Reflection - He bids us come and die

23 April 2024

Reflection - He bids us come and die Image

By Reverend Mark Cornford

I love happy endings. So much so that if I suspect that a movie or TV show won’t have a happy ending, I will refuse to watch it. I think I am still scarred from watching the last episode of Blake’s 7 as a child, where the writers decided to kill off every main character! So, it is a little surprising to me that my favourite service of the Easter season, and in fact the whole year, is Good Friday.

I find the stark sombreness of the service incredibly powerful, culminating in leaving the service in a reflective silence. Good Friday is about trying to comprehend that the scandal of the horror, brutality and suffering of the cross is also the ultimate revelation of the height, length, breadth, and depth of God’s love for us.

Of course, I can only appreciate Good Friday because as in the famous words of S.M. Lockridge ‘It’s Friday – but Sundays’ comin’!’. Without Easter Sunday, Good Friday would just be another tragic display of the brutality of our world. But with Easter Sunday, Good Friday bears witness to the hope, love, and power of God. It teaches us that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God, for our God is a God of life.

However, just as without Easter Sunday, Good Friday loses its power of hope, so too, Easter Sunday without Good Friday loses the paradox of life in the Kingdom of God. For Jesus’ call to experience resurrected life is simultaneously Jesus’ call to death. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer’s famous words - When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die.

The story of Easter is not one of resuscitation but of resurrection. In resuscitation, what was, is brought back to life – it is not new life, it is the old life continued. In resurrection – what was dies, so that in its place, a new transformed life can emerge.

In this Easter season, as we look to the new, flourishing life that God can bring to our church, we need to remember that Jesus’ call to life is also a call to death. Paul says in 2 Tim 2:11 ‘Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him’. But its converse is also true - if we want to live with him, we must also die with him.

As we pray to God for the breath of new life within us, let us also pray for God to show us what it is in us, that we need to die to, so that God’s new transformed life for us can emerge.

As much as I love happy endings, the story of Easter is not a happy ending but a beginning. The beginning of faith, hope and love emerging out of what was suffering, pain and death. As much as I want to avoid the difficulty of this period of transition for our church and jump to the happy ending, instead Christ calls me again to follow him in the journey of discipleship - the continuing journey of death, transformation, and new life for the sake of God’s mission of life for the world.

This Easter season may we know the power and the joy of death and resurrection!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

(v4 Christ Has Risen Today, Charles Wesley)

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