18 Apr 2020 • From the Rector
Christians all around the world love the season of Easter because it’s a time of resurrection, victory; hope and life; or, at least part of the story is. The events in the Easter narrative describe a game of two halves. The second part is all about light and life, but the first part is about dark, scary things that we prefer to skate over.
In the Gospel accounts of the Easter story the words “fear” or “afraid” crops up a lot. The disciples were afraid when Jesus told them of the events that lay ahead; Peter was so afraid of being discovered that he denied even knowing Jesus. The disciples scattered after the arrest because they were afraid. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed that there might be another way to achieve his mission; fear almost overwhelmed him when he thought of what lay ahead.
The theme even continues on Easter Sunday morning. The guards at the tomb were traumatised by the resurrection. The women who went to the tomb found Jesus come back to life and were terrified that they have met a ghost.
Jesus spoke into the chaos and uncertainty, “Do not be afraid.”
It was an impossible ask. How can you not to be afraid when your life is in danger; when armed men are out looking for you; when everything you believed in has fallen apart?
Easter 2020 has been marked in circumstances unlike anything in living memory. One third of the world is in lock-down. Those who are well watch daily news reports of the spread of a global pandemic. The spread of the infection is relentless; the death-rate graphs rise ever upward.
Into the chaos and uncertainty Jesus speaks familiar words, “Do not be afraid.”
How can we not be afraid when friends and family perish and we live behind closed doors? And looking ahead beyond months of risk and uncertainty there may be unemployment; bankruptcy and recession. No one can be sure what “back to normal” might look like.
In the face of COVID-19 fear is appropriate; it is the right response. Fear is not cowardice or a failure of faith. We are afraid when we feel we are in danger and soon to be overwhelmed. As the death rate in the UK hits the anticipated peak, that feels to be where we are. So “be afraid."
But do not lose hope; do not lose confidence… that God is with us; that life will continue; that all with be well. God feels our fear. In the Person of Jesus he felt the fear of arrest; humiliation; powerlessness; torture and execution. When prayer did not provide an escape route he moved forward into the events that held terror.
Jesus is present now, in the Person of His Holy Spirit. In Him we find strength; direction; identity and confidence for the future.
In our chaos and uncertainty we can hear and receive His words, “Do not be afraid.”
You can read the story of Jesus coming back to life as told by St Matthew in his Gospel here.