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Easter story gives us hope at time of crisis

Rev Steve Stockman


No go: the beach at Portrush

No go: the beach at Portrush

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

No go: the beach at Portrush

As Easter weekends go, this one is as bleak as they get. They say that the sun is going to shine, but trips to the North Coast, or Newcastle, or wherever, are banned. The only day trip we are going to have is to the next room.

Saving the world depends on us all suffering ... lockdown, social distancing and, for some, self-isolation. We sacrifice our own whims for neighbours and NHS staff.

It sounds a lot like that very first Easter. Jesus has sacrificed his own life, by his own decision to enter into the death of human suffering and save the World.

We called yesterday "Good" Friday. I prefer "Discomfortable Friday". It all seems discordant and distorted. I also prefer "Callous Friday". It all seems confused and contorted.

Jesus is on a cross. He is in agony. His friends have left. The people around him are laughing at him. The very sky goes black.

Yet, notice Jesus's poise. He is able to go face-to-face with the Roman governor and keep his cool. He is able to take the beatings from the soldiers with dignity. He is able to look down from the cross and speak words of comfort to his mother.

How? I believe that Jesus knew that this was a moment and He was not stuck in it. It was going to pass. It was Callous Friday, but he knew that Resurrection Sunday was coming.

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The Apostle Paul wrote about fixing our eyes, "not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary, but things that are unseen are eternal".

Jesus's poise was as a result of keeping his eyes on the bigger picture.

So, though on Easter Saturday, Jesus is dead, tomorrow the Christian Church will be celebrating resurrection.

When Mary went to anoint the dead body of Jesus, she found an empty tomb. When she turned to ask the gardener where the body was, she realised that it was Jesus. Alive. Bring on Sunday.

Those of us who believe in Jesus are Sunday people. Resurrection people. However, we realise that we live in a Friday world.

Everything around us seems like Callous Friday. There's war and famine, injustice and poverty, racism and sectarianism, murder and crime, domestic violence and children's abuse. There's a coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus is a tough moment. We can feel stuck in it. We are locked in our homes on the first spring Sunday Bank Holiday weekend. But Sunday's coming.

Jesus's Easter story gives us hope that there is more to come. Resurrection conceives the possibility of brand new birth, launches the potential of a whole new Earth; it sparks light to sneak through holes in the dark, it bursts hope into the depth of our souls.

Easter is a sequence of events that makes sense of what Paul told believers to do: "Do not fix your eyes on what is seen, but in what its unseen."

Looking at what is the "seen" of Good Friday is bleak. Looking at the yet "unseen" of Resurrection Sunday changes it all. It breathes hope.

As we head into a weekend where we cannot be at the North Coast, or our holiday homes in Donegal, or filling the parks around Belfast, let us, this year more than any other weekend, remember the first Easter.

It is Saturday. Stay home, wash your hands, socially distance, love your neighbour and our NHS. But there is hope. Look ahead. Sunday is coming.

Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Monday - Colossians 2:13-15

Tuesday - John 20:10-18

Wednesday - Acts 10:34-43

Thursday - 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Friday - Philippians 2:1-11

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