What importance should we attach to a chance encounter with one of the great men or women of history?
Unlocking my bicycle from railings by Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge one afternoon in 1980, there I saw coming out of the vestry door, Rev Dr Billy Graham and a small group of his team. I remember we exchanged smiles. He may have said a few words as he placed a hand on my shoulder. I just beamed, and never managed a word.
The following Easter I was in Cambridge before term began, preparing for my History degree finals. I was lonely, and a bit miserable about leaving the rest of my family still on their holidays. And yet that remains one of the most special Easters ever in my memory. Amazingly, as I attended the Easter services away from home, I felt hope rising within me.
There were many disciples who had not been with the women (mostly called Mary) who claimed to have discovered the stone rolled away and the tomb empty on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. They must have groaned with disbelief as they heard the story. One woman, Mary Magdalene had said that she mistook him for the gardener at first. Another two men, Cleopas and his friend, claimed that for ages they’d talked with this stranger on the road, until suddenly while they were eating a meal at an inn, their eyes were opened and they realised who it was that had been with them all along.
These and other accounts from the last few chapters of each gospel book in the Bible tell of a kaleidoscope of events. Jesus came and in a very ordinary way met with his friends and family after his death and resurrection.
May your Easter experience be an amazing one this year, especially. Please don’t be fooled by the ‘ordinary’ encounter our Easter services may provide. It is through such that we will often appreciate later that the extraordinary hope that sustains for eternity has been planted or renewed in us.
Charles Sugden (Rector)