The light of Christ is handed from neighbour to neighbour not only in the Easter ceremony but down the ages. The huge majority of Christians have derived their faith not from reading books but from contact with other people. One of the things that liturgy, or public prayer, does is link you and me now with all the many who have gone before us; not as a club, or a party or a political movement is linked — collectively — but as a series of flickering candle-flames, each distinct, each ablaze with a different light, though touched by the common source, which is Christ. Those of us who count ourselves (even if, as in my case, wishy-washily) among the Christian number do so because we have been shown the light by other Christian lives — by friends or family, or by lights in history. In my lifetime, three of the most impressive world events have been the collapse of the Soviet Union, the miraculously peaceful ending of apartheid in South Africa, and the US civil rights movement.
The profoundly Christian witness of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was led from arid atheism to belief by watching Baptists in the gulag reading the gospels on tiny bits of paper, was a major part of the dissolution of the Marxist materialist tyranny in Russia. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was overtly Christian, and the part played by Desmond Tutu makes him, for me, one of the great men of our times. The biography of Martin Luther King, and the fact that his (totally non-fundamentalist) prophetic reading of the Bible inspired his leadership of the civil rights movement, remains, to me, a very bright candle, passed on, when the idiocies or nastiness of contemporary Christians make me feel greater kinship with the agnostic majority. The Easter story, the resurrection and the gospel truth