top of page

Message from the Superintendent Minister

Rev Mike Long

'Shaken, but also stirred'

It is an unfinished story. Women walk to a tomb expecting to anoint the dead Jesus, but instead are confronted with an open tomb, and a man advising them not to be alarmed; that Jesus had been raised, and that they were to relate the news to Peter and the other disciples. Yet they were seized with amazement and terror, and said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. At this point the gospel of Mark ends – subsequent verses are later additions. Perhaps the original ending is lost, or perhaps this note of fear and wonder will characterise the community of Jesus’ friends.

Easter is a time for joy, but I suggest it may also be a time for being shaken – where awe and terror combine. For resurrection is totally beyond comprehension or previous experience. The raising of Jesus is so utterly different that we are left speechless and bewildered even as we are elated at what this signifies for his victory over sin and death. Easter should propel us out of our comfort zones not through hard effort on our part, but our being willing to be moved by the Spirit, and transported by grace.


The weeks that follow Easter are devoted to the themes of how the community of believers are changed by faith in a risen Saviour: they are more united, more resolute, more outspoken and outgoing, and with deeper conviction. This should all be reflected in the character of our churches, but also with a sense of being shaken. The shaken-ness that comes from a recognition that the world is not the same because of Christ’s resurrection and, as St Paul would say, our sharing in it. A shaking because we begin to perceive the tremendous way in which God can bring new things into being, less predictable than we might have wanted. A turning of our world inside out.


On Easter Sunday morning I was struck by a photo on the BBC website of Easter celebrations across the world. Amid the midnight vigils, early morning parades and services that had already taken place, one photo was of an elderly lady receiving communion from a priest in Sri Lanka. I realised I had visited that very church two years before, when on sabbatical, and why  - perhaps - the photo had been taken there. Five years ago, on Easter Sunday in 2019 there were several explosions in churches by suicide bombers. Hundreds were killed and injured, and a public outcry ensued. The church of San Sebastian in Negombo – the heart of the island’s Roman Catholic population – was devasted by the blast, evidence of which can still be seen.


Although the church has been redecorated, some markers as to what happened on that terrible day can still be seen. It is a large, joyful church but banners at the entrance angrily ask about the lack of justice since the atrocity. During my sabbatical I also visited one of the other churches, a Pentecostal church in Batticaloa on the other side of the island. It was full at the time, and the bomber detonated his device near the church entrance just as the children were descending the nearby staircase from their Junior Church upstairs.


Many of them were killed, and nearly 40 in total lost their lives there that day. The explosion sent shrapnel flying everywhere – the holes are still visible in the metal gates and concrete pillars – and caused a fireball outside the church. The church has not been used since, and a new one is being built nearby. I asked the pastor’s wife why there were no memorials other than one large banner, no flowers etc. She replied that they didn’t see the point as they knew the victims were in a better place. My theology is rather different, and I think lament is very important, but I was taken by her answer.


Those congregations are still shaken ones, but yet strong and determined in the face of tragedy and (sometimes) ongoing threat. They refuse to be cowed, intimidated or despondent. In their different ways they bear witness to a Christ who is both crucified and resurrected. They can’t shy away from the cost of discipleship, but they also know its joys – and the scary part of faith in a surprising God.

We should be shaken, and stirred: into ever new ventures of faith, new discoveries of hope, and new depths of love as we contemplate the wonder of all that the Easter season brings.

With every blessing –


bottom of page