A curious service this morning. Numbers were much depleted (between youth at Easter camp – 1600 attendees apparently – and others on holiday). But the curiosity didn’t lie in the numbers, but in the content.
Easter is the greatest, most joyful, feast of the church year. For a long time I’m not sure I fully appreciated that. One thing that helped bring it home afresh to me was when we lived in the United States for a couple of years, where people marked Easter services with new clothes, lovely flowers etc. The congregations we were part of were in upper middle class neighbourhoods, but the sense of celebration and feasting went beyond the details of what particular groups could, or couldn’t, afford.
But our service this morning was focused on the crucifixion. And, yes, resurrection presupposes crucifixion, but this is the day for celebration. God has won the victory for us in Christ, raising him who died to glorious new life. It is the date on which, we affirm history turns. The promise that sin will not be victorious, that the gates of Hell could not hold the incarnate Son, and will not prevail for ever against the church of God. In tough times for the Western church, we need to celebrate that promise, that hope. (And there are lots of rousing Easter hymns!)
Edmund Spenser’s 450 year old poem captures some of that sense:
MOST glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin; 5
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe; 10
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
—Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.