My dear friends,
Easter brings to us an emphatic message.
At one level it is the simple message that Christ, raised from the dead, is alive and among us today, and that he brings to us - each day - the hope of life with him, not only in this life but also in a life beyond our earthly existence. But it is a message and a faith that takes a lifetime to assimilate and to live out in our own lives.
In his wonderful book, The Cost of Discipleship (a book which every thinking Christian should not only read once but return to constantly), Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns us that it is very easy to accept the truth of the Gospel at one level, but then to allow it to have no effect whatsoever on how we live our lives while still imagining that we spiritually in a good place. This is what he calls the profanity of “cheap grace”, the dangerous notion that we can accept the externals of faith and give assent to these at one level, but without accepting the cost that goes with them – a cost to God that should change us utterly. Easter is not simply an incident in history that we can take or leave, as we choose.
It is an invitation to “live a risen life” (as the post-Communion thanksgiving in Holy Communion rite 2 expresses it), without the chains of selfishness, carelessness and fear binding us to a life of futility and pointlessness. This is the pilgrimage of a lifetime, not a casual nod of the head.
It is in this context that we thank God for the life and ministry of David Somerville, Rector of Richhill, who died suddenly last month. In what was an horrific shock to us all, and in particular for David’s family, we were indeed reminded, “that in the midst of life we are in death”. But, as I tried to say rather inadequately to his parishioners on the day after David’s death, in the midst of death we are also in life. This is the Gospel of Easter, but it requires both constancy and courage to live it out. We thank God for David’s immensely effective ministry in Richhill and in his previous parishes, and we pray for May and for his whole family.
May God bless us all as we seek to live our resurrection faith in our daily lives on earth.