re missing a key bit.
In Genesis 2 we read that God fashioned human beings from the dust of the earth. Then he breathed into their nostrils a breath of life, and it was at this point that we became living beings (Genesis 2.7) the way God intended us to be. Then, in Genesis 3.19, one of the consequences of human disobedience is that we are to return to the dust. It is as though we are no longer capable of containing the full life God wanted for us.
Throughout the Scriptures we read of many occasions where the Spirit touches the lives of people, the prophets and so forth, but it is always a momentary thing. However, when we look at the baptism of Jesus, we find that the Holy Spirit descended on him and remained on him. Then, if we read the Gospels closely, we will note how often the evangelists tell us about Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit.
One of the key passages in the whole Bible is found in John 20.21-23 when Jesus first appears to the disciples. ‘”As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”’ In breathing the Holy Spirit into the disciples, Jesus, through whom all things were created (see John 1) was recreating human beings again in the image of God. This is what needs to happen in our lives if we are to be “Easter people”. Without God the Holy Spirit living in us, we cannot enter into the ‘fullness of life’ that Jesus said was the purpose he came (see John 10.10).
So, as we continue to celebrate Easter and move towards Pentecost, let us pray that the Father will send the Holy Spirit upon each one of us, that we might come fully alive as Easter people – ‘If anyone loves me they will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we shall come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14.23).