Fr Andrew's April Message
Dear Friends in Christ,
By the time you read this, we shall be celebrating Easter. This year, Easter is almost the earliest it can be. Indeed it seems we have only just finished Christmas let alone lent! Never mind Holy Week!!
During Lent and Passiontide many of us are familiar with the Stations of the Cross. On this journey we follow Jesus on the Way of the Cross. Indeed, the Stations are permanently sited around the S. Stephen’s as in so many churches. This devotion is of great help in preparing us to do as Jesus bids us, “Take up the Cross daily and follow me.”
These Stations help us to enter more fully into the season of Lent. But what about Eastertide. Are there such aids to help us to enter more fully into the Resurrection life? Well, the first answer must be that the whole life of the Church is about following the Easter life. All of the sacraments are ways in which we can experience the Risen Christ in our lives.
In recent years however, a new tradition, that of ‘Stations of the Resurrection’ has been enjoyed. Just like the Stations of the Cross, the journey leads us to meet characters from the story along the way, each experiencing something of the mystery, joy and challenge of the Resurrection.
In its most common form, the Stations pick up the following episodes:
Jesus is raised from the dead
The finding of the empty tomb
Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
Jesus is known in the breaking of bread
Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
Jesus strengthens the faith of Thomas
Jesus appears by the Sea of Tiberius
Jesus forgives Peter and commands him to feed his sheep
Jesus commissions the disciples upon the mountain
The Ascension of Jesus
Mary and the disciples wait in prayer
The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost
A favourite Christian writer of mine, Elfrieda Nikkel, has written a super story about her experience of visiting the Holy Land in preparation for Easter. I quote some parts here. [I hope she won’t mind, I can’t find contact details, but I do credit her here - (http://www.thoughts-about-god.com/easter/en_risen-lord.html). The Stations of the Resurrection can be experienced using some of her reflections. We meet some of the people involved in the events and put their experiences alongside our own. I use just three examples, using Elfieda’s narrative.
There was Mary, standing outside the tomb weeping. We see her overcome with grief and hopelessness. She knew that Jesus had been crucified but now she faces the reality that his body is gone. She came to spend time at the tomb but looking in she finds it empty. Her only thought was that someone had taken him away. Life seemed so hopeless to her. Then Jesus meets her in her pain and grief. Thinking it was the gardener who asked her for the reason for her tears she shared her concern, that the body of Jesus had been taken away. It was when Jesus spoke her name that she recognized him. What a moment of hope and joy! Jesus is still the same and wants to meet us as well in our moments of grieving, discouragement, pain or hopelessness during this Easter season. He calls us by name and says, you are precious in my eyes and honoured in my sight, and ...I love you." Isaiah 43:4
Maybe our need during this Easter season is more often like that of Thomas who struggled with doubts about the truth of Christ’s resurrection. He boldly stated his position when he said he would not believe unless he saw Jesus hands, felt the wounds from the nails and put his hand in his side. Jesus appears to Thomas and meets him at his point of need and says, “See the wounds and place your hand in my side” and then in tenderness encourages him to believe. There were no words of admonishment and scolding just encouragement to believe. Maybe we find ourselves facing doubts in some area of our life today.
The risen Lord comes to us and lovingly encourages us to believe in him and to trust him with every detail of our daily life.
On our journey during this Easter season we may also find ourselves identifying with Peter who probably experienced the greatest failure of his life when he denied Jesus three times. We read how Peter wept bitterly after he realized what he had done. One can only imagine that sense of defeat experienced by Peter. But the story does not end there. Jesus seeks him out on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius where Peter was fishing.
After pulling the fishing boat ashore with their catch of fish, Jesus singles out Peter and asks him three times if he loves him and with each response assigns him to the task of caring for his sheep. Not only was it a moment of forgiveness and acceptance for Peter but it was also an affirmation of his call to service.
Maybe Peter felt it was all over because of his denials but now Jesus calls him back to continue his tasks as a disciple. A second chance overflowing with love and forgiveness. Peter’s need was great but Jesus met him just where he was at. Jesus is still the same. When we find ourselves facing the pain of failure, of having disappointed others and especially Jesus, then he reaches out to us with forgiveness and offers us another chance. As with Peter there is a new hope to begin again with the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.
Why did Jesus single out each of these three people? Each had a special need and Jesus touched them at their particular point of need. He had the right answer for each. For Mary the answer was hope that her relationship with Jesus was not ended, for Thomas it was evidence that he needed to believe and for Peter forgiveness was followed by a call to service.
Today Jesus offers to meet us at our point of need as well. We too may be struggling with grief, doubt or failure. Or maybe our needs are entirely different but still he speaks into our life with the words from Phil.4:19 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The risen Lord waits to be invited:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20)
And when we invite him in he has a wonderful plan for our life.
" For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13.
As Christ the risen Lord looked for Mary, Thomas and Peter to touch them at their point of need so he looks for us during this Easter season to meet our needs as well.
May each of you meet the Risen Christ this Easter. How? Like Mary, like Elfrieda, to find him, it’s best to walk where he is to be found. And he is to be found not least in the worship of the Resurrection Church. You will find him there.