Revd Andrew's Easter Message

The world watched helplessly this week as the great Cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames. The 800-year-old building, one of the most famous and iconic structures in the world, long regarded as an indelible symbol of the French nation and its capital city, looked as though it was about to become stones and ashes. Onlookers gasped in dismay as its spire toppled. Firefighters managed to halt its complete destruction, but enough damage has been done that it will take years to rebuild and restore the Cathedral – some say as many as forty years, given the quality and expense of the wood, stone, and glass that will be required for its reconstruction.

Many have written of the effect of watching Notre Dame burn – some even describing it as having an impact on their own bodies (“sick to my stomach”; “I felt like I, too, would collapse”). Some have described the scene as apocalyptic – as though the world were coming to an end.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus links his own body with an iconic structure – the Temple in Jerusalem, a building bursting with symbolism, representing not just the history and values of one nation, but designed to tell the story of the entire cosmos: the heavens and the earth.

Standing in the Temple courts, Jesus said, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will restore it again.” Those who heard him say this retorted, “It’s taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’ll rebuild it in three days?”

However, John’s Gospel explains, Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this.

When Jesus speaks of the Temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days, he is telling us that his death and resurrection would bring about the very reality that the whole Temple was set up to teach – the renewal of the whole creation.

The work of Jesus is so much deeper than a mere reconfiguration of life as it now is. Jesus has in view a revolution of cosmic proportions. He is thinking of a revolution that is aimed at the over-throw of this whole present order … with all its death, pain and sin. His promise to us is not about patching up the here and now … but taking us to a final and complete future.

Jesus’ mission was never about patching up this ruined old world. He has very grand plans for his inheritance. He is not in the business of patching up – he deals with resurrection and new creation rather than superficial make-overs!

That is why this God allowed himself to bleed out and die, and his lifeless body to be buried. The best of our efforts can only perfume a corpse and delay decay – that’s all his closest followers could do in the aftermath of his murder.

He died to tear a hole in death, to destroy it from within, and to burst out the other side into a life that can never die. He paved the way through suffering and death to create a new world in which death and dying are no more – and he calls us to follow him.

So for those of us who feel as though we watch helplessly while the world burns; for those who have been reminded this week how fragile this world and our own lives are; for those who wonder if there is anything to hope for – this Easter, look to Jesus, who neither watches helplessly nor offers a superficial patch-up solution, but acts decisively, allowing himself to be torn apart so that we, and his world, could be put back together again – more beautifully than any of us could ever ask or imagine.

 

Revd Andrew Stewart. Curate 17th April 2019