resurrection rollercoaster

Once again we are about to strap ourselves into the spiritual and emotional rollercoaster that is Easter. For me Easter starts with the long, slow Lent ascent towards Palm Sunday. The shouts of “Hosanna!” at the top begin to turn into shrieks when we swoop downwards as the authorities tell Jesus to quieten the crowd and we are thrown into a series of unexpected corkscrews as Jesus clears the Temple of the traders. 

From there we have a series of small undulations and curves as the authorities question and challenge Jesus and he tries one last time to prepare his followers for what is about to happen. 

Suddenly there’s another steep drop as Judas agrees to betray Jesus and then another slow ascent to a profound peak as we experience the Last Supper. From there we experience a stomach-churning maelstrom of emotion as Jesus is betrayed, arrested, abandoned, betrayed, tried, flogged, sentenced and condemned. 

And just when we think things can’t get any worse the rollercoaster plunges into a tunnel of pitch-black darkness with Jesus on the cross, his death and burial. At this point, in the darkness, we are disorientated and unaware that the rollercoaster is actually climbing again. 

On Easter Sunday it emerges triumphant into the glorious brightness of the new day of resurrection, restoration and recommissioning.

(I did wonder whether on Easter Sunday we should find that we have emerged from the darkness and find ourselves on a completely different rollercoaster, but that would be stretching the analogy too far!)

One of the miracles for me as a Minister at this time of year is that I have yet to run out of new things to learn and discover about Jesus. I was ordained 23 years ago and each Easter there is more for me to learn, understand, appreciate and experience and there are more reasons for me to worship the Risen Saviour. I find that it is easy to fall into the trap, however, of looking for that ‘new thing’ rather than simply stopping and reflecting on what I have already experienced and know to be true. Let me give you an example:

“Jesus is alive!” This phrase trips off our tongues so easily. Familiarity with that does not so much breed contempt as complacency. But stop for a moment. Think about it. Allow the words to sink into your heart and mind. Jesus was dead and now is alive! Don’t go off into the theological implications of that just yet – Jesus is alive!!!! The dead, executed, extinguished, disposed-of, rejected one is now the surprising, greeting, living, breathing, walking, locked-door ignoring, breakfast-eating, risen and very much resurrected ONE. Doesn’t that send a shiver down your spine?

My hope and prayer for each one of us is that Jesus will meet each one of us afresh this Easter in significant ways that will revive our faith, and through us and our churches so that the Good News is proclaimed loud and clear in our communities.

Be blessed, be a blessing 

Maunding

(This is another ‘Thought for the week’ that is being shared with EBA Ministers today)

diaryYou may have heard or read Tony Campolo talking about how he was preached off the platform by an old Minister whose theme was “It’s Friday…. but Sunday’s coming!” Tomorrow that theme comes to life (and death). But today it’s Maundy Thursday… but Friday’s coming.

“Maundy” might be derived from Latin ‘Mandatum’ via Old English to mean ‘commandment’ as in ‘A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another as I have loved you.’ Or it might come from Latin ‘Mendicare’ meaning ‘to beg’ – relating to the alms given out by the King before Mass on the Thursday before Easter. The origins of the word are shrouded in mystery. Whatever the origins of the name, Maundy Thursday can seem like a poor relation to the brutal love shown on Good Friday and the resurrection joy of Easter Sunday. It’s can be seen as a prelude to the main event.

And yet…

It was the night when Jesus washed the feet of his friends – feet that had trodden on the palm branches and cloaks on the rode as the accompanied the King on a Donkey, but which were attached to people who were too proud to take the role of a servant (or just thought someone else ought to do it). A night of humility.

It was the night of the Last Supper when Jesus fulfilled and gave new meaning to the Passover – when unleavened bread and wine became a costly feast. A night of remembrance.

It was the night when he ate alongside those who would run away from him, deny knowing him and even betray him with a kiss. A night of fickleness.

It was the night when Jesus sang a hymn with his friends – maybe a setting of Psalm 22? A night of haunting melody.

It was the night when Jesus and his friends went to the Garden of Gethsemane – where he asked them to ‘watch and pray’ and they slept as he agonised. A night of blood, sweat and fears.

It was the night when Jesus prayed in the way that he had taught his friends – honestly, humbly, heroically: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” A night when the cost was counted.

It was the night when Jesus carried out another healing – repairing the damage Peter had caused with his sword in a valiant but misguided attempt to defend Jesus. A night of grace in the face of hate.

It was the night when he was arrested in secret for fear of the crowds, when the mockery of a trial process began and the trials of a mockery process began. A night of humiliation.

Today, whatever activities you and your churches have planned, don’t discount Maundy Thursday as the warm up act to the main event. It’s when Jesus began to show us how much he loves us and how much we are to love one another. It’s when the King of kings begins to extend his arms for us and to us and offers us his body and blood.

Be blessed, be a blessing