Easter is upon us. Rejoice! The ‘Alleluia’ – buried in the ground by Fr. Alan at the beginning of Lent – has been dug up and we can proclaim it from the rooftops again. We praise God for his salvation and love. During this season, we feast and pray with thankfulness for our deliverance through Jesus Christ. I encourage you to behold the world with gladness and delight.
I also want to offer a small corrective, lest we lose sight of the profound truth held in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For, there are occasions when our alleluias and our rejoicings can have the character of unreality. What I mean is this: Easter offers a focussed time for our rejoicing and feasting, yet the world so often seems such an unregenerate place. Wars rage in places like Syria. Israel/Palestine seems no closer to reconciliation now than they did fifty years ago. Across the world both tyrants and elected politicians seem to spend much of their time showing off and acting as if the world were their own personal fiefdom. In such a world as this, our alleluias and rejoicing can come across as fantasies of the most self-indulgent kind.
From time-to-time, I suspect all of us have questioned whether it is right and proper to feast and rejoice when so many face challenges and difficulties. We may have asked whether we are just selfish fantasists. Well, I think we can be. However, Easter acknowledges and challenges not only our personal selfishness, but makes a profound statement about the deep reality of our world.
In short, Easter recognises that catastrophe and suffering and travail are real facets of life, but represent a ‘semi-colon’ rather than a ‘full-stop’. That is, as Christians not only must we accept the reality of the world’s pain, but that does not signal the final word. Jesus Christ was crucified and he was raised. In that sentence comprises truth: that pain, death, crucifixion cannot be avoided in this life. Our world is shot through with violence and hate. However, Easter also models the truth that violence is not the end. God’s ‘full stop’ asserts that hope, life and joy are restored in resurrection.
This message matters as much today as it did two thousand years ago. One of the things that tyrants want us to believe is that their reign and power is without end. Every empire that has ever existed, including our own, has never really had a proper sense of its own limitations. Intemperate leaders and regimes often want to claim that we cannot think outside the limits they place on them.
Yet, Christianity offers something else. It says that only the God embodied in the resurrected Jesus Christ sets the limit. And the limit is one which upsets the violent strategies of totalitarian regimes. Perhaps that’s why Christianity has so often offered succour to those who have been at the violent end of a cruel world.
So, I say, dare to proclaim your alleluias during this holy time of Easter. Not in the spirit of vain ignorance about the painful realities faced by so many in our world, but in hopeful trust that we are people who live and breathe in the Living God. Not as smug people who’ve been saved, but as people who are challenged to live in a different way.
As many of you will know, the early Christians were known as ‘Followers of the Way’. This is a Way based on Christ’s extravagant generosity and grace; a grace shaped by Easter.For at Easter, Jesus Christ – who has been humanity’s victim, our victim if you will – is raised to new life. Not vowing revenge, but offering reconciliation. He comes to us with open hands still showing the marks of crucifixion and violence and says, ‘Come, let me show you another way.