Bishop of Warrington's Easter Message 2018

Retirement is a strange thing to think about. You find yourself conflicted. On the one hand a chapter of your life and, in my case, ministry is closing. One where you hope you have contributed to the bringing of a glimpse of God’s kingdom into the world. On the other hand you see a slightly less certain future mapped out. I am looking forward to retirement but wonder about what exactly that holds.

I guess that is what change does. It excites and unsettles us in pretty much equal measure. I am very conscious of this in my own life. But I am equally conscious of this in the life of our diocese. Many churches, many individuals are seeing change around them or happening to them and that can be difficult. Many are trying to grapple with a desire to serve our communities and be a church that reaches more people in order to demonstrate the love that we know we receive from knowing Jesus. Other worry about the many conflicting pressures that they see as they try to be church. We see many ideas and attempts to be part of church that can build and grow for the future and we wonder how they will work and will there be space for us in this new future.

That’s perfectly natural and understandable. But we get it wrong if we let it overwhelm us. That way we become trapped, imprisoned and can often be consumed with rage trying to hold onto the status quo as if it were a security blanket. That is destructive.

But the Easter story shows how we can be rooted in our past story while embracing what feels like an uncertain future. The Easter message is about hope. It is about the realisation that Jesus brings our fears and anxieties into one place and defeats them. It is when Jesus brought the entire history and future of God’s people together in his death and resurrection. The promise of eternal life, of the coming of God’s kingdom which flows from his sacrificial act brings immense joy to all.

Of course at the time the disciples didn’t instantly see that. They would have seen themselves staring at a future without their leader, their immediate source of inspiration. Scared and insecure they would have been unsure of the future. But surely the example of Jesus encouraging them to step out of the boat and face their fears will have given them strength. As we know, through the power of the spirit, they did step out into uncertainty. And we know how that transformed the world.

I don’t claim such magnificence for myself nor do I make too many grand claims for the change we face in our churches and our lives. But I know we can all face that change because the Easter story shows us how something that seems so devastating is part of God’s great and victorious plan.