Read any good books lately?
Because we tell Bible stories to children the suggestion is that the Bible is an easy book to understand. If that was ever the case it is much more difficult today, because we know so much more, or like to think we do, about what makes the world tick.
One of my favourite books is “Mr Golightly’s Holiday” by Salley Vickers. As you read through, the hidden identity of the main character is revealed. It is an intriguing and daring story about love, loss and loneliness, with the big questions of life and death vibrating throughout.
We have just celebrated Easter and now, in May, we are leading up to Ascension Day and the days that follow with the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church at Pentecost. We are also getting ready to welcome our New Diocesan Bishop The Rt. Revd Libby Lane at a special service in the Cathedral on 25 May, so save the date! After this service Bishop Libby has planned to visit many different parishes and deanery events during the 10 days of “Thy Kingdom Come”, the Archbishops Call to prayer between Ascension and Whitsunday.
So during this time we follow the story from the cross and the pain, the first Easter morning to a realisation that Christ is among us and known in the breaking of bread.
Of course if the story had been left with Jesus’ death on The Cross, nothing more would have happened, that ending wouldn’t have done! It is the resurrection that allowed the faith of the disciples to live on and carry on the message of Jesus. The resurrections of the past and the future are central in Christian believing. Each is significant in its own way. But each is edged in mystery.
The Biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are a mystery. They can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the encounters of Jesus by the disciples are varied. Sometimes he seemed to be flesh and blood present with them, on other occasions his presence was much more ethereal and hard to determine.
When we think of life beyond death we inevitably speculate. Christian people live with the mystery of faith. On the one hand we affirm God’s supernatural appearance, but on the other hand we are all too well aware that the natural order isn’t usually open to that kind of adaptation.
Faith means that we look to a time when these two points can be reconciled. The first disciples trusted in faith, and because of this they were able to carry the story on. Faith is trust in God with all that we know to be true from the gospel story, and we trust Him with all that we can’t yet understand, and believe that one day it will be resolved.
When we read the Bible either to children or ourselves, especially perhaps the “difficult” resurrection stories, we can look critically; we can also look with the eye of faith and by opening our hearts in devotion to the real message that is inside and pray “Thy Kingdom Come”.
The Venerable Carol Coslett
Archdeacon of Chesterfield