April 2016

Happy Easter! The time of waiting through Lent has passed, and we have been able to join together in celebrating the day of resurrection. Alleluia!

The end of Lent means that all those things given up for Lent can become part of life again. One friend excitedly contacted me on the Monday after Easter to let me know that he could get back to eating Peanut Butter after giving that up for Lent. Others may have given up chocolate, or alcohol, or social media. I heard stories of one woman who gave up coffee: something I could never do!

Others may have taken up things for Lent. There were a selection of Lent groups taking place at St Andrew’s: our evening group used ‘The Theory of Everything’ – the film about the life of Stephen Hawking – to explore mysteries; the lunchtime group – led by Douglas and Valerie – explored prayer. Opportunity to encounter different topics and to have our perspectives challenged is as good a way to spend Lent as giving up something we cannot live without. There were certainly interesting ideas shared and discussions had – many of which will continue to develop in the coming weeks and months.

The shift from Lent to Easter, however, moves us into a different part of the Christian story. From a tale of babies in mangers and baptism in the water, we move through the experience of the triumphal entry and the upper room, to Calvary and the garden tomb. The experience of Easter brings us beyond that which we ourselves have experienced, that of death being overcome and new life becoming possible. It takes us away from the experience of Jesus as human reality, and gives us Christ, the man of Jesus human and divine. We are unable to see the story of the Bethlehem birth or the Last Supper as anything other than part of the story of Jesus as the one raised on the third day.

For Christians, Easter changes everything. It changes our perspective on the world around us, on the way in which God relates with the world, and on the good news that we have to share. It inspires us to speak of new things and to act in new ways, with the challenges of the gospel ringing in our ears. Like the disciples, it is impossible for us to continue in the same way we had before.

In the coming weeks and months, the same will be true at St Andrew’s. We will begin to explore as a community what it means to be Easter people in Monkseaton and Whitley Bay, and to examine what it means to us to share the gospel in the community. We will start by having conversations with the Elders and the various teams, and as these become more focused we will discuss these with Members and others involved in the life of the Church. We will look to find ways of reaching out to our community and engaging with other communities, and will work out what resources we can utilise – people and money – to enable us to do it. Some of it may mean restructuring how we work, or finding new ways of doing things. But together, we need to take on the challenge of Easter to look anew at the story we tell and the ways in which we can be sharing that in our community.

As Jesus’s disciples were given new challenges after the resurrection, a shift in their way of working and the message they had to share, so we too can refocus our work on the challenges that lay before us as people of faith, inspired by the gospel of the empty tomb. For those disciples everything changed that Easter day. While it may not be so sudden for us, we can certainly begin to look anew at the way in which our faith leads our work and directs our mission.

Best wishes

Matthew

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