As I sit down to write this, in Passiontide, I am still reading Vladimir Grossman’s Life and Fate (1960), one of the great Russian (or Soviet?) novels of the last century. At about page 480 I’m just a little more than half way through! It tells the story of the Soviet Union around the time of the Battle of Stalingrad through the interlocking lives and fates of a huge range of characters in a huge range of contexts – domestic, academic, political, military, prison and concentration camps. But the overwhelming context of the novel is the unspeakable suffering and destruction brought to human beings by totalitarian regimes and this soaks through every page. And yet, in many pages too, in the middle of all this, love, kindness, humour make their mark.
As I sit down to write this, like all of us, I am aware that not a day goes by in our world without the merciless, cruel and senseless killing of innocent people – terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, massacres of whole populations go on all the time. These things drench our consciousness. And we know not only that they can happen and indeed have happened here, but also that there are plenty of dark goings on in our own midst. And yet, these things are not the sum total of our experience of the world or of our life – in the middle of it all peace-making, reconciliation, justice make their mark.
And, as I sit down to write this, I am to offer you an Easter message. What to say? Well, something simple: Easter faith resonates with the experience of the world I’ve just described and speaks to it. Jesus himself was overwhelmed by the darkness of his world and destroyed by it, his attempt to speak of and live out a new kind of world, a new way of being in the world, snuffed out. And yet millions of us still speak of him, know him, worship him, follow him, still speak of and try to live out a new kind of world, often right in the midst of the worst the world can offer. And this, not because we are simple-minded optimists refusing to face the terrible facts, but because God raised Jesus from the dead, because God, in doing that, did not allow the darkness to have the last word and because we believe that what was true for Jesus Christ is true for us and for the whole world. God calls us, through the gift of Easter, to take the same view, as it were, that we should not allow the darkness to have the last word in our own day and in our own lives, and to rejoice in the evidences all around us that it does not. And having this faith we are bound to be people who persist in believing that the Light shines in the darkness and that the darkness has not overcome It and that, indeed, the Light will one day scatter all darkness from the face of the earth and from the whole creation. And that the world, as we experience it, already encourages us in this hope because it is God’s world and because God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead is at home and at work in it.
May I wish you all a very happy and blessed Eastertide.