Due to the lockdown we cannot ensure that our people recieve their church magazine, so we include it here for free: April Magazine
Since I last wrote an editorial for our magazine the world has changed in unimaginable ways. The schools are closed, the shops are closed, and the churches are closed - our church of St George’s has closed!! This didn’t happen in war in time, and so what we’re seeing is something which we haven’t seen in centuries. When I go into church - much less often now - it’s very sad, our lovely building lying empty. The pews with no people in. The organ silent. The communion table bare. The lights turned out and the place is dark. At times of trouble church is where people used to congregate. When people feel isolated and lonely church is where people come to meet friends. When people are worried church is where people come to pray. But now our church is empty, and dark, and there is something extremely sad about that, and no doubt we’re right to feel that way.
Two thousand years ago a small group of Christians felt even more devastated that we do. They had seen their leader, their king, their Messiah - so they had thought - killed and His body cast into a stone tomb. For them too it seemed like there was little hope, for them too their world had turned upside down, and they too were afraid. And in a similar way to me, Mary goes out early in the morning to a place she knows to be deserted. Unlike me Mary does not have a key for the place where she is going, and she has to hope and pray, that when she arrives there will be someone to open the tomb. When she arrives, like me, she finds the place where she is going dark and empty. For both of us, for that initial moment this is deeply sad. Mary, on finding the empty tomb, runs to Peter and screams: ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’. You can feel the devastation behind those words, we do not need to imagine. BUT everything changes for Mary when someone - whom she assumes is the gardener - calls her by her name: ‘[He] said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’’ From utter devastation, to utter elation. From the depths of despair, to the heights of happiness. Jesus is alive - and that makes all the difference in the world. And consequently Mary does what comes totally naturally and throws her arms around Jesus and will NOT let go!! BUT Jesus has not come back just for Mary, no Jesus has come back for the whole world so He quickly says to Mary: ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them’. Mary is to tell the other Christians so that they too can have hope. And what does Jesus do next, when the disciples know He is alive, He gives them a task: ‘Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’’ Jesus gives those disciples His peace, and then He gives them His mission. Jesus assures them of His forgiveness and of their relationship with God (His peace), and then He sends them out as extensions of Himself to tell His message and to care for the world (His mission).
If you pop to church now you will see an empty tomb of a building, but as you peer inside be reminded of the empty tomb of Jesus, and what that actually meant. That Jesus wasn’t dead, that death could not hold Him, and that the tomb was empty because Jesus was going with His disciples out into the world. Our building is empty, BUT Christians should be far from empty. We have hope, for we know how the story ends. We know that death does not win, we know that Coronavirus does not triumph, and we know that out of the darkness Jesus will bring light. Church buildings are closed, but the Church, the real Church, will never be closed for the real Church is the people of God, and God will never leave His Church, God will never leave His people. God gives His people His peace, today, as always and then sends us out. So let us not worried as the world worries for we know that God will not leave us. And, therefore, just as God in Christ sent out Mary to ‘Go and tell [the] brothers’ and just as God in Christ said to the disciples ‘I am sending you’ so hear Him tell you to go out and tell and serve the world. For some this will be by praying, for some this will be by phoning the lonely and isolated, and for others this will be by delivering food, and notice sheets, and a million and other little acts of love and service. The church building is empty, but Jesus is alive, and so is our hope. So smile, pray, and serve, and this Easter remember to say - and say it loudly - Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Hallelujah. (from Rev. Mike)