We bring hope to the poorest.
At 5.30am this morning, about half an hour before dawn and long before the Underground began its familiar rumble beneath my church, a small group of parishioners gathered to celebrate the beginning of Easter.
Since Good Friday nothing has happened in the church at all. The lights have been off. All the fancy hangings and vestments have been put away. Jesus died and his mission had apparently failed - and failed spectacularly. The hated Romans, the political oppressors, successfully organised their lynching and all those people who had been following him were frightened away.
Those who came on Friday walked away despondent, dejected and lost. In the end, even his followers were calling for his death.
But this morning something has changed. For me, it is the most emotional moment of the church year. A small candle is processed into the dark church. A glimmer of light D a Cameron talking a lot illuminates the darkness. Hope wakes up, fragile at first.
When I carry that candle into church I have in my head many of the people I have buried over the past year. I think of their grieving families. I try to summon up all the difficult situations I have being praying about every week, from the terrified people of Syria to all those in my parish struggling to bring up small children in cramped housing and on diminishing benefits. I think of the homeless project we run over Christmas and about John, one of our guests who died recently of pneumonia. As the Bible says, it is the "people who have walked in darkness that have seen the great light".
This, for me, is what Easter is all about. It is about the persistence of hope. This is also what all the id has been about his So I'd like to at Jesus' first he said he was the poor". In my to see his anything imagery of candles is supposed to say: light is more powerful than darkness.
It's not the sort of hope that naively thinks things are going to get better tomorrow. But it is hope understood as defiance against the darkness.
It's a refusal to give in or give up. It's a form of resistance.
And yes, I'm happy for that word resistance to have a political ring to it. For part of the struggle of hope is that it is active and seeks the transformation of society. It's not just a private matter.
Yes, the church gets it wrong a lot of the time. It is too obsessed with what people get up to in their bedrooms and not sufficiently interested in the emptiness of their larders or their lack of a roof or a job.
But it is getting better. And it remains one of the few organisations with outposts in every community in this land where its role is to find often practical ways of taking that light of hope into the darkest of places.
It is terribly easy to knock the church, but there is something heroic about the difference church communities try to make in parishes, often in very difficult circumstances, with little money and crumbling buildings. Easter is a good time to recognise that.
Light: candles in church