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Light and Darkness. (April 24)

Photo of Minister, Reverend Neil Thorogood. Dear Friends

The days are lengthening. We have light for a bit longer. It is in part because of this shift from the darker days to the lighter days that Easter falls where it does, even though it has come as early as it ever can this year. We are entered into something of the story that begins as the gospel of John begins: “In him [the Word] was life, and that life was the light of all humanity. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1: 4-5).

This gospel talk of light and darkness needs handling with some care, of course. Many of my friends who aren’t white point out that it can be all too easy for light to always mean good and dark to always mean bad, and then it can be a short step for white folks to be intrinsically good and non-white folks to somehow be intrinsically less good. That racist perspective was a fundamental and largely undisputed fact for generations, fed in part by Christianity, and an essential ingredient in the conviction that non-whites and non-Europeans were somehow inferior. That way lies slavery.

But I am still struck by the significance of lengthening daylight as we move onwards from Easter (as far as the northern hemisphere is concerned). Those of you who know much more about the orbit and tilt of the Earth around the Sun will be able to dwell upon the celestial mechanics of all of this. I just want to notice the simple, annual reality of each day having two minutes and seven seconds more daylight as we leave winter behind.

That is a small quantity of sunshine really. But it adds up to a transformation as summer draws on. Little things, gently combining, can make tremendous differences in our lives and in the world. Nature’s rhythms will respond to the lengthening days, and we will saw the evidence all around us.

Easter might be just a little like the changing length of days. When Jesus stepped from the tomb into daybreak in a garden, the world was set upon a different course. History was changed for ever.

The Son of God, crucified by the Romans, was risen from the dead to return to his friends and to usher in the realm of God’s saving work across creation. It was the world’s most tremendous moment. It was like the most glorious sunshine after rain. It was a very big thing!

But, perhaps, it was also a tiny thing. The world was almost entirely oblivious. A few women were the only ones even to notice at first. And, in the patriarchal times they lived in, their witness and testimony hardly counted for anything. Just a few largely unnoticed and regularly silenced women in a quiet garden by a tomb meant for someone else and hastily borrowed. A gathering ignored by the city as it awoke from the Sabbath.

In some ways, then, the resurrection comes as unnoticeably as the addition of two minutes and seven seconds of sunlight each day. Imperceptible. But, also, utterly unstoppable. And the consequences change every aspect of how life on Earth is.

That’s how Easter acts as the starting point for an unstoppable change. From the first faltering witnesses to the resurrection the power of Christ’s rising from the dead becomes the power within people to draw them closer to God. A ramshackle bunch of frightened disciples gain a confidence to share what they have seen and heard and felt and now know. They don’t instantly turn it into clever doctrine and theological intricacy. They don’t use it as a way to bully people into believing. They simply bear witness; this is what we know, make up your own mind. And they change the world, but very slowly.

Sometimes, they change the world for the worse. Christianity is guilty of many sins. The scandals of more recent years are sequels to the scandals of previous generations whose belief in Jesus didn’t prevent them spilling blood, taking slaves, dishonouring whole communities and genders and sexualities. The Church needs to be a community of humble confession because there is plenty to confess.

But these sins and failings are by no means the whole story. The whole story includes lives lived with hope and generosity and offered in service in the name of Christ.

Easter continues to flood the world with a love that will not die, a hope that will not abate, a kindness that will not collapse and a peace that will not fail. Easter remains what it was in its beginning; the dawn of a world made new and of people reborn into the loving life of God. And we are part of this tremendous story. It is the best of stories. It gives us our home in the world and our centre for living because it tells us how much God has chosen to come to save us. It tells each and every one of us that we are worth more than anything imaginable. Whatever our personal histories, his story is that we are wanted for friendship with God and received, with rejoicing, into that relationship for ever.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Yours in him