From the Rector - April 2018

Dear Friends,

A child once asked me if Jesus carries scars on his body, now that he is risen from the dead at Easter? What a great question that is!

A rugby-playing friend once told me that following a major tendon repair, his surgeon explained that that the repaired tendon was stronger than the original. The scar tissue would remind him he was stronger, better, faster now!

But while we all carry scars of one kind or another, how should we think of the damage we receive as human beings, even death, and what can our faith tell us?

I offer the following story as an illustration, remembering that Mary was one who grieved at the foot of the cross:

Someone on the internet wrote the following heart-rending plea:

“My friend just died and I don’t know what to do.”

A lot of people responded. Then there was one old man’s incredible comment that stood out from the rest that might just change how you think about death and dying. Here it is:

“Alright, here goes. l’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people l’ve known and loved did not.

l’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, grandparents, mum, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbours, and a host of others. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody l love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter". I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that l can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who
can’t see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating.

For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.

You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a motorway service station, the smell of a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at Gatwick Airport You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you're lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Perhaps a good way of understanding Easter is to see Jesus’ love for us providing ‘scar tissue’ for our wounds and injuries? So that while the above story might provide a means of coping, an attractive means too, we as Christ-lovers have more than just a means to cope - we have triumph over death and dying.

The Easter season is a time when Christians rejoice in the knowledge that their risen Lord has overcome death and in so doing brought forgiveness to the world. Yet, for many, Easter is simply a holiday period and a time for giving chocolate eggs and enjoying the beginning of Spring (hopefully).

The Easter message resonates down the centuries and can bring a special meaning to all those who are feeling at their most vulnerable in these difficult times.

The truth of the resurrection for Christians is a message of hope and it is one that we are called to share with our friends and neighbours wherever they are. I wish you all a happy and joyful Easter.

Yours,

Richard