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Captain Tom - walking for hope! (A reflection on Mark 16:1-8)

Updated: May 1, 2020

“For all those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”

Not my words but the comment of 99 yr old Captain Tom Moore who as of 1 May has raised £32,795,752.67 + £6,173,542.73 Gift Aid for National Health Service Charities. His feat of walking around his garden assisted by his zimmer frame has caught the imagination of the nation – his words are ones of encouragement in the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves.

They echo those of the Queen in her Coronovirus broadcast to the nation: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

In her Easter message, the Queen made direct reference to the events of this greatest of Christian feasts: “The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this.”

Yes indeed! Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia! But it wasn’t like that at the very start as the account at the conclusion of St Mark’s Gospel testifies: he is not here….. he is going ahead of you …. So they went out and fled …… for terror and amazement had seized them……they were afraid.”

That is how St Mark records the resurrection! The empty tomb leaves the visiting women feeling similarly empty. The expectation of being able to, at least, anoint the tortured, crucified body of their friend now snatched from them.

There are many resonances with our current situation – death snatches loved ones away but, in addition, funerals are being restricted and only the very closest relatives allowed to attend; in our hospitals medical staff are working under immense pressure, often feeling afraid; many at this time are being prevented from visiting loved ones, and worse, prevented from visiting and being with loved ones in hospital, even as they approach death.

St Mark wrote his Gospel to a church which was facing Roman persecution; it is in many respects the “darkest” of the four Gospels, emphasising that Jesus was frequently in conflict with almost everyone, most obviously the secular and religious authorities but also his own disciples and indeed family. The conclusion of the Gospel is absolutely in keeping with all that goes before – this is the Gospel in which Jesus cries from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Resurrection implies not that life will be protected from challenge but that we, through the grace or strength of God, can draw upon resources which enable us to confer meaning upon our lives, offer the encouragement of an inner strength and discover the crucial truth that from the crucible of challenge new understandings and a deeper appreciation of reality emerges.

Wherever we work, wherever we are, we have all found new ways of doing things and perhaps most importantly, rediscovered how much we need each other not just to get things done, but for daily human discourse and contact. Perhaps we can come to appreciate some of those people and some aspects of our lives that we so frequently take for granted.

“He is not here…..He is going ahead of you” – look to the future, for future there will be. As the Gospel came to affirm and has continued to do throughout history, often in the face of extraordinary challenge, a new dawn is assured, a resurrected reality…………..or in the words of Captain Tom,

“For all those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”

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