All three Bishops for The Church of England in Lancashire have written and recorded their Easter messages for 2020.
Please note that, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, the messages have been recorded during lockdown this year using Zoom software or iPhone.
In their messages all the Bishops reflect on the impact of the virus in different ways, while at the same time exploring what Easter means for each one of us.
Full text of the message also follows and it can also be downloaded here in pdf and Word format for printing.
It must be said, I have never been the world’s most patient person. Hanging around in any way, shape or form drives me mad which is one reason lockdown is not an easy time. I can’t bear waiting. I want everything to happen now. And I suspect many of you are the same.
Which perhaps makes us a bit like Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning. Mary was sitting outside the tomb, sitting in the place of death, weeping bitterly for her crucified Lord when a man she supposed to be the gardener called her by name. It’s Jesus. He’s alive again!
At once she is impatient to hold on to him, perhaps to embrace him. But Jesus stops her. “Don’t hold on to me because I have not yet ascended to my father,” he says. Mary must wait a while longer before she can know to the full the joy of resurrection.
Perhaps we are tempted to that same impatience today. Each morning we wake up with more gloomy news; we’re shut up in our houses; we’re worried about loved ones; we’re horrified by the statistics as more and more people die of this dreadful disease.
And so, we long for a speedy, happy ending; a short and simple resolution. Some people show this by constantly looking for the silver lining in the cloud.
Others by denying the true nature of what our world is enduring. Others by planning for a future when everything is back to normal, even though we have no idea what that ‘normal’ will be.
But the sad truth with Coronavirus is that we will need to sit at this tomb for a while longer. There are still going to be hard times. We need to keep praying for NHS staff who are on the frontline and all whose lives will be directly impacted by this virus.
We need to keep serving the vulnerable and lonely. Let’s not grasp too quickly at resurrection, as Mary did. We must sit at the tomb of uncertainty and anxiety a while longer yet.
But at the same time, let’s not forget the transformative truth we celebrate at Easter. Resurrection may not be a simplistic, short-term escape route for human suffering. No, what the resurrection offers us is something far richer than that.
It is about the utter assurance that death and pain are defeated for all time. It is about the deep-down certainty that love has triumphed over evil. It is about the wonderful truth that Christ is restoring this whole creation and making it new.
So, this Easter, we need to be patient and wait before we can celebrate Resurrection to the full. But even in these days of trial, let’s be sure that Christ is risen. That he is alive for ever. And in his arms, we are safe for all eternity.
Rt Rev Philip North
Bishop of Burnley
Ronnie Semley, April 2020