Bishop of Norwich's Easter message
9 April 2023
Writing in the Eastern Daily Press this Easter, Bishop Graham talks of the hope and joy and vitality of the Resurrection.
Last month I was in the Holy Land on a pilgrimage with a number of clergy. Outside some of the holy sites and churches of the Holy Land are simple signs bearing the two words, ‘No explanations’.
These notices are to remind tour guides that they are to keep the silence of these churches and not break it with commentary to groups of pilgrims gathered around them.
The pilgrims are thus free to wander around and wonder in their minds.
When it comes to what happened on the first Easter morning explanations can only take us so far. Mystery fills the space in our minds.
The Gospels don’t try to explain the Resurrection. They don’t interview Jesus about how he felt when he got up, or how the stone was rolled away. No. Instead the Gospel writers gather the witness statements of people; what they saw and didn’t see; what was said to them; how they reacted; who they met along the way.
The Gospel writers were more interesting in describing Resurrection encounters than Resurrection explanations.
It is in stories, that faith comes alive. It’s difficult to rationally explain faith, except to say, it’s the astonishing change, the welling spring of love, the wondrous hope, the indescribable peace that begins in your gut, and spreads, perhaps slowly, to your head and your heart and your hands.
I think of people like Norfolk’s recipients of the Royal Maundy money on Thursday. Martin Moore a devoted member of All Saints Filby, where he has served as Treasurer and Churchwarden for 50 years loving both the building and its people. Judy Howard an accomplished bell ringer who has rung in 2,800 church towers since beginning in 1959 and who also plays the organ each week in Ashill church.
Easter Day’s resurrection is the epicentre of the Christian faith. It is disturbing, threatening, explosive, but also something to be discovered, believed, lived. The resurrection of Jesus radically ruptures the order of things and says it doesn’t have to be this way.
The mystery of the empty tomb invites encounter because it is about God who is the ultimate mystery acting then and now and in the future. The resurrection defines who God is: the God who raised Jesus from the dead. In raising Jesus, God vindicates that which resulted in Jesus’ death – his championing of the poor, the refugee and the cheated, challenging the rich and the powerful and the heartless, rejecting the way of violence and war, offering the miracle of healing and restoration to community, finding paths to forgiveness and reconciliation, and seeking life in all its fulness for everyone.
As Christians we seek to live Jesus’ way today. In recent months I’ve visited the warm space at St Andrew’s Lowestoft where those who can’t afford to heat their homes can sit in the warmth and socialise. At Mundesley I took part in an Orthodox service and party for over 60 Ukrainian refugees. I’ve seen trees being planted and churchyards protected for biodiversity as we seek to heal the planet. Our church schools across Norfolk and Waveney seek to bring life in all its fulness to 17,000 young people every day.
Easter reminds us that from the empty tomb come God’s gifts of hope in dark places, renewal of out of kilter lives, courage where there is fear, and joy where there have been tears. Hope, renewal, courage, joy are Easter gifts that roll towards me and you this weekend. Through the gifts he gives us in the power of the Holy Spirit, we go on, in his company, learning to share those precious gifts with others.
In such a way we can live as Easter people; people of the hope and joy and vitality of the Resurrection. Being Easter people is infectious. Through us, God transforms the lives of others.
No Explanations needed; just tell of your encounters