Welcome to the Second Sunday of Easter – today we should have been at Great Hockham Church and so our prayers are with the congregation there. Thank you so much for your Easter messages and thoughts and our prayers are with you. Hopefully soon we will be able to resume church services. Also I would like to thank all those who have shown initiative in our Group of Parishes to keep the light of faith going by all sorts of novel ways. Personally I enjoyed the readings and prayers at all our churches on Good Friday and also taking part in various services on line and on the TV on Easter Day.
Easter was certainly unusual for many people in the world but it is amazing how many ways people are finding ways to worship and to reach one another.
As a group of parishes we have been using lots of imagination (I even understand a virtual tea party for the choir! – Henry Hardiment is going to be the host and probably Mad Hatter; who will be Alice I could not possibly say) and I would like to thank all those involved. Hopefully this short service each week has been helpful, but no doubt soon we will be back together having services.
However, life will never be the same again. As a person who loves rushing about and having a full diary, the task each day is to make sure the time is meaningful and fulfilled, even in isolation. The clergy are fortunate in many ways because they have been brought up with a duty to say Morning and Evening Prayer every day of their lives.
I always take a Prayer Book with me on holiday, following the experience some years ago in former Yugoslavia of having a knock on the bedroom door on Saturday and being greeted by a number of guests asking whether I could take a communion service on the Sunday as we were in a communist country.So it is good to be prepared.
As priests we organise our own timetable each day and thankfully usually have large gardens, lots of hobbies and lots of friends. My heart goes out to those in total isolation and those living in high rise flats. Although isolation is not always a bad thing as long as either someone is with you for part of the time, or there are friends you can contact. Thank God for Zoom!
The events of Easter Day which we remember today in St John’s Gospel also tell of a story of isolation, but in this case all the disciples were all together, probably in the same upper room that they had the Last Supper. They had locked the doors for fear that the Jewish authorities might arrest them on the grounds of being Jesus’ followers. As with so many people today, they were extremely scared. But this event on Easter is not at all a fearful event; it is full of peace and joy. This is the moment when the church is founded, when Jesus gives the Holy Spirit, their Advocate and Paraclete to the worried and fearful disciples. In St John’s Gospel it is recorded that on the cross ‘Jesus gave up his spirit’ and now the Spirit of God is breathed on them to empower them and give them authority especially to forgive sins.
Seeing the Pope on Easter Day almost on his own in the Vatican blessing the world’s millions of Christians and the Archbishop of Canterbury taking a service from his kitchen, they did not look at all powerful. But we who are clergy are not at all powerful in the ways of the world. When I take a service in a Wayland Church on a Sunday often with 30 or so people in the congregation I look anything but powerful. But the one thing that I believe most sincerely is that along with those from our Deanery who will be priested this year, we have given the immense authority and power to forgive sins. Also like St Thomas it is a joy to be able to say with absolute confidence as priests and people the wonderful words, ‘My Lord and my God’, as we celebrate on a Sunday that Jesus was truly resurrected.
As Pope Francis listed a long list of countries at war or where there was great need, I realise that our own silliness of worrying about provisions for the house or managing to have a haircut when every barber is closed, are actually trivial.
Jesus came into the world to save the world, and there is no doubt in my mind that as a civilisation we are at the tipping edge – but it is not too late. When the Church is physically open again and we can meet together we must put aside the trivia and direct our thoughts at the important needs not only of our parishes, but of the world.
Prince Charles was ridiculed many years ago and since then, by many by his concerns about wildlife and the oceans, the environment, housing, and I could go on. But you know I do believe he was right on so many issues. That in due course we will have a sovereign who actually cares about the world is so reassuring.
The events of the last weeks have been immensely saddening but it might just be the beginnings of actually working together as a world to solve problems and to be aware that the world we live in is very precarious, but also very precious. Easter may have been a time of isolation for many, but it may have been a time of planning for the future and hopefully using the power that Jesus has given us to bring peace and hope in the world.