The Bishop’s Holy Week and Easter Letter
Sunday 8th April 2012 8:08 AM
I always like to listen to the 'Today' programme on Radio 4 on 1st April because a tradition has been established of sneaking in a scam April-fool report. I still remember the one when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister about a proposed European regulation requiring a minimum tread-depth on shoes, and they got her on-side to rail against this intrusion by Europe on British sovereignty! I tried something like it on the clergy not long ago and had a couple of concerned responses; one simply replied, "And a happy All Fools' Day to you, too, Bishop!"
The first day of April falls on Palm Sunday, the first day of 'Holy Week' or as the old Prayer Book wisely calls it, the days 'before Easter'. This coincidence highlights one of the most significant passages in the writings of the Apostle Paul, the first two chapters of his first letter to a rum bunch of Christians at Corinth.
He writes that the message about Christ's death on the cross is gobble-de-gook, gibberish to those who think that they can work out God, the world and everything by means of wisdom. "Instead," he says, "by means of the so-called 'foolish' message we preach, God decided to save those who believe." The cross of Christ can seem to be offensive, foolish nonsense but it is, in fact, the cross which unlocks the way to true wisdom and it is the Holy Spirit who turns the key in the lock.
I dare myself - and I dare you - to face up to the stark reality of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sharing the way of the cross with Jesus, "surveying the wond'rous cross", is not simply a matter of reading or remembering the story but being with Jesus in his humiliation, passion and crucifixion. That experience, that ploughing and harrowing of the heart at the Lord's cross is utterly unavoidable if Easter and resurrection are to hold any meaning.
When Archbishop Cranmer over 450 years ago called these the 'days before Easter', he wasn't simply changing a title, he was reminding us that there is a road to travel before we find meaning and hope in the resurrection: it is the way of the cross.
Your own in Christ,
PS. I want to add a note to thank all the lay people involved in the parish re-organisation which will soon draw to a conclusion. People are very much aware that re-structuring is always painful and involves a lot of work but I want to thank you all for the constructive and collaborative approach that you have taken. It is a sign of great things for the future.
And I want to add an equal 'thank you' to the clergy and readers throughout the diocese: I hear good things from many places, and not just within the churches. Keep up your bold and ground-breaking work for the Lord Jesus Christ!
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