Easter Message from the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson
Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway
Fear is the tomb we hew for ourselves out of the rocks of our own personalities. Jesus’ words to the women in the garden of the resurrection, “Do not be afraid” are Jesus’ words to each one of us that we need have no fear, because love is stronger, conquers every human emotion, physical limitation, even death itself. There is meaning and purpose even in the pain and suffering, the frustrations and the disappointment that laid Jesus in the tomb. These negative experiences and emotions laid Jesus in the tomb but they did not hold him there; Jesus gave meaning and purpose to those experiences and emotions so the tomb of fear could not hold him. The women in the garden were astonished to see Jesus, to hear his words “Do not be afraid”, but Hope is like that: astonishing.
Hope in ourselves, Hope in our church, Hope in our world are astonishing facets of love which make God real in our lives, allow us to recognise the power of love in the Hope which is the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to us when we leave the tomb of fear behind, as Jesus did. That is the great lesson of the story of the resurrection, the dark damp tomb of disappointment and failure, the greatest fears of human life we can leave behind through Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid,” because Jesus showed in his passion and death, Jesus showed the truth of the words we hear at every Eucharist: “There is no room for fear in love.”
The greatest human fear is the fear of being found out, found to be not strong, not able, not able to cope, physically and mentally. When Jesus carried his cross, he showed all of these facets of being human. A cross in our language is synonymous with a burden; Jesus fell under the weight of the cross after he had fallen mentally and spiritually in the garden under the weight of mental anguish and doubt, resulting in the one question: Father, is there no other way?
It is in our questions and our doubts that God speaks to us, that the Holy Spirit brings hope when we face up to our real fears: the fear of being found out, the fear of what other people think of me, the fear of loneliness, the fear of failure. These are our very real fears which so often appear to hold us in the damp dark tomb of disappointment, cynicism. The cynic is the person who is determined never to be disappointed again, the tomb indeed, but the tomb cannot hold us. God is with us there in the damp dark tomb of disappointment and failure: that is what Jesus is all about. He has been there, done that, and there is our Hope.
Hope made real to us through the love of those who have warmth and affection, and the simple wish to be with us. There we hear Jesus’ real words, ‘Do not be afraid’, there we can leave the tomb of the what-might-have-been-if-only, leave it behind. There is Hope made real, there in the leaving we are confident God is with us because there in the warmth and understanding of Love we can trust as God’s people learned to trust in their journey through the Red Sea.
That is the Hope we celebrate at every Eucharist emphasised at Easter in the great words of the prayer of consecration: “You are unceasingly at work, from chaos bringing order and filling emptiness with life.” That is the message of faith to the world, where all nations live in fear that they are not as wealthy, strong, independent of all others, as they think they ought to be. Peace comes when we break out of the tomb of that fear and recognise that we need, depend on, others; there is the peace that passes understanding. The peace through which we hear Jesus’ words – “Do not be afraid.”