The Easter season continues to invite us and to challenge us to reflect on what the resurrection of Jesus means for us. In some senses, this is the central question of our Christian faith. The belief that Jesus rose again stands at the heart of our Creeds; as Saint Paul says, if Christ is not risen our faith is in vain. But Saint James reminds us that faith, real faith, marries thought and word and deed. Faith involves the whole person and impacts the whole of life.
‘May he rest in peace and rise in glory’ is a prayer we often say for those who have died. We pray it now for HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh whose death was announced yesterday (9th April).
This prayer summarises the Christian hope – that death is neither to be feared nor viewed as final. Christ’s resurrection, which we celebrate in particular at this time of year, has won a great victory, opening the way to eternal life for those who accept God’s gracious invitation to share it.
What does that involve? For each individual it may be slightly different. For Saint Thomas, whose story we remember this weekend with Christians all over the world, it was a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ. For others, it may be a very private matter. We are not each other’s judges in these things.
When we pray ‘May he rest in peace and rise in glory’ we express our own trust in God’s mercy and kindness and the truth of God’s promises made to the world in Jesus Christ. We trust God with the eternal destiny of those whom we have lost, whom we grieve.
May they all rest in peace, and rise in glory, and may God bless you all,
I heard a story some time ago about Soviet-era Russia. A large rally had been arranged for Easter Sunday. A senior member of the Communist Party to speak to a large crowd about the need to leave religious superstitions and outdated myths behind and embrace a modern, atheist view of the world. He spoke for nearly an hour to a silent crowd. At the end, a voice from the crowd called out ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen!’ and thousands responded, ‘He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’
‘I thought you were my friend!’
The discovery that someone you trusted has turned against you is a horrible feeling. Most of us will have experienced it at some stage in our lives. Many of us will have been through it on a larger scale, too, when a group of people whom we thought were ‘on our side’ takes against us and we find ourselves isolated.
If you’re one of those people who likes words, this Sunday may be of particular interest to you. ‘Passion Sunday’ is the nickname of the fifth Sunday in Lent because it is the day on which Passiontide begins. But what is meant by ‘passion’?
Followers and fans of the England cricket team have had a rough few weeks. After a stunning and exuberant victory to begin the Test series in India, everything has gone wrong.
Once upon a time my family and I set out to drive to my parents’ house. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? It was made a bit less simple than it might have been, however, by virtue of the fact that Grandma and Grandad lived at that time in the extreme south west of France. It was necessary to break the journey overnight and we made a reservation at the Novotel in Rouen.
In my Ash Wednesday sermon I suggested that we make our first order of business this Lent a recommitment to mercy.
Mercy is one of those words that we all understand, but is nevertheless difficult to define. It’s present behind everyday phrases like ‘give him a break’ as well as the routine acts of forgiveness we all perform. Mercy is a disposition, an attitude, a willingness to forego our right of revenge (as well as our predilection for resentment) and respond to the shortcomings of others (as well as our own) with kindness, patience and love. Jesus said that the merciful will be shown mercy. He also said that those who judge others will be judged by the same standard that they use.
A few weeks ago, my younger son asked me at the dinner table when Lent began. I replied ‘Ash Wednesday’.
My children are patient with me, and fortunately found this more amusing than irritating. Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday. What varies is when Ash Wednesday happens. Unlike Christmas Day, which is always on the same date, Ash Wednesday can move around by over a month, from early February at its earliest, to mid March at its latest.