Prayer for Liverpool
Well I guess we are all coming to terms with a Social Media Easter!
Over the last few weeks Facebook and YouTube have made very interesting viewing.
Over the years I have detected something of a division over how churches approach and then celebrate Easter. There are those who could not wait for the festival – almost literally! Bunnies, eggs, and other confectionary appear on the agenda on the Saturday before Easter and brightly coloured notices advertise ‘Easter Services’ even though most of them take place during Holy Week!
On the other hand there are those who wallow in the soul searching, inward looking, self- flagellating sheer misery of Holy Week and for whom Easter Day becomes something of an inconvenient intrusion of happiness.
And yet perhaps this of all years might give us an insight into how you or I would have coped if we had been with the disciples that first Eastertide. It was hardly a hotbed of faith that Jesus invaded when he bypassed the locked door and found them self- isolating because of their fear.
No wonder his first words were the traditional Jewish greeting of peace, or that they didn’t perk up until he had shown them his hands and his side. Then we are told they rejoiced, although even after other resurrection appearances, St Luke tells us the disciples were ‘disbelieving’ in their joy.
This year in our church buildings there has been no ringing of bells or exchanging hugs of joy. It has been much more like the first Easter when it took a long time for the message to sink in.
It is enlightening I think to look at the words the various Gospel writers use to describe the feelings and actions of those first witnesses. They include – perplexity, terror, hiding their faces with fear, weeping, shaking, not understanding, alarm, disbelief, going home alone, amazement.
The fear and confusion has driven them behind locked doors which is where many of us now are.
I saw a documentary once about ‘locked in’ syndrome whereby people get locked into a body which cannot move even though their minds may be active. My experience of grief is that it can take away energy and motivation and result in a kind of lethargy and heaviness of heart that can entrap us. And the disciples have got themselves literally ‘locked in.’
Even that first appearance of Jesus doesn’t appear to have freed them as here we are a week later and those doors are still firmly locked and they certainly haven’t been able to convince Thomas.
What I warm to about Thomas is that even if he doesn’t have the assurance for himself about Jesus being risen, he stays around people who do, and they stick with him.
Some find it overwhelmingly tempting that, when a friend expresses genuine and heartfelt doubts, they rush in with reassurance rather than let doubt run its necessary course with the resulting possibility of an opening up in greater depth to God’s presence.
After all, just because Thomas hasn’t seen Jesus didn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t risen; it was just that Thomas hadn’t seen him yet. And if at times we doubt that God is with us and doesn’t respond to our prayers as we would wish – doesn’t mean that God isn’t there, it is just that we are not aware of His presence.
And of course there are no easy answers and I would much rather be part of a Christian community that admits to times when they are clinging on to faith by their fingertips rather that one who believes that they have arrived and possess the formula to the mind of God.
My experience is that it is when we are at our lowest and most vulnerable and prone to doubt that seeds of hope are sown.
And again bearing in mind our present circumstances, for many the turning point is the trauma of bereavement when, like the disciples at the crucifixion and faced with an empty tomb, life is turned horrifically upside down.
Once during a Lent course I asked those present how they came to faith. It was enlightening that a third of those present said it was through the Church’s presence with them during bereavement whether through a death, the loss of a job, or divorce. The way the church community had reacted to their pain and bewilderment had the effect of them want to belong.
The temptation is to read the stories of the resurrection and to consign them to history. But the truth is they are timeless. The past and the present touch each other and we are caught up in it too. We are in the story here and now physically isolated as we are.
We are called to live as Easter people – not perfect or other worldly but as a community who attempt to reflect God’s love to those with whom we are in contact and to look for and affirm signs of the resurrection revealed all around us.
I think the hope is that if we have been aware of the resurrection in this life we shall be able to receive the final resurrection after physical death. For then we will recognise it as a country we have already entered and in whose light and warmth we have already lived.
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God