23 Apr Br Stuart’s Easter Reflection
I begin with Ann Lewin’s little verse entitled Easter morning. The Risen Christ is addressing Mary Magdalen, but it sums up so much of what the Easter message is telling us: there’s much more to these things than we might suspect.
Do not cling…
Let me be bigger than your
Heart can hold.
Rise with me to a
‘Rise with me to a larger vision.’ That is an invitation to each one of us.
I would like to ponder Ann’s poem together with Br Roger’s “Joyful News”, typed below in bold. This is Frere Roger, the founder of the Taize Community, writing in the early 1970s. At the time I was excited by it, but now realise that I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about…I was far too wrapped up in churchiness to know that the purpose of the Incarnation – the mission of the Church – is to bring people everywhere to a KNOWLEDGE – in the biblical sense – to an experience of God’s love, and to ‘bring in God’s Kingdom’.
I will simply go through the text of the ‘Joyful News’ giving very brief headlines that, at some later date, you might like to ponder.
The Risen Christ comes – it is the Risen Christ who takes the initiative, no matter how much we may assume it all depends on us! And what the Gospel accounts of the appearances of the Risen Christ underline is that almost always he is unrecognised at first when he does come.
He comes to quicken a festival in the innermost heart of men and women – that ‘strange warming of the heart’ John Wesley experienced in Aldersgate Street, the ‘encounter with the Holy One’ that frees us deep down to respond.
He is preparing for us a springtime of the Church – this really excited me at the time, but I didn’t stop to realise that if he is preparing a springtime he is probably also preparing an autumn and a winter too! In nature autumn and winter are necessary to get rid of the old growth and dead-wood to make room for the fresh growth of spring. So it is in the Church; we have an awful lot of the, often much loved, accretions of centuries but which may not be of the Spirit, to let go of if we are going to make room for the springtime growth of the Gospel. What we are experiencing in many areas of the Church is autumn or winter, and the delicate task is to discern what is of the essence of the Gospel and what needs to be allowed to die.
Do not cling… Let me be bigger than your heart can hold. Rise with me to a larger vision.
A Church devoid of the means of power – I suspect Br Roger was thinking more of the oppressive power of the institutions of the Church rather than the power of the ‘Revolution of Love’ Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talked about at Prince Harry and Megan’s wedding last year.
A Church ready to share with all – an echo of St Benedict’s tirade against the evils of private ownership…which reminds me of David Young when he was Bishop of Ripon, visiting all the Deaneries to talk to churchwardens and treasurers about the need to up the level of giving to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the parish share. “What about the Church Commissioners’ millions, you may ask,” he said, “These are a tiny fraction of the wealth of the Church of England, most of which is tied up in the private accounts of its members.” – ‘Ready to share with all???’
The Church as a place of visible communion for all humanity – perhaps a challenge to the increasing sectarianism and ‘churchiness’ of the C of E, rather than radical hospitality to all [-“Whatever you do to the least, you do to me!”]. We do need a shift in the mind-set of many ‘church-goers’ from “I go to church (for services)” to “We ARE church, 24/7”. Christianity is about life-style as well as worship!
He is going to give us enough imagination and courage to open up ways of reconciliation – reconciliation at all levels: ‘FATHER, MAY THEY ALL BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE. When we think of the wonder of God’s creation, can we doubt God’s capacity for imagination? Br Roger is saying that the Risen Christ is going to give us both enough imagination and enough courage to open up ways of reconciliation; our part is to be on the alert and receptive to what the Risen One is wanting to give us.
He is going to prepare us (He is already preparing us!) to give our life that people will no-longer be victims of one another. An element of “Rise with me to a larger vision” is the growing awareness of how much we do, usually unwittingly, collude with the victimisation of others – for cheaper food or clothing, for keeping low-paid workers doing the unpleasant, menial jobs we would hate to do – the list is endless, and now we have the “me too” movement alerting us to behaviours that have been assumed to be acceptable, but aren’t! Similarly, we are being challenged to take seriously the care of our planet.
It’s a case of attuning ourselves to hear the subtleties of the quiet voice of the Risen One: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
But the “Joyful News” is that the Risen One has it all – and us – in hand. Our part is to receive his gift of Glory in all its fullness and respond by living it as fully as we are able, and as we celebrate Eastertide, we offer ourselves and all that we are and do, as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, back to the Father, to take us and transform us more and more into what he would have us be.
Do not cling…. Let me be bigger than your heart can hold. Rise with me to a larger vision.