We are approaching Easter, one of the three most important festivals of the Christian church - Christmas and Pentecost being the other two.
Easter is not just about celebrating the joy of the resurrection on Easter Day, but following the sequence of events that lead up to the climax of Easter morning. Palm Sunday, at the beginning of Holy Week, is where we must begin the Easter octave - the eight days of Easter.
Christians of all traditions throughout the world will celebrate according to their own particular practice and Easter will not necessar ily be celebrated on the same date. The Orthodox Easter is usually some three weeks later than ours.
The heart of the Christian faith is centred on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we only think of Easter as one of celebration on Easter Day, then we are missing a large part of the story. It's like tuning into watching the last episode of an exciting drama without having understood what happened previously. The whole experience is diminished having missed the unfolding of the plot and the twists and turns of the story. It can feel very frustrating. This is exactly the problem when we don't enter fully into the Easter story.
The services for Easter try to help us follow the full story and I commend to you Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and, of course, Easter Day as part of your faith commitment.
Easter is essentially about new life and traditions that celebrate this are symbolised in the Easter eggs, spring flowers and blossom that burst into life. Ifs a lovely time of year when colour and warmth returns to the northern hemisphere and we feel the cycle of life turning faithfully towards renewal.
Spiritually we are hopefully becoming more aware of our own place in the unfolding story of creation and renewal.
Jesus came that we might have life: he died on the cross for us that we might be redeemed from our sins and he was raised from the dead so that we might share in his eternal kingdom. All of these themes are reflected in the liturgies for the Easter octave.
The ministry team is trying hard to provide a variety of opportunities for not only our congregations but the communities we serve to encounter Jesus Christ in a meaningful way. The PCC will be responding to the Diocesan request for 'mission action plans' to help focus attention on the needs of not just the church family but also as an integral part of the local community.
Church life is important, not just to church attenders, and we should give thanks for the many ways that the church is part of the fabric of our society. We can make the difference to how our communities live and work together for the benefit of others. The strength of community spirit is enhanced when people feel loved and valued. Family life is supported by community activities and the church has its own specific place and contribution to make. To day's spiritual climate continues to evolve and as church we have to respond to this. We can remain faithful and true to our core belief and still be relevant in a changing world.
Enjoy the Easter octave and feel part of the wider church. Belonging to the church community and believing in a wonderful and loving God is open to everyone.