Easter - A Time for Fresh Starts
Friday 14th April 2017The Archbishop writes in today's York Press...
Just a couple of days ago I was in Scarborough to bless a new lifeboat, named after Frederick William Plaxton, the founder of the town’s coach building firm. What a brilliant occasion! At the lifeboat ceremony we sang the rousing hymn ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’ For sailors the anchor is absolutely crucial. It provides refuge and a fixed point on a journey. It reminded me that the fixed point for me as a Christian is my relationship with Jesus Christ. His Good Friday death on the cross shows us how far God Himself is willing to go to put things right. There is nowhere that God will not go to make a difference.
Spending time with the brave lifeboat crew members, I was also struck by how far they’re willing to go to make a difference. They risk their lives at any point for those ‘in peril on the sea’. Friends, these people are amazing and I take my flat cap off to them! From the coxswain to the person who makes the tea, each and every volunteer pulls together to make things happen. In a fortnight’s time I hope the same enthusiasm and energy will abound in breezy, bracing Bridlington for the start of the Tour De Yorkshire. I hope to see you at the start line!
The question and the challenge that such a spirit of volunteering demands of us is what would we be prepared to do to help someone else in need? Would we help a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or perhaps extend this to someone that we don’t even know? The good news is that you don’t need to be called out to sea to dive in and help!
During this Easter week my York-based online giving charity Acts435 set out to support 40 people, offering them a fresh start in time for Easter Sunday. Acts435 has helped people in poverty move forward in their lives by providing practical help for such things as a rent deposit, and household goods for people fleeing domestic violence. We recently covered the cost of an unexpected car breakdown for someone living in a rural location who faced losing their job without a car. We’ve also made debt relief orders to free people from crippling burdens of debt. Since the charity started in 2010, we have helped over 10,000 people and the effects have been life-changing. I pray that you are inspired into action by charities like Acts435. In what practical ways could you help someone in need today?
Many people, I’m sure, will be taking the opportunity this Easter weekend to do their spring cleaning and those fiddly DIY jobs that we never seem to find the time for. I think that Easter is also the perfect time for some spiritual spring cleaning. To wonder afresh what life is all about, where we are going and what we believe. It’s a great time too to make some fresh starts - with those we love, and with those we struggle with. I meet many people who ask me if they can make a fresh start with God too. I remind them that it’s never too late. No-one is beyond His love. Just like the disciple Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times in the events leading up to the crucifixion, we too can be changed. Like Peter we can be given a new beginning.
For more evidence of this, look no further than the Vikings! I recently had the privilege of visiting the newly reopened Jorvik Viking Centre. This world-famous York attraction has been spectacularly transformed following the devastating floods in 2015. The sights, sounds and of course the smells bring this fascinating period of history to life. I’m encouraging everyone I meet to go there!
One of the most interesting new elements of the museum’s Viking city, is its early examples of how Christianity penetrated these Nordic communities in York. The marauding Vikings were notorious for their attacks on Churches and Abbeys, so it was amazing to see how their attitudes changed. At the centre of the exhibition I found a replica of a stone cross that the Vikings in York had made. St Wulfstan - a monumental figure in York’s early history - played a key role in introducing the Vikings to Jesus’ message of new life and God’s love for all. For all their success as all-conquering invaders, it appears that many of the Vikings too found their ‘anchor’, their fixed point from which to make sense of the world, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
From lifeboat crews to marauding Vikings, Jesus Christ seeks to know each and every one of us intimately. I encourage every one of you this Easter season to drop your anchors and discover that for yourselves.