When you are a vicar you do lots of funeral services. You cannot, you probably should not, avoid the sobering reflection, "One day that'll be me there in that box... some other vicar will be taking my funeral just like I am taking this one." How to cope with this constant reminder of your own mortality?
Well sometimes people help you through it. A few days before she died I visited a very brave lady who was dying of cancer. Just before we prayed together she said, "I know what's happening to me and, do you know, I've accepted it. I've always trusted in the Lord and I know I have nothing to fear." I was so inspired by her faith! The funeral when it came not long afterwards was as much about triumph as tragedy.
So what does this faith rest on? Easter Day, that's what! Jesus was dead, there's no doubt about that. The Cross happened in front of the Roman governor, King Herod, the chief priests and thousands of Passover pilgrims. But on the third day Jesus' friends started seeing him again. They have left us their witness statements in the form of the New Testament. There is no doubt of the reliability of these witnesses because many of them staked their lives on it. They knew Jesus was risen, so they were not afraid to face death for his sake. The one who had come back from the grave would raise them too.
So death is not the end folks! It wasn't for Jesus, and because of him it need not be for us. My cynical old Scots grandad used to say, "How can we know there's anything after death? No-one's ever come back to tell us." But that's exactly why Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection tells us loud and clear that there is life in his name!
This is important. A matter of life and death. Too vital to be left hidden under that fluffy pile of chocolate eggs, bunnies, daffodils and hot cross buns. The Easter Bunny isn't coming this year anyway, he's gone back into hibernation...
Give the resurrection some thought this Easter time. If it would help, come to one of our Easter services and find out more – details elsewhere on the website.
Yes, one day it will be me, there in that box… but thanks to Jesus, I can live with that.
(recently published in Pioneer magazine)