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In literature one my favourite characters is Frank Bascombe. Frank is a fairly insightful guy on things like real estate, marriage, divorce and American football. Frank is also making his way in the world amidst the loss of his twelve year old son. One of Franks insights about Christianity, is that it isn’t very helpful when it comes to grief, All the talk of new life can suppress the experience of loss; a kind of ‘don’t worry it ends up alright in end’. This can be a fair criticism of Christianity.
This expression of Christianity doesn’t take death seriously enough and it doesn’t take Jesus seriously enough. For those grieving these words don’t take seriously that life has changed deeply and it fails to acknowledge that Jesus didn’t go through his own experience of death as if it was merely a stepping stone to a better life. The real hope of Christianity takes place in unpolished difficulties of life, it is found in Biblical stories which narrate a real world like our own that offer hope.
This week we witnessed the burial of Queen Elizabeth II in a moving ceremony in Westminster Abbey. As a nation, death has been at the forefront of our thoughts and feelings, leading many of us to contemplate the death of our long serving Queen and also leading us to think about our own mortality and that of those nearest to us. It’s not that long ago that we saw charts regularly on the death toll around the world from covid-19. These are not easy things to process, alongside the usual difficulties of life and the cost-of-living crisis, we have been living through tough times.
I recently read 1 Peter which is a letter written to a community who are going through hard times – Christians in Asia Minor who were enduring persecution. This is a letter to the vulnerable, in the reality of their suffering we hear words about a living hope of new birth through the resurrection that this isn’t merely a past event that we look back on to gather hope for a future reality, but it is a living hope. A hope that is active now, amidst all the chaos, that is why the persecuted Christians were encouraged with living hope. When we are facing hardships and loss, hope can be renewed when we need it most. It isn’t a slap on the back and a ‘it’ll be alright in the end’, but it is a hope that enters our messy reality and continues to renew us. This living hope reminds us of the confidence we have in God’s character and saving actions, that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste.
Jesus meets us in the reality of current hardship and loss and offers us a living hope that recognises the loss and suffering of our circumstances. He continues to remind us that the resurrection may not answer all of our questions, but it does reveal to us the living hope that love is stronger than death.
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