I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but it seems to me that spring has finally arrived (cue snowstorm…)
The seemingly endless winter we have just endured has drawn to a close at last. Temperatures have risen, the daffodils are opening, I have some frogspawn in my pond and the birds are singing fit to bust in the vicarage garden.
A recent article on the BBC website suggested that the prolonged cold spell could mean that spring will be more spectacular than usual. Because everything has been on hold, waiting for warmer weather, we can expect a riot of blossom and an explosion of insects, birds and animals feeding and bearing young. Matthew Oates, the National Trust's conservation advisor, who was quoted in the article, said "The daffodils will be at their peak and there will be the first flush of green on the trees. We've all been entombed through the snowy winter, and need a decent Easter this year - regardless of which species we are."
I was struck by the way his words echoed the Christian story we tell at this time. Christ is, quite literally entombed, not in winter but in a grave cut from the rock. There is no life and nothing to hope for anymore as far as his friends can see. And yet, says the story, from this tomb came life, not just for Jesus, but for his followers too. They were propelled out into the world to bear his message of love, life and a new beginning to anyone who wanted to hear it. The early Christian communities experienced that love as they gathered together in radical new communities. It didn’t matter what your race, gender or background was; anyone who wanted to could walk in the way of Christ and be part of this new movement. It was heady stuff for people who had perhaps never been treated with dignity or respect; slaves, the poor and women were prominent in those early churches. “Life in all its fullness” it was called in the Gospel of John (John 10.10), because that’s how Jesus’ first followers experienced it. No wonder they were excited about it. Who wouldn’t be?
That message of life – life lived to the full, life lived well and lovingly, - is still at the heart of Christian faith. We don’t always achieve that fullness of life; selfishness and fear get in the way, causing us to set boundaries around God’s love, to create rules where he wants us to proclaim freedom, but as Easter comes around again we are reminded that this is God’s desire for us. He wants us to find, to live and to help others to live lives that are full of joy and hope. That is why Easter Sunday is really the beginning of the story, not the end, as we find out what it means to be really alive. “We've all been entombed through the snowy winter, and need a decent Easter this year - regardless of which species we are" as Matthew Oates said. Amen to that!