All three Bishops for The Church of England in Lancashire have written and recorded their Easter messages for 2020.
Please note that, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, the messages have been recorded during lockdown this year using Zoom software or iPhone.
In their messages all the Bishops reflect on the impact of the virus in different ways, while at the same time exploring what Easter means for each one of us.
Full text of the message also follows and it can also be downloaded here in pdf and Word format for printing.
Just over a month ago – it now seems a lifetime away – members of the Bishop’s Leadership Team and members of Buckshaw Village Church near Chorley together acted out The Mark Drama at Blackburn Cathedral.
Using only the words of Mark’s Gospel, we portrayed the life and death of Jesus. It was my first time acting since I was ten. It will stay with me for a very long time.
Afterwards, I wrote in my journal: “My heart feels enlarged for Jesus.”
There was much that was memorable: his startling authority to teach, the fun of acting out the healing stories, the challenge of playing Pontius Pilate.
But my heart was touched at new depths by the sheer heaviness of Gethsemane when Jesus begs: “Take this cup of suffering from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”
Then the relentless path to the agony of the crucifixion, and the sheer blackness as the Cathedral was plunged into darkness at Jesus’s death. Then silence. A very heavy silence.
There is much heaviness over our nation and world in these days.
Dedicated people across the county are sacrificing their own safety to keep our services, shops and NHS running. I’m impressed with many of our churches serving their neighbourhoods in this time of crisis. Many people are fighting for their livelihoods. Some are fighting for their lives. There is a creeping blanket of fear.
In The Mark Drama, one role I had to play was to be one of the women who came to the tomb on Easter morning.
What was black news from Good Friday suddenly got blacker: Jesus’ body had been stolen. An angel appeared saying Jesus was risen but we were too numb with shock to take this in. We ran away to the lockdown. Tightly wrapped in our blanket of fear.
What happened on that first Easter morning was so far beyond expectations, there was no flick of the switch to a sudden happily ever after. It took time to realise the truth in their lockdown of fear.
John 20 v19: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for the fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you’.”; v22: “And with that he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
So, in our time of lockdown, may we experience the risen Jesus walking into the midst of our lives, coming to breathe His Spirit on us, to bind up our fear, to unbind the power of death and hell itself, to fill us with His peace from heaven, won by the terrible cost of His death on the cross.
Risen Lord Jesus, visit us in Lancashire, visit our nation and breathe on us your peace which passes all understanding this Easter. Amen
Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff
Bishop of Lancaster
Ronnie Semley, April 2020