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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 28.03.2024

Video for Easter, 28/3/24

Hello every and welcome to this week’s video for Easter.

I’m shortly going over to the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism communion service with the clergy and lay leaders of the diocese.  Its always one of the highlights of the year for me, as we gather together and renew our ministerial commitment.  It forms part of the great cycle of services at the Cathedral culminating in the celebration of Easter on Sunday.  Although the story is so familiar to us, I am always surprised by its capacity to shock and move at different turns. When we gathered with our Roman Catholic friends on Palm Sunday to process with Peter the donkey, I was taken aback by my emotional reaction to our parting of the ways as we separated to go to our respective celebrations. I feel the same about the great Easter Vigil when we celebrate communion in different parts of the cathedral building. Whilst we are on very warm and civil terms, there is something tragic about not being able to truly celebrate the central act of worship together.

We are reminded in many of our readings around Easter just how important unity was for our Lord. In the final discourses in John’s gospel he returns to the them frequently. John 13: 34 is the delivery of the great commandment that we love one another as he has loved us. In John 17 Jesus prays that we should be one, just as he and the Father are one – a unity far beyond mere politeness and occasional shared activities. Paul prays of the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 1: 10, that they should be perfectly united in mind and thought.  This is probably the least honoured or answered prayer in the Bible! A greater bunch of disunited people it would be difficult to imagine.

All of this is summed up in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3: 28, where he says that in matters of salvation, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  It is probably stretching things too far to see the exegesis of this overlaying completely onto modern notions of equality. However, it paints a glorious picture of all of the great enmities and divisions of the ancient world overcome through Christ’s death, resurrection and gift of the Spirit. This is a oneness far deeper than the loose affiliation of common interest that characterises community today, especially on social media.

The power of living through Holy Week in the worship of the Church is to remind us just how much Christ went through to achieve that end. We can only take so much of the agony, sometimes we feel we must turn away. But holding the imagery, the savagery of the experience in mind can be a helpful corrective when I’m tempted to bad mouth or caricature my brother or sister from another branch of the church. Christ hanging on a cross for me challenges my need to stand on being right, or harbouring my bitterness against those who have wronged me. There is no privilege at the communion rail as we kneel together to receive the tokens of what Christ has done for us.  If we all need such a great forgiveness, won at such a cost, who am I to judge my brother or sister or have the arrogance not to listen to them or take their experience seriously.  I am so thankful that our relationships with brothers and sisters in other churches are so much better than they were only 50 years ago, and significantly better than when we were burning one another at the stake over matters of doctrine that centuries of conversation are now close to resolving. We are much better at living out of Paul’s assertion that we see through a glass darkly.  But true unity remains hard, both between and within churches. We can sometimes be too sure of our red lines, and far too quick to take offence. But the face of Christ hanging on a cross for us compels us to persevere. 

And of course, the culmination of our celebrations reassures that this is not just about being shamed into acting differently by the sacrifice of another.  A far greater power is in view as the sun rises on Easter day. We are both forgiven and empowered. The resource not just to do things differently, but to be different people is in the resurrection life available to all who put their trust in the crucified Christ.

May we all know Christ’s example, his forgiveness and his transforming power this Easter. Happy Easter to you all.


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