Genesis 32:22-32 | Acts 9:1-9 | John 20:19-23
We are now in the season of the resurrection (I'm not talking about the Church calendar!). A post-Easter world, in which the curtain has been torn, the stone has been rolled away and the gates have been lifted. So why is it that we still live in a world that is so evidently broken by sin, and why are there still imperfections that have not been overcome by this awesome Gospel truth?
I invite you to look at the three passages that I’ve suggested for reading. These for me sum up the paradox. Jacob meets with God, wrestles with him and comes away with a broken hip. Saul witnesses the resurrected Christ and comes away from it blinded by the experience. And Thomas, like Paul, encounters the resurrected Jesus and recognises him by his wounds.
At Easter we are told of the new creation that is waiting for us, and with it a wholeness that only Jesus can bring. But salvation is not about being saved from the world, it is about being saved for the world, since we are called to follow the God who became humanity for the world. So how can we reconcile a world that is still at odds with itself, and with this Easter faith?
It shouldn’t surprise us that in our desire to follow Christ, whose ministry led directly to Calvary, we are likely to first experience a breach before we encounter healing. For Jacob, the injury to his hip from wrestling with God, was preparation for the healing and reconciliation he would later find with his brother, and with God. For Saul, the loss of sight was a counter to the healing and reconciliation he would later find for himself, without this, he would otherwise be held back by his history. And the passage from John’s gospel reminds us that Christ’s resurrected body still exhibited the scars of his crucifixion. Which might teach us that in our own resurrection, all that we have suffered will aid us in our partaking in Christ’s glory.
These passages teach us that ‘wholeness and healing’ in a Christlike sense is not the same as wholeness and healing in a worldly sense. Christ did not setup a trauma centre or an accident and emergency tent outside Jerusalem. Rather he met the reality of our brokenness by joining us in our brokenness. You’ll remember that he said “I am the resurrection and the life” after weeping over the death of Lazarus. You’ll remember that he sweated blood, whilst agonizing over his path to the cross. Christ’s way is not the easy way.
So, does that mean we shouldn’t ask for healing in prayer for human ailments, does this mean we shouldn’t request cures for all that harms or deters us from life? No, of course not. Jesus healed the sick, and through his faith we can find wholeness despite being confronted by things that we would otherwise have no control over. But what these passages teach us is that God can still be found in the hurt, the pain, the injury and the ache. Leonard Cohen wrote:
Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
In the pain and the hurt of the world, in which we will all feel and share at some point in our lives, we pray that a new perspective of God is found, and our faith is made more real in the knowledge that Jesus suffered with us, and our prayer for wholeness might ultimately honour his suffering, and the suffering of the world he loves.
May the life and blessing of this Easter season be with you.
Revd Jeremy Putnam.
Les Reed, once manager of Charlton Athletic FC has held an extraordinary record ever since his time in office in 2006. Mr Reed lasted only 7 games in charge, and still to this day holds the shortest reign in Premier League history. I’d like to think this is an exceptional example, but unfortunately there are plenty of managers that over the years have lasted less than ten games. The game of football has often been accused of being very short-sighted. Heroes reduced to zeros in a matter of days, messiahs to mess-ups in a month, kings to criminals in a season.
I can’t help but think that the culture of our time all too often reflects the same short-sighted attitude as that of the premier league. Celebrities come and go, politicians rise and fall, major government policies are often accused of being vote winners instead of really investing in the future of our country. The ‘quick fix’ seems to be a slogan of honour for a new generation of movers and shakers, rather than taking time to consider the future as well as the present.
For those of you who lived in the 1950s, you’ll likely remember how the country felt at the time. Still rebuilding from the devastation of the war, there was a strong sense of unity, both in recovery, as well as hope for the future; and unemployment was low too. The welfare state and the introduction of the NHS meant that people were eating better, working more safely, and living healthier than before. The spirit of Britain at the time was to bless the next generation, and leave their children with a healed and prosperous country. Have we lost this desire to invest in the future? In the midst of a world that is obsessed with instant gratification making the most of life now, have we lost the culture of ‘paying it forward’, of legacy and gift; handing on a better world to our children?
This week the Church marks the beginning of Holy Week with our Palm Sunday celebrations in which we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On that day in Jerusalem palm leaves were waved by the hundreds; praises sung with loud voices rejoicing at the sight of the one who would reclaim Israel, and begin the liberation of God’s people.
Six days later they were calling for him to be crucified.
Hero to zero, messiah to mess-up, king to criminal in a matter of days. How fickle were the crowds? It is easy for us to look back and say they were too impulsive and quick tempered, but are we any different?
Despite the short-sightedness of the world, the Easter story reminds us that God is not. His plan is for eternity. He cares for the here and now, but he also cares just as much for the tomorrow and forever too. Jesus championed a way of life that was exemplified by his cross and passion. His sacrifice and resurrection ensured that we have life; a life for the here and now, but also a life for all eternity. Choose His way and you choose life; for today, for tomorrow and for ever.
May you have a blessed and life filled Easter season. Jeremy
How many of you have watched the Channel 4 TV show Gogglebox? For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, Gogglebox is an observational documentary that features couples and families from around the country watching TV. Yes, incredible as it sounds in this TV show you are watching people watching TV! Well, the irony isn’t lost on me, nor is the discomfort that comes from realising, that I too, am contributing to the show’s success.
Christians for a long time have got very hung up on the idea that God is watching them. In fact, it could be said that the ‘Religious Gogglebox’ is the notion that God is watching us watching him… watching us watching the world; I could go on, thankfully I won’t! The idea of a god watching us in this way is not helpful, it makes our God sound like GCHQ waiting to catch the bad guys. Does God really watch us, or does he watch over us? Psalm 121 says “The Lord will protect you from all evil; he will keep your soul. The Lord will watch over your coming in and your going out.” Likewise, the Father in the ‘parable of the Prodigal Son’ didn’t watch his son’s every move, he simply responded, as God does, with an overflowing of grace, and rejoiced at his son’s return.
God is there when we need him, just as the son needed his father. God’s prophets in the Old Testament were often called Watchmen or Sentinels, not because they watched the people but because they watched out for danger on their behalf (Ezekiel 3:17).
God watches out for us, cares for us, loves us, pours his grace upon us, he even stands in for us. Does not the Easter story tell us that very truth? Although this is something to be joyful about it might be that Easter this year has been a difficult time for you. If that’s the case, know that you have a heavenly parent who loves you and will watch over you. In fact, watching is simply not enough for God, he is with you, he shares the sorrow and the hurt. Jesus came so that we might understand the deep personal love that God has for each one of us.
Easter is a time of joy, but it is very easy in our society to think that just watching is enough. There is no Gogglebox for Easter! So I hope that you have been drawn into the whole experience of Easter, the love, the joy, even the pain and the fear, and maybe even the odd chocolate egg too. Be blessed this Easter time and know that God is with you.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.