In the 1970s the American author, Richard Bach, wrote two short books that attained great popularity amongst a younger generation that was seeking to make some sort of sense out of the world they were growing up in: Jonathan Livngston Seagull and Illusion: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. His semi-autobiographical writings encapsulated a philosophy that was very much of its time, and that spoke to those who were beginning to break free from the constraints of a post-war world. One of Richard Bach’s most often quoted phrases says: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
For over a year the world has been travelling through challenging times. Just as the caterpillar has to lose its identity in order that it might emerge into a new and more beautiful existence, so it continues to feel for many of us. So many people are struggling to find the beauty of the moment and the future as they continue to struggle with the isolation and fear of both past and present. Our previous ‘certainties’ have been knocked by something much greater than we can either control or understand. The world is reeling from being brought face to face with its own mortality, with its own weakness. All that underpinned the way in which we lived out our daily lives has been rocked by a pandemic that no one foresaw, and the future progress of which no one can either predict or control. Like the caterpillar in Richard Bach’s writings, we are struggling to find a new and more beautiful shape as we feel certain that the world is coming to an end before our eyes.
As my last article for The Link was being published the world was journeying through the events of Holy Week, today we are journeying through the season of Easter. Soon we will be celebrating our risen Lord’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Over the last month the Christian Church has moved from the remembrance of betrayal, denial, and brutal death to the inexplicable, but overwhelming joy of resurrection. Jesus has been transformed from victim to victor. The one who was tortured and executed has emerged triumphant over the negativity of human death; he has transcended all that was previously known about the reality of the human condition. Jesus has shown us a path through the pain, uncertainty and fear of this world into the beauty and peace of a world far beyond our wildest imaginings.
The message of the resurrection is one of hope for all of us. Unlike any other man, before or since, Jesus overcame the power of death in fulfilment of God’s promise to the humanity he created in his own image and likeness. This fulfilment brought reconciliation between human beings and their creator following immeasurable periods of alienation and conflict. The human way of resisting the blindingly obvious in order that personal ambition and comfort might be achieved was forgiven in the self-sacrificial and loving ministry of the man who has been revealed to us as the Son of God himself.
The world in which we live is one of constant change. No matter how much we do to resist that change, it remains a fact of life. Through our growing understanding of the world in which we exist, through our technological ingenuity, through our great desire to create that ever more beautiful place in which to live, we are having to constantly adapt and change.
The events of the last year seem to have put much of the world on ‘pause’. For some this has been a time of despair whilst, for others, it has been a time to re-group and re-consider, a time to plan a new way of interacting with others and realising our God-given potential. This is exactly the same place in which Jesus’ disciples found themselves some two thousand years ago. They saw their world crumble as Jesus hung on the cross. As the reality of the resurrection was revealed they took tentative steps through a cloud of doubt and ongoing fear, and then they emerged inspired, re-invigorated and strengthened as they received the forward-looking and forward-moving power of the Holy Spirit.
As the constraints of the last year are being slowly relaxed, let us put the last few months into their true perspective and let us move forward into a new and beautiful world in which the true glory of the resurrection shines forth in our lives.
Revd Stephen Buckman