Sunday 9th April – Easter Communion Service led by Anne Walton

It’s a little surprising how many press articles there were this Easter Sunday offering the views of people who write that they are atheists, but still occasionally go to church or other places of worship looking for something remembered to give comfort or meaning to their lives, particularly as they get older.  Anne’s ‘glass half full or half empty’ theme might resonate with them.

Jonathan Hyde’s very true to life descriptions of Jesus’s journey that was to culminate in his entry into Jerusalem for Passover have been of a man well versed in the scriptures, following a path he believed was pre-destined for him, but nonetheless swept up in the clamour and excitement of the crowd, challenging the Jewish authorities as well as heightening the Roman Authorities’ fear of an insurrection by his very presence in Jerusalem. This, and the disappointment of the crowds, which quickly turned to anger when Jesus didn’t ‘deliver’ as prophesied, led to the events of Good Friday.

The reading from John 20 has Mary – on the third day – on her way to anoint Jesus’ dead body as was tradition. Finding the tomb empty she runs back to Peter and the disciple, who run to the tomb to see for themselves.

Anne tells us that when looking or the meaning of any Bible passage we should start with a question mark. What’s going on?

And she uses the ‘glass half full or half empty’ (tomb half full or half empty) metaphor to place us all  in a relative comfort zone.

Half full and we sing hymns with gusto and join in prayers with the expectation that God will answer them, even if not quite in the way we had expected. A bit like Peter, we run to the tomb, see and believe Christ is risen from the dead.

Anne is struck by the almost casual way the disciples responded: they just calmly went back home. Only a moment before they have been running to the tomb (the Scriptures not enough for them) and  having seen and believed, then go home without any sense of continuing action or of impact on their lives. So maybe the tomb was only half full for them as well?

We may enjoy all the Easter celebrations but only half-way hear the powerful words from the Scriptures that are all too familiar to us and so go home without things having changed very much.

The other side of the coin (and the tomb half empty) is when we start asking some critical questions:

  • Did Jesus literally and physically rise from the dead (certainly nobody recognised him until prompted)?
  • Did he really have to die in the first place? Couldn’t an all-powerful God simply save us without all that bloodshed? (sacrifices to Gods now seem a quaintly historical practice).

So we have a story that is hard to believe factually or even understand symbolically.

(On this I’m inclined to go with Jonathan Hyde that we recognise our own sinfulness and cut ourselves off from a loving God. This was all about removing that barrier and bringing us to see that it is something that God does not want).

Anne quoted Walter Brueggemann.

“Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice. Your new life fits none of our categories. We wonder and stew, argue and add clarifying adjectives like “spiritual” and “physical.” But we remain baffled, seeking clarity and explanation. We are baffled and want explanations”.

And then CS Lewis – “If Christianity is false, it is of no importance. If true it is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important”.

And with that, Anne pretty well swept away the “half full or half empty” metaphor. The tomb was fully empty. Jesus was no longer there, and the Good News of Easter is that God loves us so much that he doesn’t stop half-way. She believes that through the resurrection God challenges us not to settle for a half-full faith that keeps us comfortable, but rather to see something that is all encompassing, and live lives that are transformed by his grace.

(and that brings us to the atheists from a number of religious backgrounds, living comfortable lives but perhaps, like us living, in that half-way world. They like the comfort that religious services can offer. They, like us, need to break out of that comfort zone and look for something more?)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10