As I write there are two crises in the news. One seems to have passed its peak, namely the floods. The other one is the coronavirus threat which is looming large.
With regard to the floods, we have seen large areas under water on the floodplains along the Severn and other rivers which have burst their banks.
With the threat from coronavirus there is the question of how the NHS will be able to cope. By the time you read this that question will, we hope, have been answered in a positive way.
Let me now turn to the obvious topic for this April, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The first can be linked to the role of floodplains which absorb and contain vast quantities of water after the bursting of the banks. One way of understanding that death on the cross is that Jesus absorbed all that was hurled at him – the agony, the shame and humiliation, the injustice and mockery, and death. Christians go on to believe that the forces behind those things were sin and evil and death itself. The gospel accounts maintain that Jesus did not rage at his impotence and helplessness, so that our picture of absorbing all that he suffered makes sense.
When it comes to coronavirus, the whole point of the threat is that some people die as a result of catching it. Every effort is being made to contain the virus, to reduce the threat and to treat those infected, and great efforts are being made to find a vaccine.
As I write, we see the NHS as being on the front line – preparing to cope and preparing to overcome – through the dedication, skill, and sheer determination of staff at all levels of the service. In some sense, the NHS is preparing to absorb all that coronavirus throws at it, for everyone, rich or poor, old or young, regardless of race, religion or gender.
In the same way, Christians see Jesus as being on the front line, not just for those who trust in him, but for everyone, regardless of differences and divisions that some would see as dividing humanity.
One further thought: in films and stories, there is often that scene where the ‘baddy’ has the ‘goody’ at their mercy and laughs evilly at their intended victim (who then escapes to turn the tables).
In real life, we are inspired by stories of those who were willing to say in affect, “Kill me, then, if you must.”
One who said that was the Christian martyr Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated on the 24th of March 1980. The military government of El Salvador was persecuting and oppressing those it saw as enemies of the state. In Romero’s radio broadcasts, he spoke out against poverty, social injustice, and the assassinations and torture that the government was carrying out. He did not heed the many warnings to keep quiet and suffered the consequences.
Romero was a true witness to what was going on around him and to both the cross and the resurrection of his Lord. He had trust, which enabled him to keep speaking out, confident of “the resurrection to eternal life” which is an article of faith that comes from Easter Sunday and the aliveness of Jesus, marked by the wounds of suffering love.
I leave you with some words from the last book in the Bible.
Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, and I am the living one; for I was dead and now I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Death’s domain.
Robert Draycott (Rev)