The Assistant Curate writes ........
It has been said that most people fear public speaking more than death. On this logic, if you were therefore to shoot Chris or myself before we got up to preach you would be doing us a favour. As you can see, this argument does not necessarily work. But it is certainly the case that most people fear something. Whatever we may personally fear- dogs, spiders, David Dickinson; the great fear that I find most people confront in their lives it the fear of death. More specifically, people fear their own deaths. One of the most difficult and unsettling things people find about funerals is that it is frequently causes those who attend to uncomfortably reflect on their own mortality. In the last eighty years or so, the progress of modern medicine has meant that people have not had to encounter death with the frequency of previous generations. Death is now an interruption to the pattern of life rather than a defining feature of it. And in some ways this has made encountering death unknown or a rarity for many people through much of their adult lives. When death is encountered, people are thus quite unprepared for the feelings and thoughts it creates about their own finitude and their own, inevitable, end.
One hypothesis for the decline of religion is that in the western world, people lead more secure, healthy and prosperous lives than ever before in human history, and feel less of the need for the certainties of religion as a buffer for the shortness and uncertainty of life. We no longer feel as the author of the Book of Common Prayer tells us (quoting himself the book of Job) that “man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery”. I feel however, that because we now encounter our own mortality in the midst of secure, healthy lives that it shocks us and disturbs us more that it has done to previous generations. The message of Easter is thus of more relevance to our needs than ever before.
Easter tell us the simple truth that death is not the end. Through Christ, we no longer need to fear death nor see it as the end of our story. However much our modern society may feel it has no need for the Christian message, and however discouraged we may ourselves feel about spreading that message, the good news that God’s love is stronger than death is something that people have real need of. So let us take the opportunity of Eastertide to meet people’s needs and share that message with them. And let us take that message to heart, and not be afraid.
Revd. Tom Atfield