The Light shines on in the darkness
As we move through Easter week, Andy Bryant reflects on the miracle of Christ’s resurrection and reminds us of the hope that it brings.
None of it makes any sense. A stone rolled out of place. The body disappeared, a cloth neatly folded and rumours of angels. What has actually happened is so far beyond their expectation, and then when He stands there in front of her, Mary simply does not recognise Him. Although she has seen Him almost every day for the last three years, she knows He has died so, whatever the apparent similarity, it cannot, of course, be Him.
It is the same for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Even though they are talking about Him, still they do not recognise Him. Amidst all the stories they have heard, still the idea that He is alive is so far from their comprehension that they can walk alongside Him and still not realise it is Him.
It is like waiting for the sun to rise. The more you stare at the horizon the less certain you are whether there really is a lightening of the darkness or whether it is just in your imagination. And gradually the light seems to creep up on you without you really noticing, and then suddenly, yes, the sun has risen; a new day has dawned.
Slowly the enormity of what has happened creeps up on those first disciples, and before they know it, they are talking to Him just like they had always done. Beyond belief, beyond expectation, He who they knew was dead was alive, was there with them. The darkness that had enveloped them, that seemed as if it might take them too, is dispersed. It would take them many months, even the rest of their lives to fully understand the significance and the meaning of the events they had witnessed but they knew it changed everything.
This dispirited band of followers, locked in an upper room, fearing for their lives, began to find new hope, confidence and understanding. They started to recall with new light all they had heard and seen over the past three years and it all began it take on new meaning, reveal new insights and open up a deeper mystery.
The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. This is not about bland optimism. This is not the unhelpful: “Don’t worry, it will all be fine”. Rather this is about costly hope. It is not about being able to avoid the struggles that life brings, but about the ability to endure. It is not about being promised that we will not have to go to that place where the soul wants to cry out: “My God, my God why has thou forsaken me?” But it is about a God, who even in such a moment, still does not let us go.
The agony of the cross was all too real. The risen Jesus bears the marks of crucifixion. The story cannot be undone, what matters is how it is embraced. Will it be for our soul’s stretching or our soul’s shrinking? When the darkness threatens to overwhelm us, will we close our eyes to the light that flickers on through the darkness, or will we hold fast to it and let it transform us?
Last Easter churches were shut, and the pandemic was starting to reap its worst. This year churches are open, and even if our celebrations are but a pale shadow of pre-covid times, the worst of the pandemic seems to have eased. Whether this easing is a false dawn, or we have at last turned a vital corner towards a lasting return to a more opened life, the truth is that covid has left us with a long shadow. In the rush to reclaim the cherished elements of our old lives, we must not forget that many have much darkness still to face.
Amidst the shadow that covid has cast upon our communities, we point to the Light that the darkness will not overcome. We do not do this to deny the reality of the darkness but rather knowing the reality of the darkness. It is about our faith that even when our lives seem in complete free fall, God is the one who never, ever, lets us go. Although everything says it cannot be so, the stone has been rolled back. Even when all is hopeless, Hope remains.
The image above is courtesy of pixabay.com
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.
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