Easter Message 2018
As the Christian message is not so well-known these days, it comes as no surprise that there are more people who believe in an afterlife than in the Easter story.
Of course, Christians have never had a monopoly on the afterlife or even the idea of heaven. Many religions share the belief of an afterlife and there are also a number of non-religious people who do the same.
You could say it’s almost natural to aspire for something greater than ourselves and also to hope for a continuation of life after death. But what does that mean? For Christians, the resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God is at the centre of all things, whether living or dead. He does not let go of his creation but continues his relationship with it. So our view of heaven is not based on speculation but rather the promise of a God who loves us and brings us to himself. For Christians, this changes our perspective on life – we are neither alone or worthless. But there is a snag. In popular understanding, heaven does not seem particularly relevant: it literally seems worlds apart from the here and now.
In a society rooted in the immediate, talk about heaven doesn’t greatly appeal. I think one of the issues is how Christians themselves present the afterlife. We do not always celebrate God’s intentions. However, in Revelation there is a startlingly fresh picture of the future:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Revelation 21:1
We need to be reminded of the promise that God will renew the earth. The Creator continues to create and there is a vision that things will get better. There is an eternal optimism in love and the story of the resurrection makes that joyfully clear. Evil, sin and death are not the dominant features of life. God has a different perspective and the church is called to proclaim afresh the divine story of renewal.
The Kingdom of God is in our midst and today we can anticipate and model God’s creative relationship with us. Our resurrection is not only for the future: it is for now. The way we invest in the earth, in our life together and in our mutual flourishing are everyday signs of trusting a God who cares and replenishes. The perspective we have, as Christians, is always one of hope.
You and I cannot accurately depict the new earth or new heaven but what lies ahead promises to be good and teeming with life, energy and joy because it is where God continually abides. The disconnect between ourselves and the new life is a measure of our lack of trust and our wandering away from God who wants to bring us back to himself. I say this not as a reproof but as an acknowledgement that, as followers of Christ, we need to rise from a world-weariness entangled in the troubles that surround us to embrace a Godly view that leads us toward love, joy and peace.
Easter is a reminder that God has got it right and brings new life even when it feels otherwise.
I know that the Immovable comes down;
I know that the Invisible appears to me;
I know that he who is far outside the whole creation
Takes me within himself and hides me in his arms,
And then I find myself outside the whole world.
I, a frail, small mortal in the world,
Behold the Creator of the world, all of him, within myself;
And I know that I shall not die, for I am within the Life,
I have the whole of Life springing up as a fountain within me.
He is in my heart, he is in heaven:
Both there and here he shows himself to me with equal glory.
St Symeon, the New Theologian
May I wish you and your families a blessed Easter!
+ Bishop Richard