The first Easter was such a disruptive time for the fledgling Christian church. We usually experience Easter as a reassuring reminder and a time which brings Christians together with a depth of joy and comfort. But the first Easter scattered the followers of Jesus. There was more than a little doubt over their future. It was a time of severe discomfort.
After twelve months and two Easters in which we have been severely hampered from meeting together in church, there is some discomfort over our future.
Zoom services have been well attended by a loyal number of our church members. We have opened for restricted services in church whenever allowed by the authorities and sensibly supported by the church council. We have reached out to everyone on our rather imperfect church lists with letters and prayer booklets and bible study notes and Mothering Sunday cards and palm crosses. But how many of us will return as weekly regulars in church? There is some discomfort about our future.
Our financial shortfall in 2020 was £6,000 and we are struggling again in 2021. Even though we restarted our socially distant services at the end of March, it could be a while before we are able to hold larger services with singing and closer fellowship without physical distance. Thinking about the future is a challenging thing. But nothing compared with the challenges faced by the 150 disciples who gathered regularly after Jesus’ resurrection but before the Day of Pentecost.
They had the thrilling experience of witnessing Jesus, raised from the dead, appearing amongst their number on ten or a dozen occasions. They had survived the false accusations, manipulated crowds, excruciating torture and drawn-out public execution against their heroic leader. But it was not obvious that the fledgling church was about to explode outwards in growth and vitality. The future life of the church was in the balance.
But not for long. The worriers need not have worried.
There are seasons of tearing down but they are followed by seasons of building up. And Jesus is thoroughly committed to building his church. The early church grew through trials and persecutions. And we can grow too. The people of God may be scattered but we shall not be moved. Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. And our time will come again to share fellowship around the communion table, publicly bearing witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The first Christians had a scary Easter but it helped them become fearless about the future. Death is defeated. The people of Jesus will overcome. Let’s look forward with hope.
A very happy Easter to you from Jean and I.
Yours in Christ,
Canon Rob McLaren, Vicar