In his Easter message the Rev Stephen Poxon, President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, has spoken of the emotions of Easter in a world traumatised by conflict and uncertainty.
The central message of the most important Christian festival, he says, is that while our own thoughts and actions wax and wane, there is a hope which never dies.
The full text is as follows:
“Life is full of thrills: some come unexpectedly whilst others we go looking for, perhaps on the latest ride at the theme park or fun fair.the thrill of being thrown around, often uncontrollably, stomach wrenching and cries of laughter or fear! Yet sadly these are also the emotions for many of us at the moment in our daily living and it isn’t quite the thrill we were looking for! We are caught in a recession that is beginning to bite and almost none of us are immune. It evokes feelings of fear and uncertainty, worry and concern within us. We continue to be aware of the unfolding events in Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka with continuing natural disasters around the world and all of this against the backdrop of the recent G20 meeting here. So what has Easter to say to the world and our nations? What is the good news we are called to offer?
“The emotions of that first Easter morning are exactly the same as many of us are experiencing now. The women and disciples came to the tomb feeling empty, a sense of desolation, all their hopes gone….and they find the stone rolled away, the body gone, the tomb empty. This is surely how many people are feeling today. Through the loss of a loved one, worry over a parent with Alzheimer’s; concern over finances or employment…a deep sense of loss, of emptiness. Yet is the tomb empty? There is a message: ‘he is not here, he has risen’ and the women are filled with wonder and excitement – their emptiness is replaced by hope……
“A woman from Brazil shared with me long ago that ‘the last thing to die is hope’ and as I have travelled this year I have discovered, no matter how dark a situation, wherever there has been hope, people have been alive to change and new life. Church people have shown me projects that have come about because they never stopped hoping and I witnessed exactly this at the opening of the new church in Weymouth a couple of weeks ago. Seven years after the original church was burnt down, after just finishing its refurbishment, there was a real sense of loss and emptiness - they never let their hope die and it was a tremendous privilege to share in celebrating their new life.
“As the disciples and women approached the garden that early Easter morning I’m certain they were frightened. This was intensified as they heard the message that Jesus had risen and was alive. A mixture of excitement and fear, what could it all mean?
“We live among a people who are frightened. Fear of the recession, fear of terrorism, fear of growing old, fear of speaking out for justice, fear of…
“As Jesus meets and greets people that first Easter his first words again and again are : ‘don’t be afraid’ or ‘peace be with you’ for it is only when He breaks through our fear can we see and receive the love He offers us - and then there is only joy. It’s this mixture of emotions I felt whilst watching Wales play England at the Millennium Stadium during my district visit to Wales:wanting Wales to win but the game so close and the fear building up within me and most in the stadium and as the final whistle blew, the eruption of joy.In some ways the fear stopped me enjoying the game to the full and this is perhaps where many of us are in our living – the fears and worries of everyday life are stopping us enjoying fully being alive. The message of Easter is that Christ comes to break through our fear that we might know the joy of life.of being alive and in relationships with others and enjoying all that God provides.
“Easter eggs will abound once again this festive season and I still don’t know the answer as to whether it was the chicken or the egg which came first. Whilst in Wales I preached at a small village chapel in Carew and here is one of the most historic Celtic crosses in our islands. In the Celtic design where is the beginning and the end? We are sometimes guilty of celebrating Easter Sunday as the end, the culmination of Lent and Holy Week. ‘Christ is risen. Hallelujah!’ And what happens next? The stories in the gospels tell us that those who encountered the living Christ couldn’t keep it to themselves and couldn’t wait to tell others. So we celebrate that Easter is not only an ending but a beginning.
“Life for us all is a journey of endings and beginnings. Our task is to help lead people from their endings into new beginnings at whatever age and stage of life they are.
“So the emotions of the first Easter are still very real in our society today. The challenge for us is to know how we can offer the hope, joy and new life that Jesus offers us all. One simple way is to believe and live these emotions in our own life that others may see the risen Christ living in us.”
The Methodist church has also put the presidential address in an online audio file at: http://tinyurl.com/ch6sk6