Letter from our Vicar

Letter from our Team of Clergy and Readers - April 2019 (Continued from Home Page)

....I do believe that the One who is the source of our creation is the One who enters fully into our lives as Jesus Christ.   As a contemporary hymn writer wrote: ‘when human hearts are breaking under sorrows iron rod, we find the self-same aching deep within the heart of God’.   It is my prayer that the commitment of God to all of us will give us hope in our broken and hurting world.

There is nothing more central to Christian faith than the resurrection – first the resurrection of Jesus Christ and then the promised resurrection of the dead.   Most scholars are agreed that the Church would never have come into existence and there would never have been a Christian movement if the disciples had not believed beyond doubt that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead and was alive among them.   Paul says frankly: ‘If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain!’ (1 Cor. 15.14).

We may think that Paul has chosen a weak and vulnerable article on which to make the whole faith depend.   The resurrection is surely about the most incredible item in the Christian faith.   Dead men do not rise – surely we all know that.   To say that Christian faith depends on the truth of the resurrection of Christ is to offer an unbearable offence to the modern mind.   Incidentally, it seems to have been an offence to the ancient mind too, for when Paul preached on the resurrection in Athens, the people laughed at him.   They knew as well as people today that dead men do not rise! 

Would it therefore not have been much safer and simpler if Paul had said that Christianity stands or falls on the beauty of Christ’s teaching or the integrity of his character or something else that is acceptable to the liberal and secularised mind?   The strange fact is this, that the passion with which men and women commit themselves to Christianity (or, on the other hand, turn away from it) seems to be proportionate to the element of offence and paradox in it.   If Jesus is the Risen Lord, He is infinitely more exciting and relevant than if He is simply another in the long line of religious teachers.

So to say that the Christian faith stands or falls on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is vital for the believer.   Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a corpse – it is something far more dynamic.   For the early disciples, his appearances confirmed their conviction that he had been raised from death and, indeed, all the Gospels speak of the empty tomb.      The New Testament writers say it was God who raised Christ.    This means that God was not outside the events cancelling out the Cross and crucifixion but that, in Christ, He took upon himself the evil and suffering of the world and was able to absorb and transform it and open up the new way forward that we call resurrection life.

This is seen supremely in the difference between the disciples who deserted Jesus on the night of His arrest and those who, on the first Easter Day, encountered the Risen Lord.   This experience transformed them from a bewildered group of men and women mourning a dead leader and a lost cause to the most explosive revolutionary movement the world has ever known.   Resurrection for them was something they were already experiencing in themselves – a new quality of life filled with energy, love, joy and hope for the future.   Becoming a Christian was already to share in the resurrection, to be made a new creature.   Paul interpreted baptism as a dying with Christ, a burying of the old life and a rising with Christ into new life.   In this sense, down to the present day, Christians have never ceased to know the meaning of resurrection, both in their own lives and in that of the Christian community.

May I wish you all a joyful and blessed Eastertide.

 Michael Irving