With a late Easter this year, April sees us move through the final stages of Lent, into Holy Week and Easter. The mood of our church life, including our services, becomes more and more sombre, until we come to the outburst of joy and celebration.
The mood of Passiontide and Holy Week may be sombre, but it isn’t right to see that as a kind of artificially created sadness, or emotional manipulation – it’s something very different. It’s a time for thinking about the greatness of God’s love, and the world’s need of it. We think of how Jesus’ disciples couldn’t come to terms what was happening, and of their mistakes and failings, which (as we have to realise) our own shortcomings so closely echo. We think how the New Testament writers, in so many places, were insistent that Jesus’ death wasn’t some disaster or failure that had to be mended and rescued: rather, it was at the heart of God’s plan for putting right the relationship between himself and his world, in a way that is beyond our understanding and is more wonderful than we can begin to grasp. Yes, there is a special kind of seriousness about all of this, because it touches things about God and about our- selves that are more important than anyone else.
And Easter isn’t about putting the clock back. It doesn’t bring Jesus back to life just as he was before. Easter moves everything forward because Jesus is resurrected. He has a transformed body and he enters a new mode of existence, which (as St Paul writes) is a foretaste of what God intends for the whole of humanity. Again, the writers of the New Testament don’t tell their original readers, the first Christians, just to wait around until God brings all of that fully into effect. No, they are to go on living their daily lives, but to live them in a new way: knowing what God has done, confident that death had been defeated, trusting that they are destined for resurrection. The pattern of every day of their lives was to be a testimony to their faith and hope in God. Down the centuries the words call us to do the same.
So every year we keep Passiontide, Holy Week and Easter, and every time we remember Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, we are doing far more than simply re-telling a familiar story. We are stepping into the amazing drama of what God has done, is doing, and will do. Each year there is something fresh to discover in the words of the Bible accounts; something new about ourselves that we bring in prayer; new ways in which the depth and the joy of the season can touch us, draw us closer to Jesus Christ, and invite and empower us to be renewed as his followers and envoys.
I hope that you have a wonderfully blessed Holy Week and Easter. Paul Ferguson – Archdeacon of Cleveland