While the snow swirled and blew past the church doors, we – the churches of the North Lea Valley Area of Shared Ministry (that’s us) – held a great service of worship, challenge and encouragement for all of us. We had as our theme ‘building the church’ and we shared readings, hymns and stories that reminded us the church is the people who come, and we need to be built up in our faith and witness. The church as a building needs all of us – and many more – to fill with prayer and praise to make a good witness to the things God has done.
This month of April we celebrate the principle thing that God has done for each of us: he sent his Son to live, die and live again for our sake and our salvation. That’s the Easter story which we remember on 1st April this year. The Easter Day story encapsulates the women who found the tomb was empty and that there were special messengers (angels) on-hand to explain what had happened. Then there was the amazement of Jesu’s close friends, some of whom went to the tomb to see if what they’d heard was true… and it was! We also read that Jesus came to his close friends at home or on the road so they could know the truth of resurrection in such a way they could pass the information on to people who were not privileged enough to see it for themselves.
One of the great things about the story is that it does not bring anything to a conclusion, rather, it opens up a new beginning. It’s about a new start. The past is allowed to be just that, and the future, recognisably rooted in the past, becomes an unexpected and surprising future. On Good Friday not even one of the close friends of Jesus expected to be experiencing what they did on Easter Day. This was puzzling, this was a bit frightening, this was opportunity beyond imagining.
The opportunity for such new beginnings happen from time to time in our lives… and we have a choice. We can wallow in the sadness and hopelessness of Good Friday, shutting ourselves away and thinking on of the pain and loss, or we can move to our own mini-Easter, where the new is found and allowed to grow on us, making life new and good again, if different from what we expected in a way beyond our imagination. Such a future will be recognisably rooted in the past, but open up new perspectives and life that will be good.
Such was the experiences of the followers in the birthing days of the church and it can be ours too.
I do not believe this is confined to matters of what we believe about Jesus, nor even to our own ultimate, eternal, destiny. I believe that this also about changes that happen in our lives, changes we choose and changes that are thrust upon us, new opportunities we seek and new opportunities that we cannot avoid.
The Easter story teaches us not to be afraid of what lies ahead. God has plans and they are for our good and not for our destruction. That new future has to be embraced, or we are simply left with the Good Friday suffering side of things. The choice is ours. Do we stay with Good Friday, or move into Easter?