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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Jésus est ressuscité! Alleluia!

The words in the heading are those with which I greeted my friends at our Fellowship in Bergerac, this morning.Of course, if I had been in an English-language speaking country (with the appropriate tradition!) I would have said "The Lord is risen!", and the response would have been "He is risen indeeed!".

Language fascinates me. The difference in the words that languages use for the same concept is always interesting. I prefer the French word for today. It is "Pâques" which is very closely associated with the French word for "Passover" (Pâque). This, it seems to me, is a better description of this day on which we especially remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, as it happened at Passover (Hebrew: Pesach) time. What I do not like is the word "Easter" that is derived from the name of a pagan fertility cult goddess - hence the "easter bunny" (the natural symbol of fertility! Have you heard the one about the pair of rabbits being chased by hounds? One turned to the other and asked, "Shall we try to outrun them - or stop for five minutes and outnumber them?"!!); the chocolate egg - or the decorated hen's egg; the daffodils and tulips. 

The UK newspapers were reporting, over the past few weeks, that a number of chocolate egg manufacturers had dropped the word "easter" from their packaging. There was outrage from some (predictable?!) quarters! Personally, I was perfectly content, and not simply because I am currently not resident in the UK. One of the problems for the Body of the Christ, the Church, is that it has lost much of its distinctiveness. As I recently wrote for an English-language e-zine here in France, "Surely the church is intended to be a prophetic voice to the nation – not a subservient reflection of the social norms that, sadly, are so much at odds with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, the Christ! Is it not the case that the established churches that are seeking to emulate society ..., are slowly dying as they forsake the Word on which they should be founding their message to mankind?" I went on, in that article, to quote the late Very Rev Prof Tom Torrance, MBE, D.Litt., D.D., D.Sc., Dr.Theol., Dr.Teol., F.B.A., F.R.S.E.: “The world likes a complacent, reasonable religion, and so is always ready to revere some pale Galilean image of Jesus, some meagre anaemic Messiah, and to give Him a moderate rational homage. . . . The truth is that we have often committed adultery with alien ideologies, confounded the Gospel with the religions of nature, and imbibed the wine of pagan doctrines and false principles and deceitful practices. We have sought to bend the will of God to serve the ends of man, to alter the Gospel and shape the Church to conform to the fashions of the times. We have yielded to pride and to the lust for power. We have been intimidated by the might of the beast through society, or the crowd, or the state, and betrayed, again and again, the cause of our Saviour.” (The Apocalypse Today; James Clarke & Co Ltd; 1961; p.155).

A very dear Jewish friend asked me, recently, why the resurrected Jesus did not perform other miracles during His post-resurrection appearances. My simple answer was that the resrrection, itself, was the greatest miracle that He could have performed!

In a society in which the Gospel message has been diluted, denigrated, distorted, denied, and even - as if it were possible! - attempted to be destroyed, we need the message of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus more than ever.

His resurrection was, of course, the fulfilment of a promise. After it, He made another - that He would return to this earth. That promise is, I believe, very close to being fulfilled. It is certainly closer than it was at this time last year! My wife is currently preparing for a brief visit to Scotland, later this week. How much more important, that each one of us prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus. He will come again, not as a helpless Babe, laid in a cattle-stall, but as the victorious, triumphant, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Have you prepared? If not, then I urge you to do so now - before it is too late, and you spend eternity cut off from His presence.

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