I wonder what you have put your hope in this year. For most of us it has been an incredibly hard year and although we may remember some positive moments from last spring, where everything stopped, the sun shone, the birds sang and we clapped for the NHS on Thursday evenings, the reality of the hardship of this last year is immense. The separation from loved ones, the huge increase of mental ill-health and suicide rates, the economic turmoil not seen since the years after the second world war. Most of us in Burley have been incredibly fortunate and there have been some wonderful initiatives to support the vulnerable and strengthen our community, but no one has been immune from the detrimental effects of the pandemic. It is very important to acknowledge just how hard it has been and how our levels or resilience have been worn down.
I have to admit that there have been many times over the last 12 months when I have felt desolate and barren. I have allowed my perspective to be influenced by what I have seen and heard all around me. That spirit of death and diminishment has been literally spewing out of every media outlet continuously and I have often found it hard to hold steady when the spirit of uncertainty and fear has been so pervasive.
However, I have feen forced to ask, with the psalmist, where does my help come from? And the answer for Christians for 2000 years around the world has been and continues to be, Easter hope. Christians are called to be the people of all hopefulness because we know that death has been defeated and that God is more than able to bring resurrection out of the most traumatic and devastating of situations.
The Bible tells us that we can essentially live with one of two opposing worldviews. You can either live with hope in “the world”, where evil and darkness is always rampaging, where we try and fix the ever-increasing list of social ills in our own strength, relying on our good, but inadequate understanding of the universe and our part in it. Or we can live with hope in a “Kingdom perspective” where we put our trust in the creator of the universe, where we can allow our lives to be formed and transformed by Jesus Christ, the author of life and where our spirits can be inspired by His Holy Spirit. The key difference between people of these different worldviews is not moral but lies in the foundation of our hope.
Of course, I am not saying that only Christians can have hope! In fact, there is much in our human endeavour and courage, in our reaching out to others, that offers hope. But I would say that we are all able to access the divine spark which is part of our DNA; Christians believe that everyone is made in the image of God and therefore there is a rhythm of hope that we all can tap into. However, as a Christian, I know that Jesus has defeated the power of death and so I can live in a more intentional rhythmic participation with heaven. When things are going wrong, as they undoubtedly do, I know that God can and will intervene. I know that he can bring healing to those who are ill, peace to the worried, he can break the power of bondage to the addictive behaviours that many of us are seduced by. I also know that when I am feeling desolate and barren, that is not the Spirit of God, but the spirit of the world around me.
Paul, the writer of many of the letters in the New Testament, claimed that if the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t real then he would be a complete and utter fraud and our faith would be utterly futile. C S Lewis said something similar; “Christianity if false is of no importance and if it is true it is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
At St Mary’s, in collaboration with Love Burley, we are running an Alpha course starting on the 14th April. If you are wondering whether there is “more to life than this”, whether you have questions about Jesus, about his death or the power of his resurrection. Or if you want to know more about a worldview that gives you, not only hope for the world beyond death, but also a huge amount of hope here and now, come and join us on zoom for our taster session. This question is of infinite importance and most of us, if we are honest, have never really thought to ask it.
May I wish you a hope-filled, resurrection-inspired Easter