“Tomorrow [Easter Sunday] millions of people around the world will be marking Easter. This is usually the greatest celebration in the Christian calendar, but this year is will be a somewhat muted affair.
On a day when we usually like to see family, it’s vital that we follow the government’s advice to stay at home. On a day when we celebrate new life, it’s essential that we follow the government’s advice to save lives.
Easter feels a long time in coming this year. It’s been a long sad springtime of Lent for many of us. Over the last few weeks and days we have become increasingly anxious and concerned. Fear has begun to stalk those who are facing a daily Good Friday world with its slow death of happiness, health and hope.
The Gospels record how during Jesus’ final earthly weeks anxiety and concern grew amongst his followers and those in authority were on edge. The outlook wasn’t good then, just as things don’t look very good in the coming weeks for millions of people around the world.
We pray that soon we may be able to take up those things again that bring us happiness, be in good health, and see hope being restored in this season.
That’s what the words at the heart of Easter did for the first disciples and continue to do for us. They are the astonishing words, “He is Risen!”
These words changed the course of history.
The disciples were filled with happiness even in their bewilderment. Those whose lives had been turned upside down, and dreams shattered, found life was healthier lived in the light of the Resurrection. Hope filled the air, beginning with that small group of women and men who had lived alongside Jesus, and spreading out to the corners of the known world.
Easter doesn’t hide from hard daily realities, but witnesses to God in Jesus bringing life out of death, transforming darkness into light, turning fear into tomorrow’s joy, and longing for hopelessness to become hopefulness.
I think we’ve seen some of that Easter light already breaking out around us amidst the gloom of these last few weeks. Just think of the incredible fortitude of NHS staff and their sheer commitment. They deserved that applause on our doorsteps.
The emergency services continue to play their essential part in supporting and helping us. We’ve appreciated those unsung heroes who keep shelves restocked, produce food, and get up early to ensure deliveries reach us. And thousands of us have volunteered to help in whatever way we can.
Then there are the millions of small acts of kindness that we have witnessed. Community organising the like of which we’ve never seen before. Neighbours talking to each other rather than about each other! People caring for strangers and the most vulnerable. A concern for those living in cramped housing and those in unhealthy relationships.
This is when we have seen early signs of Easter dawn; light breaking through.
When we allow the Easter light to shine through the cracks in our lives, and the Easter song to be sung in our communities, we begin to experience God’s healing, restoration and reconciliation.
Many centuries ago, St Augustine of Hippo proclaimed: “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” That’s a song worth discovering and singing, even in these challenging days.
Wherever you are, and whoever you are with, and however you are feeling, my prayer is that the hope of Easter will banish any fears that you may have, because hope always wins.”
The Rt Revd Graham Usher
Bishop of Norwich
This first appeared in the EDP on Saturday 11 April 2020.