The Christian’s hope

Posted in Blog, Christianity

When I was in my teens, my father took me took me along to the University of Exeter to hear a series of lectures on the resurrection delivered by the newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey. Richard Eyre, about whom I wrote in this blog last year, said of Ramsey that ‘like all persons of true holiness’ he was ‘a living argument for God’. What I remember from all those years ago was being intrigued by the Archbishop’s huge domed forehead and bushy eyebrows.

Sadly I have lost the notes I scribbled of what he said In Exeter, but a year before he became the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey spoke for eight consecutive evening in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford during a mission at the University. Fortunately, what he said on the fifth evening, when his subject was the resurrection, was recorded.

‘So Jesus lives,’ he said as he came to the end of his talk. ‘It is because he lives that our resurrection has its hope, its source. A word now about our resurrection. A lady once came to me in great distress because, whenever she went to church, she kept hearing words which upset her: the words “for ever and ever”. The words gave her the creeps: “for ever and ever”, “for ever and ever”. A terrible thought indeed! But the Christian hope is not just that we shall have our existence prolonged for ever. Christianity shares indeed with the philosophy of Plato the belief in survival after death; but what is significant in Christianity is not life of endless duration, but life in fellowship with God through union with Christ. It is the life dreamed of by the Psalmist when he said, “God is the strength of my life, and my portion for ever.” It is the life described by St John, “This is life eternal, to know you the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” It is the life which Christ mediates to those who, united with him, have him as their centre: “because I live, you shall live also.” To belong to Christ is to possess eternal life now already, to hope for its completion after death.’

It would be interesting to know how many Oxford undergraduates who sat in the Sheldonian Theatre in February 1960 had their lives and thinking transformed by listening to ‘a living argument for God’.