As he reflected on the Easter celebrations, the Primus, the Most Rev Mark Strange looked back on a Holy Week like none before it and looked ahead to how the Church can “stand out there and proclaim the risen Christ.”
“We need to look out into this world around and listen to what we’re hearing.”
“Hello, and welcome to a weekly update. In fact I should start: Alleluia, Christ is Risen, he is Risen indeed, Alleluia. For we are in the Easter season. And yet I think it’s an Easter season that we haven’t felt before. It’s been an odd day today. A day when I’m usually relaxed. A day when all the excitement of building up to the Easter Sunday has tired me out. And yet today there’s a frustration. A need to get on and do things. A need to feel that things might change. A need to get out on a walk, a need to do something and we have fifty days in which to do this something.
“Fifty great days of Easter to keep alive that feeling we had yesterday when we’d all worshiped together, digitally, with that lovely service from Perth.
“So, I’m going to read you just a few lines here.
“’I could sense it. Something different, something mysterious. Something special about him. I listened as we walked. His words were clear, his understanding powerful, and I felt it tingling in the air around me.
“’And then he broke bread. And I knew. He is risen. He is here. He is with me.’
“Those two men walking out to Emmaus, filled with the horror of all that they have seen, all that they have witnessed. Filled with suspicion and anxiety about the words they had heard that morning, that somehow the horror that they’d witnessed wasn’t real. And they’re joined by somebody. Somebody they don’t recognise – just like Mary in the garden – no recognition that this is Jesus. There’s something wonderfully mysterious about these passages, these readings. Mysterious in a way which says it’s not being confronted by the figure of Jesus, it’s feeling the presence of Jesus in your life.
“And they arrive, having been given a theological treatise, understand passages from scripture, but it’s at the moment when Jesus breaks the bread when he makes himself present among them. Where there, in their hearts, not simply in their hearing, but deep in their hearts that mystery dawns – that mystery dawns that they are in the presence of the risen Christ. That must have been so powerful. So powerful in face that they turned round and headed straight back to Jerusalem.
“I’ve always felt slightly sorry for them at that point – rushing up the steps to the upper room, then banging on the door and going in and saying “We seen the risen Lord!” and everyone saying “So have we”. And then of course Jesus was present there amongst them. You see the moment of the breaking of the bread, the moment when they knew that: there with them always, beside them, within them and around them, was the risen Christ. Driving them back over those seven miles, driving them to go and proclaim it, driving them to begin the journey which ended up with the establishment of what? Of our Church.
“And yet it’s so easy at this time for that rushing back with excitement to be turned into: “how do we keep going? What is it that we need to do? How do we save the Church?” To become inward looking. It, I assume, is part of being in isolation that we begin to look inward, begin to see the things we have in our homes, the things we do in our own spaces as ultimately important, but our faith is not about how do we sustain the Church as it’s been. It is not about the conversations I hear all the time about how we survive financially, or don’t – about how we keep going, or don’t. It is about knowing that we are not keeping going, we are simply living the truth of the risen Christ. And so we need to outward looking. We need to look out in to this world around and listen to what we’re hearing. We’re hearing words from our leaders about, almost as if we’re at war. We’re hearing words about well, being important to be part of this community. When actually we need to be praying for the World’s community.
“We need to spend the time we have now writing letters, making contact, telling people that we’re not happy.
“We’re not happy that somehow we’ve managed to remove the homeless from our streets so quickly, and yet where will they go when this is over?
“Not happy that refugee children are still held in camps. camps where they’re at risk from this virus, because we’re still not finding space for them.
“Not happy because it’s easy to become grumpy people. I’ve even seen myself standing up in my garden, leaning over the wall and glowering at someone who had the audacity to walk past.
“What have I become, if I’m not even prepared to welcome the stranger passing by my home.
“Okay, there might be a risk, there might be all those things which you’re warned about. But that shouldn’t turn us into people who look inward. We need to be people still looking outward. Offering Christ’s love to the world, not simply in our prayers, but in our actions. To show people that, even though we might not be able to meet together we still care, we care enough to rush back the seven miles from Emmaus. We feel enough to stand out there and proclaim the risen Christ. We care enough to let our leaders know that lockdown does not mean we stop caring. What it means is we find ways of truly caring. To make sure that those who are least advantaged are cared for. That those who are struggling, and always struggle, are being cared for in special ways. We know that those who are the least advantage have as much chance as those with the greatest advantage. As much chance to survive, and to grow and to be fulfilled.
“If the Church is to be the Church of Christ, it must be outward looking, calling on people, showing them Christ in our heart and in our lives. Enabling them to see, as I hope we see, that the risen Christ brings hope and life and love to world. The Church must reflect that in how it shows itself as loving and caring and rejoicing, into that world.
“Blessings upon you. Keep safe, and pray that we find ways to keep other safe.”