• Rev. Caroline

Gardens of hope

This photo was taken in Exeter Cathedral, shortly after Easter last year.

Not only is it a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is also an example of the creativity and care of the person (or people) who designed and executed it.

The body of our Lord was laid in a tomb given by Joseph of Arimathea, who is variously described as a rich man, a respected member of the Council, and a disciple of Jesus. The Gospel also says that his discipleship was a secret matter for he feared the possible backlash from “the Jews”.

But his behaviour on this particular occasion – sticking his head above the parapet to ask Pontius Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body and give it a decent burial – shows that it would be wrong to dismiss him as a coward.

Right now, the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19 are underlining how important we think it is to give someone we love a decent burial. Just as a wedding can be made an even more joyful event through the presence of family and friends, so too a funeral can be made more meaningful by a gathering of those who, for whatever reason, take the time and trouble to pay their respects to the deceased person at the church, cemetery or crematorium.

There may be comfort to be derived from planning a service of thanksgiving, to take place once we are allowed to meet together freely.

There is also comfort to be found in the empty tomb of our Lord.

As the angels said to the women who had gone with the intention of anointing his body, “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”

And as the apostle Paul would later write to the Church in Corinth: "Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, have all been prepared by God for those who love him."

In the meantime, we have to live with what we can see, hear and imagine.

Here are two photos from the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Not the verified place of Jesus’ body’s last resting place, but surely created and maintained with the same devotion as those in Exeter Cathedral, which has brought comfort and joy to numerous pilgrims from all over the world.

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