Vicar's Letter

 

VERSE OF 2018:

 

 “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city”

Jeremiah 29:7 (New International Version)

 

Dear Friends,

 

For the first time in my lifetime, this year’s Easter Day falls on April Fools’ Day. Which provides us with a chance to ask whether, in fact, our Christian hope, based absolutely on the resurrection of Jesus, is perhaps “a fool’s hope”?  The Apostle Paul, a man who paid about as high a price as has ever been paid for following Jesus, wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. … If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are to be pitied more than all others.” (1 Corinthians 15:14,19) In other words, it could hardly matter more!  So, is the Resurrection story true?

 

Let me offer the following three strands of evidence, which together make a cord not easily broken.

 

  • The An impressive number of appearances of Jesus, truly himself yet somehow different (able to appear and disappear seemingly at will), seen by a wide range of people, in a number of locations, over a 40-day period.  These things are not easy to dismiss as hallucinations.  And in a traditional society, where, sadly, the testimony of women would have been taken less seriously than that of men, it is hard to see why all the Gospel accounts, with their other differences, would agree that the tomb was first found empty by women – unless it were true. 

 

  • The absence of Jesus’ body. It is, of course, true that an impartial investigator would try any available natural explanation before even looking at the idea of a resurrection – but the fact is, there is no good alternative theory.  Most of the theories that have enjoyed any popularity seem to end up with Christ’s disciples being willing to repeatedly risk their lives for something which they knew to be a scam – and who would do that?  It’s no wonder that certain words of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes have often been applied to this situation: “When you have eliminated the impossible [i.e. the alternative theories], whatever remains – however improbable [i.e. the Resurrection] – must be the truth.”
  • The remarkable change in the disciples. These men, almost to a man, ran away when Jesus was arrested.  A few weeks later, they were standing up in front of a considerable crowd in Jerusalem itself, proclaiming Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.  And they went on doing so, despite official threats, beatings, even the real risk of death.  It would be nearly 300 years before Rome stopped killing Christians – and by then, the Church had grown so much as to look like the best bet for holding the Empire together! How did a group of dejected people, with their beloved leader shamefully executed and with very few resources, become this joyfully mushrooming movement that nothing could silence –unless they knew that the Crucifixion hadn’t been the end of the story?

 

Christian faith does, of course, involve us taking some things on trust.  But it’s good to know that something as vital as Christ’s Resurrection comes with a really strong dose of historical evidence.  God made our brains, and doesn’t ask us to leave them outside in the porch when we come to church!

 

And hope that’s based on that unique event is most certainly not a fool’s hope. The Resurrection is God’s amazing once-in-history vindication of a man: this man’s words were the truth, his deeds were right, his eye-watering claims about himself were true, and so are his promises of a future hope for his people. 

 

And if we want some idea what God actually has in mind for Christians one day, think about Jesus’ own post-Easter body: solid and real, yet strangely free in a new way.  Not the old, mortal body back again, but not disembodied spirit either.  Something quite new: “A spiritual body”, Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:44).

 

We can now safely say that as a response to the Parish Prayer and Gift Sunday on 11th February, over £10,000 (including Gift Aid) has been raised.  Praise God.

 

Please pray for Ann, Danni and Shelley, being confirmed on Sunday 15th in the evening at St Mark’s, Southampton, and let me know if this is a step you would like to consider for yourself.

 

Please come to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (Wednesday 26th) if you can – and pray for it whether or not you are coming – especially, perhaps, for at least one new Churchwarden and more PCC members to be found.

 

Yours truly,

Julian