OPINION: The drama of life epitomised at Easter - The Dean of Ripon, The Very Rev John Dobson

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Many of us were pleased to see the donkey. People often are on Palm Sunday.

A large crowd gathered in Ripon’s Market Square last Sunday morning - a glorious spring day. It was a ‘good to be alive’ moment.

From different churches across the city, we were joining with people around the world and through the ages, taking part in a drama which the Church has shared since its earliest days.

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As palm crosses were blessed and branches waved, we recalled again the time when the King of heaven and earth, humbly upon a donkey, entered Jerusalem. It was provocative then, and it still is today. Like the crowds 2,000 years ago, we proclaimed ‘Hosanna!’ - in our case, led by the glorious singing of Ripon Cathedral Choir. And we followed.

The drama of life epitomised at Easter - The Dean of RiponThe drama of life epitomised at Easter - The Dean of Ripon
The drama of life epitomised at Easter - The Dean of Ripon

That is what millions of Christians around the world are attempting to do this week, follow Jesus as the drama of Holy Week is re-enacted in formal worship, plays, and child-led services, such as the one at Ripon Cathedral on Good Friday morning. No fiction this, it is a drama which recalls actual events, and the faithful interpretation which finds in them the deepest themes and truths of life.

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Today, Maundy Thursday, we will imagine ourselves with Jesus in the upper room, sharing in the last supper, being served by him - the master who washes his disciples’ feet - and challenged to heed the commandment to love one another as he loves us. If only we could all heed that. How transformed life would be for many - the people of Ukraine, the exploited, the excluded, those ignored because they confront us with inconvenient truth about ourselves.

Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will be reminded that the world tends to attempt to rid itself of God. ‘Crucify him!’ the crowd is shouting now. And in personal acts of rebellion, in secular movements that presume more sophisticated enlightenment, in humanity’s desire to be at the centre of the universe, the world still cries, ‘Crucify him!’. God and his agenda of life in its fullness for all his children is still opposed.

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If we attend to the details and changing scenes and moods of this Holy Week drama of life, we find it intense and totally consuming. It draws us in and has us reflect on all that we are and do. We can be overcome by the thought that the Son of God is so committed to love and freedom that he allows himself to die on the cross. Such integrity, being true to himself and his life’s calling, is itself victory. It is the perfect man’s conquering of sin. The gospels tell us that even the soldier on duty at the hill of execution, discerned something of this. ‘Certainly, this man was innocent,’ he could say.

Easter brings confirmation of this victory, and an assertion that the God who creates and sustains life can never be expelled from his creation by those who think it would be better without him. This is what we will be celebrating from Saturday evening and Easter morning. In faith, with confidence and hope, we will now be singing ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’.

Billions around the world will be celebrating Easter this weekend, including thousands across this region. I invite you to join us at the cathedral or to find out what is happening at your local church. The details of our celebrations can be found on our website www.riponcathedral.org.uk

The Easter celebrations encourage us with the assertion that we do still participate in Christ’s drama of life; one that sin and death, that the world’s failings and rebellion can never bring to an end. This is the foundation of our hope as we face the realities of life in spring 2022, with its wars, political failings, economic challenges, personal trials and regrets. The God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ shows that he can help us face all challenges, square on. And in the end, by his unfailing love shown on the cross, his gift of life will conquer all.

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Easter.

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