Not very long before his own death, Jesus visited a family to whom he had become very close. He went to support the two sisters of Lazarus, who had died a few days before. Jesus goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead; but, before doing so, as he comforts Lazarus’ sister, Martha, he says,
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
At this time we are celebrating Easter, or the Feast of the Resurrection, we remember the time Jesus himself was raised to life from death. Two days before Easter – that is, Good Friday – Jesus had died a painful and humiliating death, by crucifixion. He had been condemned on false evidence. However, he knew all this to be his destiny, and accepted it willingly. There is an eternal purpose to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Since the fall of humankind, there had been a distance between man and God that could not be removed. The sacrificial death of Jesus has removed that barrier (of sin) so that we can again relate to God with a closeness that existed at the beginning. The resurrection to life of Jesus Christ means that we now have the opportunity for eternal life. The meaning behind all this is God’s love for each one of us, and for the whole of creation. What had been spoiled at the fall can now be made new, as it was in the beginning, when everything was good.
We may look at our world and be in danger of losing hope. However, through the events of Good Friday and Easter day we have the promise that all will be well. We are a resurrection people, and know that there is always hope. We believe in the resurrection; but we also know the reality of Good Friday. There could not be the new life, light and hope of the Resurrection without there first being the death, darkness and despair of Good Friday.
As a people of the Resurrection, we are called to live in the light of the resurrection. We are called to bring hope and light into the darkness. This may sound so daunting that it could be impossible to know where to begin. This need not be so. We do not need to feel that we have to take such action that the world will be changed in an instant. However, we do need the faith to take the first step, in the sincere belief that God, will be with us every step of the way. If we act according to the will of God, we can be assured that God will bless our efforts, and much fruit can be borne.
Where to start? We have tools and guidelines to hand. One of the greatest tools we have is prayer. Prayer is a means of communication with God. As with so many things, it requires practice. We know what it is like when we become close to another human being – a husband, wife, brother, sister or close friend. In time it is possible to read their thoughts, and know what they are going to say before they say it. It is the same with God. To sit in the presence of God – maybe in silence; maybe with a few words – it is possible increasingly to come to know God and the will of God.
Gradually we know the way to go. Even within our own families and communities it is possible to bring light. It may be a kind word to a neighbour, or assistance during hardship. If everyone made an effort to improve life for their own close community, the world would be a better place. We all have something to give, even if it is just a little time to listen to someone in trouble. The gift of ourselves in service to others can bring healing to a broken world. Jesus did this to the greatest extent on the first Good Friday, when he gave his life for the world.
The person of Jesus is a wonderful guide to us. The life and words of Jesus are the ideal life pattern to aspire to. When done prayerfully, and with God’s grace, anything is possible.
Prayer can be in many forms. Intercessory prayer places before God certain people or situations. We know that God answers prayer. Alongside prayer, we have the privilege of being co-workers with God in establishing God’s kingdom here on earth. This could mean social action to make life better for others who are less fortunate than ourselves. It could mean improving the environment, such as planting trees. A major cause of devastation in our world is war and conflict. Our own small part in bringing peace to our world can be to pray for peace, and to live in peace. This is not always easy; but God is a God of peace and is alongside us in our efforts. Where we find injustice, let us deal with this in truth and in peace.
At this Eastertide let us commit ourselves to a life of prayer and witness that can bring light and hope into our communities. Let us pray for God’s will to be revealed in our lives. Let us pray for God’s kingdom to become a reality in our world and in our lifetimes. It is my prayer – today, on the Feast of the Resurrection – that we may all be able to see hope and light in our own lives.
On behalf of all Anglicans in The Gambia, Senegal and Cape Verde, and in the wider Province of West Africa, we wish you the peace and joy of Easter – today and always.
Your Friend and Archbishop, Tilewa