Since whole of April falls within the great 50 days of Easter it is entirely appropriate to remind ourselves of the joyful truth of this season – Alleluia, Christ is Risen – He is Risen indeed, Alleluia. However, in an increasingly secular society, there are a lot of good folks who say, is that so? Yes, we all cry!
But, how do we know? The fact that there have been Easter eggs on the shelves since Christmas and which have now disappeared might not be the most persuasive answer. A quick look at the evidence from the Gospels gives us some clues, but it’s not as crystal clear as we might first think. Luke has a marvellous phrase to express the disciples’ reaction when the women returned from the empty tomb and told them what they had seen: ‘These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them’. Although Luke goes on to illustrate how the disciples become aware of the reality of the resurrection. In other words he shows how resurrection changes the lives of the disciples.
If we look to Mark we find quite a bizarre ending; instead of having an enthusiastic band of disciples fired up and setting off to win the world for Christ, we have a group of speechless, terrified women running for their lives. It’s as if Mark breaks off in mid-sentence to have a coffee and never returns to his book. For centuries, people have thought that the proper ending to his gospel must have been lost and so others have tried to round things off and give it a satisfying conclusion – but we should not be taken in by this.
But Mark’s abrupt ending is far from accidental. Instead of recording the resurrection, he leaves it to his readers to experience and live out the amazing truth for themselves. So questions remain and there are loose ends.
Mark and the other evangelists have given us an unfinished story – a story that continues. What happens next is for the reader to find out, to experience in his or her own life. This is how his open ended account works – his story becomes our story. In a sense the next instalment is for us to write.
It’s for us to experience the Risen Christ, who went ahead of the disciples and who goes ahead of us. For the disciples fear turned to joy, despair gave way to hope, death was turned to life, a new beginning dawned, living in the light of the Risen Christ. The resurrection was real and changed everything for them, as we read in other books in the New Testament, and the fact we’re here in our Mission Community celebrating the Easter Season affirms this.
The resurrection is real, but we experience it in different ways: sometimes it is clear, sometimes more tentative, sometimes we sense it only after much struggle. We may need time to absorb the extraordinary truth that overturns all expectations. But, there can also be setbacks to our faith, doubts or fears can set in, through the trials of life there can be times when the experience seems far off.
The experience of the resurrection will always be personal, unique to each one of us, and it invites us to make a response. A good starting point is to ask the question “What does God want me to do here and now in this place?” Collectively we’re called to embrace and follow the Gospel in our daily lives so that we make a difference in our community and beyond.
Individually too, perhaps the first thing we can do is show God’s love to those whose paths cross our own, so that they can experience it through us. But to do this we need to deepen our own desire to love and serve him through prayer and worship. This in turn may lead us to feel and explore whether we are being called to serve in more formal ways in the Church, and remember, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Vocations Sunday. So, what is God calling you to do?
With every blessing
The Revd John Higman
Rector of Mary Tavy and Peter Tavy