For me, Easter Sunday was a glorious day. The sun shone and a crowd of people stood outside the cathedral at the end of the service, physically distanced, singing ‘Thine be the glory’ as we proclaimed Christ risen from the dead, and the resurrection hope to which we hold fast even as we live the present. Then, over the next few hours I began to see and hear stories from across the diocese of people’s Easter worship and celebrations. My heart was thankful.
Of course, many people will have experienced sadness, pain and loss over the Easter weekend but having thankful hearts does not contradict this. Indeed, the mystery of love and life stronger than death, is often more profound amid tears and pain, as we cling to the truth that Christ’s resurrection cannot be undone.
It was thus very poignant that it was in Easter week that we heard the sad news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh – a man of faith in Christ.
This week I am the Bishop on duty in the House of Lords, and yesterday I listened to 88 tributes to his Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It took over six hours but it was actually very powerful listening to personal stories and insights as people looked back and also commented on the future. Once again the overall mood was one of thankfulness.
On a very different note, yesterday was also the day when we moved to the next significant step of the roadmap as we look to emerge from lockdown.
Eastertide is very much a time of looking forward with hope and thanksgiving, whilst also remembering the past – the things to celebrate and the things to lament. Indeed, the risen Christ still bore the wounds of the past but now in a place of hope and life.
In the coming weeks we will all be involved in planning for the future in different ways, not least discerning what God is calling us to be and do in our local contexts and as a diocese. And over the coming months we will be discerning the next years of our LIFE vision and doing so from a place of all we have experienced and are learning, from more than a year of viral pandemic.
As we journey through this season of Easter towards Ascension Day and Pentecost, I want to encourage us to put prayer is at the heart of all we do as we plan, experiment and explore; and also to be attentive to how we fan thankfulness into flame – Thankfulness to God and thankfulness to neighbour. This is not about asking us to erase the pain, trauma and loss, or to deny the tears, but rather to discover what it means to live life with thankfulness.
I hope those words of prayer and thankfulness will come ever more clearly into focus over the coming weeks; and on that note I want to remind people that there is now a morning prayer gathering focused around the themes of LIFE – The next one is next Tuesday at 8am on Zoom. Click this link to join the Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/97497664569?pwd=R2tMSWtUemhwK1UxVHJRamxaOXIxdz09 or use the meeting ID: 974 9766 4569, passcode: 006448.
This is for anyone and everyone whatever your experience and confidence regarding prayer.
As I focus on prayer and thankfulness it seems appropriate to finish with those words from Psalm 118 which form the Eastertide Evening Prayer responsory: The Lord is my strength and my song: He has become my salvation.
Bishop Robert and I continue to pray for you with thankful hearts.