Easter has, as always, been a festival of contrasts - from the sorrow and pathos of the Garden of Gethsemane, the desolation and loneliness of Golgotha and the stark symbol of the cross, to the wonder, transformed into sheer joy, of the bright morn of Easter Day. My own mood has reflected this - due, in no small part, to the sensitivity of the team of people responsible for the Easter services. The following song summed up the Maundy Thursday evening communion service for me.

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

Stuart Townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.

I am often very aware of my own shortcomings (sin, in other words) - things I've done which I really oughtn't; things I haven't done which I really should have; the general unpleasantness of my 'self' - at least when compared to the ideal. I'm particularly acutely aware of this at Easter. It's also a time for looking back - to where I was and the mess I was rescued from. Guilt, for the rescue being needed in the first place. Gratitude too, for the rescue, and amazement at the change wrought in me, gently, over all the years since.

Saturday ('Easter Eve') always seems a sort of 'limbo' - neither one thing nor t'other - one part of the work, the sacrifice, is complete, but the second part, the resurrection, the joy and the hope, are yet to come. I always feel as though I ought to be in hiding, somehow!

And then Easter Day. Resurrection. Joy! Celebration with one's brothers and sisters in the local church, but aware too, that Christians the world over are celebrating Christ's rising. A strong sense of relief, coupled with togetherness. Awareness of the reality of that resurrection, and its meaning for the world of men - the message of hope it contains.

And now, a sense that we need to 'keep on keeping on' - the need for perseverance. As the writer to the Hebrews, almost two millennia ago, wrote:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

But, even the introverts amongst us should note that this isn't an individual race - it's a team event - we run together, and help each other through the tough patches. Something we forget, at our peril, particularly in the present, selfish, age in which 'me' is paramount.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021