FROM THE MINISTER

April 4 2021

Easter Sunday 2021

“Every utterance, every melody, every meal, every laugh in response to a joke, every poem, dissolves the illusory boundary between… the individual and the world.” [Yoel Hoffman]

Some events are minor, a poem, a melody, a joke, and some are major. Easter is one of the most major events, and its impact upon the boundary between the individual and the world, is profound. At Easter we rediscover and renew our courage and our hope.

It is not enough that we think about the world and its problems at the level of a newspaper report or a Newsnight discussion. We come to worship and to celebrate Easter to have our understanding enlarged and to become more thorough and responsible.

I would hazard a guess that many people either do not know about the significance of Easter or have forgotten it.  Chocolate eggs, bunny rabbits, something to do with church.

To have forgotten Easter is to have forgotten something as important as  Remembrance Sunday, to have forgotten the holocaust, two world wars, the atomic bombs, 9/11. (I expect the Ancient Britons felt the same about Stonehenge. They looked at it and how important it was in their lives, and thought, we’ll never forget what this means. And yet we have forgotten and no longer know.)

To forget about Easter is also to have forgotten other pillars of enlightenment, The Declaration of Human Rights, Magna Carta, the Abolition of Slavery.

We celebrate Easter because we must not grow fearful, selfish, parochial, indulgent. Our religion brings us back nearer to what we wish to be. We want to feel again the love and respect we owe to each other, not only to hear about it, but to experience it.

We need to be reminded of our highest possibilities, the potential which is brought so sharply into focus by the events of Easter. Our perceptions slip so easily into self-centeredness and introversion, that we need this time to awaken ourselves again, to remind ourselves about the things undertaken at the level of idealism.

We do not celebrate Easter in the way the mainstream churches do, because our understanding of Jesus is different from theirs.

As A. Powell Davies writes, Jesus was not a Christian, He was a Jewish prophet upon whose life and work Christianity was founded. It is not certain that Jesus would have wanted to be a Christian in the sense that that is understood now. He might well have doubted that it was not big enough or effective enough for the task he had in mind.

We can, however, imagine him retelling the story of the Good Samaritan and emphasising the conclusion again: go and do thou likewise. We can imagine him cleansing the temple again, purging our identity, casting aside the tables of those who maintain the sterile worn-out practices and creeds.

He was a Jewish teacher, a prophet and a monotheist, who would never have thought of anyone, let alone himself, as being a triune and exclusive part of the Godhead. Scholars know that Jesus did not claim to be God, that would have been blasphemous to him. When someone described him as being “good”, he said “none is good, save one, that is, God himself”— a clear distinction. He seems even to have been uncertain whether he was supposed to be the Jewish Messiah or not.

If Jesus lived and died for anything, if he endured the events of Good Friday, and if Easter Sunday is to mean anything to us now, what he lived and died for must surely have been his teaching and his example.

His purpose was to declare the love of God and the kinship of all people. He said that this meant food, clothing and shelter for whoever needed it: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these least, ye did it unto me.”

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Zoom has been wonderful during the pandemic. Members have shown their talents and made contributions in many different ways, all of which have enhanced our online presence. And I hope the benefits and membership we have gained from zooming services will not be lost when we return to chapel. However, wonderful as it is, zoom has not been going to chapel, and sitting in your own space, and sharing with others what it means to be there together.

The fact that it is often so difficult to put into words exactly what attending services means to a person, is an indication I feel of the burden of its sublimity. A description of its meaning would be an unmasking of the mystery: the mystery being why we choose to attend in the first place. For example:

Let us imagine a person burdened with spiritual needs, the soul’s deepest longings. We can bring these to chapel, and feel protected from anything intrusive or embarrassing. Without necessarily having to say a word to anyone, we are able to be present, and subsequently  able to leave, knowing that we all share the same hopes and yearnings, the same loneliness, the same need for assurance and courage.

At worship we are not just an audience, we are a congregation united in the quest for truth and forgiveness, for life’s loveliest hopes and visions. This is what we understand the significance of Jesus’ life to have been. And this, at Easter time, when that whole life comes into focus, is what we gather to celebrate now.

We come to be refreshed, cleansed and comforted, by feeling once again that in all the issues of human life, with its pains, perils and fears, that something answers the cry within us. I doubt that we could withstand all the cruelty and misery that is in the world, unless we could know that at the heart of life there is some reassurance.

Life must have its sacred moments and its holy places and times. We need to give ourselves the chance to both experience and express a deeper and a stronger peace. We need religion with its faith and sense of purpose. We need the touch of its beauty, courage and hope.

On the great billowing canvass of God’s love, Easter is an occasion of thankfulness and triumph.   Amen.

 

Read previous Sunday Service messages from the Minister during coronavirus period
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