Sunday, 16 June 2024

Easter - The Turning Point

Easter has started early in the shops, similar to Christmas. Chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are everywhere well before the feast. It's the same every year.

But of course, we know that Easter is much more than this. It's about God having broken the power of death. I know deep in my heart that this is a pillar of my and hopefully our faith, however, the little word 'but' creeps in easily.

But why do I see so little of death's power being broken?

I look to Ukraine, Myanmar, Sudan and other places, and see so much destruction, devastation, pain and death. And I notice corrupted minds that are geared up for war.

I look to Turkey and Syria; recently I have met several members of the Turkish community who have lost loved ones in the earthquake that struck a few weeks ago. I struggled to find words.

I see people queuing up at the foodbank, and they tell me of exploitation, which is happening not only abroad, but often on our doorstep. I know what I notice is only the tip of the iceberg.

I visit hospitals and homes and see people fighting with illnesses and death, and those who do their best to help are completely overstretched.

I notice broken relationships, and how one person is despising another, not only 'in the world', but also in the church.

I can't overlook the pollution of the world in which we all share, and I worry not only about the distant future, but also about the near future, although I know that worrying doesn't change anything.

The list goes on, and I'm sure you, the reader, can add almost endlessly to it.

Sometime ago I read this: 'It is hope which makes the shipwrecked sailor strike out with his arms in the midst of the sea, though no land is in sight.' (Ovid).

Are we drowning in the disasters of this world and striking out with our arms? If we do, at least there must be a spark of hope! And that's good!

I open my eyes, my ears, and use all my senses in order to discover sparks of life and hope, and eventually I join in in the hymn:

“Hands stretched out from many countries
Seek our friendship, love and care;
Different faces, many races,
Friends and neighbours everywhere.”
(Moravian Hymn Book 524)

We do not have to be Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela in order to move our relationships and ways of life into the right direction. Each one of us can make a conscious effort and go beyond our comfort zone.

I have met and spoken to the nurse who goes above and beyond her duty to make the patient comfortable and keep in communication with the relatives.

I cherish and encourage the pensioner who frequently lends an ear to the troubled neighbour.

I have seen the effort of the volunteer at the crisis café.

I thank God for the woman who - despite being severely ill herself - prays regularly for those who are in dire need, and who is also praying for the whole world.

There are not only sparks of hope, but sometimes flames of fire which bring hope and light and warmth to people.

I love the detail in the Easter story when - after Jesus' resurrection - Mary mistook him for the gardener (John 20:15), or when Jesus walked with the disciples on their way to Emmaus and they didn't recognise him (Luke 24). Maybe Jesus appears beside us more often than we think, and also beside the unloved neighbour!

I firmly believe that Jesus, having suffered tremendous pain and death (the accumulated pain and death of the world), has brought about a Turning Point. It's beautifully expressed in this verse: 'O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?' (1 Corinthians 15:55). We quote it at every funeral. Death and grave are mocked in the face of indestructible life which God provides.

The fundamental battle has been fought. Life has conquered death. It's like the battle of Stalingrad in the Second World War: the battle was fierce, but whilst this battle was going on the outcome of the war was clear: Hitler and his people were bound to lose their destructive power.

In the same way, we can be Easter people and sing even in the darkest night of life:
'The strife is o'er, the battle done,
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun.
Hallelujah!
The powers of death have done their worst,
By Christ their legions were dispersed:
Let shouts of holy joy outburst.
Hallelujah!
The three sad days are quickly sped,
Christ rises glorious from the dead:
All glory to our risen Head!
Hallelujah!
He conquered hell,
Its power defied
The way to heaven he opened wide;
Sing praise to him, the crucified,
Hallelujah!'
(Moravian Hymn Book 110)

Br Joachim Kreusel

Minister of Ockbrook and Leicester Moravian Congregations

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