The hard work of living out the Easter Gospel

by Fr. Stewart Murray
This article appears in the March edition of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa

The glorious sounds of Easter are still resounding in our hearts and minds during the 50 days of our Easter celebrations. The acclamation – Christ is Risen Alleluia - He is Risen Indeed Alleluia – begins each offering of the Eucharist in our Churches until the day of Pentecost and helps us to focus on the truth of the Resurrection. The stirring words of the Easter Gospel and the wonderful hymns surrounding Easter brings a deep sense of joy to our Parish communities. Even with Easter being so early this year, we all can sense that awakening of creation with the coming of Spring. The Easter celebrations are an affirmation of our identity a people claimed by God's love on the Cross and invited to new life of the resurrection through sharing in the sacraments. It is this Good News that we are called to live and share and where the hard work of Easter begins.

The world outside the doors of our Churches is still very much in the grips of Good Friday, and longing for the Good News of Easter morning. At times even our own lives are caught up in the sorrow of Good Friday, when evil seemed to triumph and all hope that was in Jesus seems to be lost. The hard work of living out the Easter Gospel is found in the every day reality of our brokenness. The Book of Common Prayer in the Burial Office has a beautiful prayer that captures this tension of between the harsh reality of Good Friday and the hope of Easter. The prayer at the grave , begins “In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee O Lord,…”( p. 601 BCP) Our faith never sugar coats reality! Not only is this prayer referring to physical death, but the constant experience of change and loss that is part of living. We all have in our minds an idea of what our future will be, and as life unfolds we often find that our life does not reflect what we thought it would be. We face the loss of our health, a job, our family situation changes and a myriad other things happen that we did not imagine or
expect. We can at times feel lost in the face of what life brings. In our spiritual life as well we are on the journey of dying to self, to our old ideas of who we are and what we want and need and seeking to follow after Christ. As we pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are asking to die, to let go of our self directed lives and having God’s will be the directing force. To move from Good Friday to Easter morning is to place our hope and trust in Christ and to acknowledge that true freedom comes in placing our lives in His hands. This is a constant daily offering of our selves, to make a conscious decision each day to seek His will and to choose to live by the Hope of Easter. To see loss and struggle as an opportunity to find anew God’s strength, to discover His presence in the midst of the darkness that seems to touch our hearts. Keeping our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus as the Letter to the Hebrews challenges us – “ fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) – helps us to see our life in the larger context of the story of salvation which can give us a sense that our trials and difficulties matter and that Jesus shares in our struggles and difficulties. Let us rejoice that as we will face loss and challenges of living that we have the promise of resurrection, we were not destined to be a Good Friday people, but the people of Easter, of hope, life and eternity.