… while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb … (John 20:1 NRSV)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
After the bomb attacks last week against Egyptian Christians, one of the Coptic bishops in Australia wrote to me, ‘I just feel numb right now, we are in deep pain and suffering … Very difficult to celebrate Easter under such circumstances, but … we trust in our suffering Christ who promised us that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against his Church.’
This weekend, having followed Christ through his suffering and death to his glorious resurrection, we remember those who still suffer for this faith. Here we celebrate in freedom, but there are still many who celebrate in the face of persecution. Christ’s death on Calvary, a once-for-all event for the salvation of the world, still echoes around the globe as his people continue to suffer. But they are not alone. Christ suffers with them.
Nor are we alone. When we fear for the present, or the future, Christ is there, ready and waiting to receive us. There is no suffering or rejection which he cannot reach, and no human pain in which does not share. This is what we discover in the darkness we paradoxically call ‘Good Friday’.
John’s Gospel records that on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb while it was still dark. She was in grief, her eyes clouded over. She expected things to be as they had left them two days previously. We should not be surprised at Mary. We naturally expect things to continue the way they were. We are slow to recognise how much they changed that morning. It takes time, sometimes a lifetime, to really believe the Scripture that he must rise from the dead, and take in all that this means for us now and in eternity.
The light came on for Mary, and she really saw the Lord, when he called her by name. As you worship this weekend, wherever you are and whatever group of Christians you are with, may you join Mary in hearing Jesus speak your name, just as he has already done on the day of your baptism. Let him into your heart again to dispel your fears, comfort you in your grief, and guide you in your life.
Nothing was the same after that Easter morning. Everything has changed, forever. God has the whole world in his hands. He has you in his hands. We can certainly thank and praise him with grateful hearts, praising him for his wonderful work for us which is so much greater than anything we might have hoped for.
This is an extract from Bishop Henderson’s Heartland letter, 12 April. You can read the complete message and his other messages at www.lca.org.au/bishop-messages