The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, shares his Easter message

Today is a day of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Day. Yesterday Christians gathered in churches at sombre services as we recalled the horror and brutality of Jesus’ execution on a hill outside Jerusalem. Fear abounds.

Tomorrow, we gather again. Some of our coastal churches will have an early service on their local beach to witness the new dawn of Easter, others will go up Beeston Bump or climb to the top of their church tower. We find ourselves in the company of those first disciples who went early on the third day to the tomb in a garden to anoint the body of Jesus. Joy abounds.

We will hear how some of the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection ran with fear and great joy to tell the other disciples. In our minds’ eye we can see them - arms outstretched, gulping the air as they ran, their minds filled with confusion. Fear in their minds and joy in their hearts as they try to comprehend what has happened.

I guess that we too live much of the time between fear and joy.

The fear of being judged, the fear of our real selves, the fear that we are not good enough, the fear of dropping the many balls being juggled, the fear that what we hold dear will crumble away. All are legitimate, but often the stalk our minds more than they should.

But then there is joy too. The joy of being loved, the joy of being forgiven, the joy in an act of kindness given or received, the joy of finding contentment, the joy of life.

Fear and joy at the heart of the resurrection, as well as our lives.

The same is true when we look at the news.

There is much to be fearful about as we hear the graphic details of wars and terrorism, disasters and famine, addictions and illnesses. All are mostly beyond our control. The situation in Gaza continues to be a source of fearful concern for me and I can’t get out of my mind the Christian medical staff at the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza City who I met just three days before Hamas’ evil attacks. And I’m all too conscious of the weariness about the war in Ukraine and the fear of what might happen.

But there are plenty of stories of great joy too. The joy of creation when we hear birdsong. The joy of trees coming into leaf. The joy of a street musician playing with all their heart. The joy of a craftsman making something beautiful.

I see fear in many church communities about attendance, the lack of volunteers and the burden of maintaining historic buildings. But, I also see joy – new worshipping services, outreach with young people, support offered through warm hubs and food pantries for those who are struggling, parish visitors for the lonely and bereaved, and the warmth of communities of welcome. There is much to be thankful for.

Fear and joy run through our lives.

The Easter message is one of great hope. When we light the Easter candle - the Paschal candle as it is known - we declare that the risen Jesus is the light of the world. We do so because hope itself is rising up. It can change the world for good. It can roll away stones.

Why? Because joy wins.

Happy Easter.