Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter thoughts

There's a lot I'd like to say about the spiritual meaning of Easter, but this blog probably isn't the right place to say them. I know many of my readers are Christian, but many others are not and wouldn't agree with what I might have to say. Since I try to keep this blog in the "general interest" sphere, accessible to and enjoyable by as many people as possible, I generally won't use it to preach. (I can do that better in church, anyway!)

However, I would like to bring you the thoughts of two gentlemen, one a newspaper columnist, one an Archbishop. Both are in the UK. Their comments are naturally oriented towards England and its society today, but I think there are many, many elements in common with what we experience in the USA (and the experience of other societies around the world).

The first is Peter Hitchens, a former Marxist and Socialist, now better informed. He reminds us:

Year by year we throw away the beliefs that underpin our society. We have no idea how dangerous this path is, nor how steeply it descends into the darkness.

This is the first generation in centuries that could not see why it is wrong to allow betting shops to open on Good Friday.

And that is because this is the first generation in centuries that does not know that the soldiers cast lots at the foot of the Cross, ignoring the groans of the crucified Jesus and the weeping of his mother, to decide which of them should have Christ's seamless garment.

To anyone who understands what Good Friday means, the placing of bets on this day is a sort of obscenity. To everyone else it is a bit of fun or good business.

Well, do you think we won't pay for this? We are paying for it.

Look at the paintings of the Crucifixion by the great Flemish Masters such as Hieronymus Bosch and you will see, baying or sneering at Golgotha, exactly the same snarling, contorted, heedless faces you find on the drunken streets of our country.

These artists were trying to tell us that, if we reject the idea of absolute unchanging goodness, we will become like that mob, and part of it.

And we are doing so, visibly.

Amen, Mr. Hitchens! You can read the rest of his remarks here.

The second person is the Anglican Archbishop of York, the Rt. Rev. John Sentamu. He has this to say:

. . . What matters in the end is that God believes in each one of us.

That is why he sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Jesus is not to be found among the dead, as part of an ancient dusty religion.

The message of Easter rings out across our land this morning - in the words of the old hymn, Jesus Christ is risen today.

Later today I will stand waist-high in an open-air pool in the middle of York city centre where I will baptise into the faith those people who will newly confess that Jesus is the Lord of their lives.

These will join the often silent and overlooked majority of people in this country for whom today is a day of celebration and joy.

According to a recent poll conducted by Theos, a public policy think-tank, 57 per cent of Britons believe Jesus was executed by crucifixion, buried and rose from the dead.

The fact that more than half of us hold that belief is particularly striking and demonstrates that our society is not as "secular" as we often imagine it to be, despite frequent chattering claims to the contrary.

The reality of the resurrection is not just a personal encounter - it's also collective. It changes societies, cultures and communities.

For the physicality of the resurrection of Jesus is a community-evoking, a community-forming, a community-authorising event.

Our belief shouldn't just be based on the miracle of the resurrection itself but upon the astonishing outcome of that miracle - the community it creates, and has already created, in this country.

Our identity as a nation owes more to our Christian heritage than many care to admit.

Again, a hearty "Amen!" to the Archbishop. The rest of his words may be read here.

I hope you'll take the time to read these gentlemen's thoughts in full, and ponder them. And whether or not you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I wish you the blessings of that miracle on this Easter Sunday, and in the whole of your lives.

God be with you all, now and forever.


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