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Welcome to the website of
The Lambfold Benefice

A group of five Anglican rural parishes

in the geographical centre of England

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APRIL 2019

RECTOR’S RAMBLINGS


Sitting at my desk with literally hours to go before the copy deadline wracking my fading
brain of what I should put in this month’s Ramblings and with Easter fast approaching I
am reminded of a question posed to me many years ago by an Oxford Don. He was
interviewing me, a then green naïve (and probably looking at the outcome of the
interview) totally unprepared candidate for a place to read theology at St John’s College.

It was a dark wet November afternoon, my final interview of what had been a long and
hard day of mental gymnastics and interviews. Within minutes of beginning the interview
this high powered academic launched the question that has stuck in my mind for the last
forty plus years. ‘Tell me Mr Fernyhough if the bones of Jesus Christ were dug up in
Palestine tomorrow, would that in your mind disprove the resurrection?’ After going
through the mental checklist of pause, consider, take your time – then answer; I fluffed
my way through some kind of response. Suffice to say I did not get a place that year!

Years later as a schoolmaster teaching Theology to very bright VIth formers, and
perhaps playing a little bit of let’s throw a curved ball at them, I often used a variation of
that verbal question as an essay question for my pupils, trying to get them to evaluate
the Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels.

All the Gospels of the New Testament, record some account of the resurrection of
Jesus, and indeed the certainty of the event pervades the whole of the New Testament.
The Early Christian writers were in no doubt of the fact of the resurrection. True, there
are many variations in the details of the Resurrection accounts when you look at them
side by side, how many women discovered the empty tomb, who the women were, were
there guards outside the tomb, did they run and fetch Peter and one of the other
disciples or not etc etc.; and that conflicting evidence in detail can and does prove
problematical for some. Add to that the purely rational fact that we know bodies when
buried decay, and the rational experiences we have that dead bodies do not come back
from the dead -and yes it is tempting to say it’s all myth.

In the 1930’s a book ‘Who moved the Stone’ was published, written by the author Albert
Henry Ross, under the pseudonym Frank Morrison, that set out to look at all the
alternative theories surrounding the resurrection event. Initially Morrison (Ross) was
sceptical of the idea of the resurrection and had set out to write a short paper ‘Jesusthe
last phase’ to demonstrate that it was all myth. In the course of his research he
became convinced that the alternative theories we all flawed and that the resurrection
was true, and this resulted in the book ‘Who moved the stone?’

The truth of resurrection which we, the Christian Church, celebrate joyfully at Easter
every year is the central point of the Christian faith. When the women who discovered
the empty tomb returned with the news of the resurrection, the male disciples didn’t
believe them, but they came to believe in the event, irrational and illogical as it might
have first appeared and slowly it began to make some kind of sense and gave purpose
to their lives. The eminent psychologist William James remarked that everyone has
beliefs - he called them ‘working hypotheses’- which help make sense and give purpose
to life. These beliefs are vital to human existence; but they lie beyond logical or scientific
proof. For example in 1948 the United Nations reaffirmed their faith in fundamental
human rights, and we also believe in them. No scientific experiment can prove that
everyone has basic human rights-yet we all believe it to be so. This is a positive belief,
and it creates human solidarity. So too does the belief in the Resurrection, it brings joy
and hope of yet greater life.

So to return to that awkward question I began with ‘If the bones of Jesus Christ were
found tomorrow would that disprove the resurrection?’- Now I would answer
emphatically No!

Whatever your personal thoughts and opinions, when it comes have a, Joyful, Happy
and Blessed Easter- Rejoice and be glad. ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’

Fr Tim





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