Easter turns us and our world upside-down

By Bishop Michael Bird

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Bishop Michael looks over a favourite print, a representation of the Copernicus model of the universe. Photo: Alison D’Atri

I have many pictures on the walls of my office and my home that highlight my work as your bishop. Many of them are the typical things you would expect: pictures from the Lambeth Conference, churches and group photos from some of the important events and meetings I have been privileged to attend. There is, however, one framed print that is very different in nature. It is a representation of the Copernicus model of the universe.

Copernicus was the 15th century astronomer who first formulated a comprehensive understanding of a heliocentric cosmology, or to put very simply, a theory that correctly placed the Sun, not the earth, at the centre of the solar system. It was a theory that Galileo, the father of modern science, championed less than a hundred years later—a theory that was outlawed by the church and one that cost Galileo dearly.

I have that print on my wall as a reminder of my university background in Science. It is also there to remind me that often, when the church or when Christians believe they have cornered the market on the truth, that it is exactly at that moment when the truth becomes the most elusive.

It is exciting and inspiring for me to contemplate such a break-through, when Copernicus and Galileo, and others after them, came to the realization that the world was very different from the way they believed it to be. Think about that startling, earth-shaking moment, when not just their world, but their very universe was turned upside-down.

Over the centuries, many of the false certainties of the human race have come and gone; and sadly many more fallacies remain very much in play. But for Christians, all of those moments of revealed truth pale in comparison to that earth-shaking moment in the lives of Jesus’ followers that is at the centre of our celebrations on Easter Day.

In Matthew’s gospel account, the two Marys come to the tomb and they come in desperate grief to what they believed was a death watch. Instead they find that the stone is rolled away, an angel of the Lord descends upon the scene, the military guards are struck dumb and they hear those beautiful words from the angel: “Do not be afraid.” As they run to tell the disciples, Jesus is there in front of them! Their world and their universe are turned upside-down, and at Easter we celebrate the liberating reality of the resurrection that turns our lives and our world upside-down as well.

In the charge to Synod that has just been released I have said that we are being called as a diocese to enter into a Year of Jubilee or Liberation in 2018. This calling comes to us at a time when so many in our world are shackled by poverty and violence, when the truth seems so elusive and when we often feel so hopeless and helpless in the midst of it all.

It is my hope and prayer that as we hear once again on Easter Sunday that a tomb is broken open, that military might is left powerless, that a death watch has been turned into a life-giving miracle, we will be inspired and empowered to prepare ourselves for this Liberation Year.

As we celebrate the glory of Christ’s resurrection may our lives be liberated for discipleship and leadership, may our voices be liberated to proclaim the truth, and may our parishes be liberated for renewed and energized ministry in the name of our risen Lord.