“Margaret and I are looking forward to our first Easter for 23 years in County Durham. I reckon we are all longing for spring to come, after this very long winter. It is very natural for us in the northern hemisphere to bundle together our celebration of flowers growing again, the days getting longer, baby animals and the Easter holiday. The natural cycle of the year goes deep with us, the cycle of death and rebirth.
But as natural creatures ourselves we live with a deep down anxiety about the certain death of our bodies, and the uncertain question about our lives after our bodily death. Can the Christian story of Easter help us with this anxiety about death?
There is something very interesting about the accounts of Easter in the Bible. There is very little description of the actual facts about Jesus’ tomb being empty. But there are a number of very powerful accounts of how different people found the tomb empty, or had an encounter with Jesus after his resurrection. For these people the whole experience of finding the tomb empty or meeting Jesus was challenging, confusing but usually totally life-changing. It was the key moment in their lives.
The Celtic Christians believed that every Christian could come to their ‘Place of Resurrection’ in this life. They would look for a ‘thin place’, a wild place where the veil between the natural world and the spiritual realm seemed very thin, easily passed through. And they would wait for an encounter with the divine Spirit that would change their whole vision of life and death.
You may know St Cuthbert’s beach on Holy Island. At low tide it is possible to walk a couple of hundred yards from that beach across the sea-bed to the tiny St Cuthbert’s Isle, some rock with enough land above the tide-line to hold the ruins of a tiny Celtic chapel. The Isle is cut off by the tide for some 9 hours, twice very day. Cuthbert would retreat there from his busy life as Abbot of the monks on Lindisfarne, to seek his Place of Resurrection. These days pilgrim visitors to Holy Island sometimes choose to let themselves be cut off by the tide for 9 hours on the Isle, hoping it may be their Place of Resurrection.
But that Place for anyone of us can be very near and familiar. We need to let ourselves be led there and to spend time there, waiting. What will happen there? Well, the meeting with the empty tomb or the risen Jesus was unique and individual for each person in the Gospel accounts. Our Place of Resurrection can offer many different things:
- healing from a long hurt;
- a new hope and direction in life;
- clarity about a complex decision;
- discovering that we are truly loved and always will be;
- a laughing release from the fear of death into excitement about a mystery;
- a chance to be introduced to our true self;
- the freedom to cry out a deep grief;
- a new understanding of God that makes sense to us.
In these and many other ways we can find our Place of Resurrection. That place may be physical, may be a special building or a wild place or a garden. That place may be deep in our mind or heart. We may go there once or often. But in that Place of Resurrection the Risen One waits to meet us.