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Easter Message 2021

The past twelve months may have felt like the longest Lent ever. If we think of Lent in terms of giving something up, then how do we begin to enumerate everything that has been given up over the past year? With the festival of Easter we are beginning to see (once again) a lessening of the restrictions placed on our lives by the pandemic. Yet we know that the national, not to mention global situation, is still fragile. Many of us have now received the first dose of a vaccine and hopes of a return to normality are beginning to grow, but we are aware of new variants emerging and fresh outbreaks in some European countries. Last year I celebrated the Easter Eucharist in my domestic chapel (also known as the corner of the sitting room!) and a pheasant wandering through the garden stole the show. More people commented on the pheasant than on anything else in the service. This year we will be in church: socially distanced bell-ringers will be ringing some of our bells to herald the feast; the choir will be able to sing for the first time since Christmas. One of the joys of Easter is being able to sing the Gloria again, as it is never sung (or said) in Lent…congregational singing might still not be permitted but there is some greater freedom in what we can do.

At the heart of the Easter message is the idea of new life and new hope rising for the depths of pain, sorrow, and suffering. But that new life was not the same as it had been. A transformation has taken place. Although Jesus appeared to the disciples on a few occasions before his ascension their life was radically different. When I teach curates about funeral ministry and bereavement, I always say that the cliché ‘You’ll get over it’ is fundamentally flawed. We don’t get over a loss or bereavement, we come to terms with it, we learn to live with it. We might well have a rich and fulfilling life after a loss or bereavement, but we do so because of this transformation that takes place – new life and hope rising from the depths of pain and sorrow. There has been much that has been lost over the past twelve months. For many it has been painful and difficult. Life cannot, and will not, be the same – a transformation has occurred. The psalm for Easter Day reminds to ‘give thanks to the Lord for he is good’… that God made this day for us to be glad in. It is a psalm that refocuses our attention on to all that God has done for us. We might read it as encouraging us to think about the positive things in our lives rather than the negative, and that is a good way to read it. But I would want to go a bit further… when we are laid low with grief and sorrow… feeling isolated, lonely, unloved… we can take comfort from the knowledge that God loves us so much that he gave us his son, who endured the pain of crucifixion that we might have hope in the power of his transforming love through the joy of the resurrection. This is what he has done for us and this is why we give thanks and rejoice. Fr Philip

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