The true source of hope at Easter
Rev Suzanne Cooke explains that the eternal love of God is what gives her hope during the Good Friday moments of life.
I’ll be honest with you – life feels pretty hard at the moment! With all that has happened in Britain and around the world over the last eight months or so, the general sense of optimism that has accompanied me faithfully through my life, feels to have been a somewhat eroded.
And my, maybe childish, faith in the belief that ‘people’ will make choices that, broadly speaking, I feel are good and right has most definitely had to grow up. Alongside that, I have been faced with some situations in my life as a parish priest that could definitely be described as ‘testing’. Moments where, even given my best efforts, I can’t offer the care and comfort that I would want to do.
All in all, it feels as if this period in my life could be described as an ongoing Good Friday time. I am sure we all have them, maybe you too are feeling a little as I am at the moment.
As I write, we are making our Lenten journey, and our annual remembering of the Passion of Christ lies ahead. I am reminded that Easter is the time in the Christian year when we, over the course of one week, get to relive pretty much every emotion it is possible for a human being to experience.
From the elation and near hysteria of the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the solidarity and friendship of the last supper, the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane, the terror and injustice of the arrest, the shame of the trial, the pain and separation of Good Friday, to the indescribable joy of Easter Sunday.
Each step on the journey of Easter week could be described as the distillation of the human condition, with its tidal wave of feelings and emotions, the sometimes overwhelming consequence of being human, of having five senses and a conscience. With that comes the inescapable fact that pain in unavoidable. The pain, distress and desolation of Good Friday is certainly unavoidable.
We are often told, aren’t we, and we may or may not have a sense that this is true, that without the pain and betrayal of Good Friday we couldn’t have the joy and elation of the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I believe this to be undeniably true. But I will be honest and say that this isn’t what gives me comfort in the Good Friday moments of my life.
I know and understand that Jesus had to die, to defeat, for all time, the effects of my sin, and that without this intervening act, my salvation, my irreversibly changed relationship with God, is not possible. But this, rightly or wrongly, is not what fills me with a sense of Hope in the darkest moments of my life.
My sense of hope is motivated far more by what I think Paul means when he writes; “Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love had been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5). So, what keeps me hoping, what helps me to keep focused when things get tough, is that most inescapable of things – the unrelenting love of God for me – for each and every one of us.
I have faith in the connection between hope and love, and it is this that helps me see past the darkness of the inevitable Good Friday moments of life. For when I can sense, in the deepest part of my heart, that I am loved eternally, unconditionally, for all time, by God, the creator of all things – then I can truly begin to lift my head and see beyond what is happening in this moment.
I can begin to see that, despite what might appear to ‘be’ in the here and now, we are all being drawn forward, by the unstoppable force that is the immeasurable love shown to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. All of us, Christian sisters and brothers, being drawn forward to live the Life that shouts YES with our whole being.
And in living that Life we sow seeds, we may not know how or where, living as we do in the midst of the difficulties of the present time, but in the future that we cannot see or currently comprehend are the planted the seeds of renewal, planted by our hoping, planted with our love, that will come to bear the choicest of fruits.
Rev Suzanne Cooke is the priest-in-charge of the Upper Tas Benefice in South Norfolk and the founder of Soul Circus, a regular creative, experimental service supported by the Diocese of Norwich and the Youth Task Force. You can find out more at www.soulcircus.org.uk.
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