“In my Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it …” There was once a tradition about wearing special clothes at Easter. Have you thought about what you might wear to church on Easter Sunday? Probably not! Each year, our sanctuary is “dressed” in something special for Easter Sunday. For the last few years, there have been streams of gold material arcing out from the cross, like rays of light from the sun, to remind us of the joy, love and life that bursts out to welcome and enfold us at Easter. What should our sanctuary wear this year, I wonder?
The story line of Easter is remarkably simple: Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, is arrested, tried, executed and buried, but, on Easter Sunday, is seen alive again. He has been resurrected by God. Behind the simple story lies a morass of confusion, explanation and debate. What does this story mean? Theories abound. I have written before about the interpretation that makes the most sense to me. In brief, that the resurrection is the endorsement by God that the way Jesus lived his life is the way that God created people to live. Because of this, we should look at what we know of the life of Jesus and use it as a model for our lives.
Behind this interpretation lie some observations about human society. Left to our own devices, human “community” has an inherent tendency for conflict. This goes under various names: competition, self-interest, fear of harm or loss, consumerism, market economy, racial prejudice and so on. Some are more damaging than others, yet they all assume there is a link between the value and difference, suggesting that whether or not a person possesses such and such a quality or item indicates whether they are to be more or less valued as a human. In Australia, we are fortunate that the tendency to conflict is limited and for the most part is channelled into legal processes or demonstrations, but our news is full of stories about places where this is not the case, where difference becomes a justification for physical violence and exploitation.
Jesus, however, seems to have consciously and deliberately worked against these tendencies. He welcomed and was generous to all he encountered. For Jesus, people had intrinsic value. It did not matter how much they differed from the norms. He refused to be co-opted by the standards and norms of any one group. As a result, all groups rejected him at the end. He died as an outsider. Then came resurrection, showing that Jesus was not an outsider, from the perspective of God.
This is good news for all of us, as everyone is different from the norm in some way or another. Often, we hide away those differences that we feel are the most embarrassing, for fear that they will lead to rejection. Yet, God does not reject us; God accepts us. In the community of God, difference does not alter value. In the sanctuary on Easter, I imagine those golden cloths coming from the cross not so much as the rays of the sun, but as the loving arms of God, reaching out to enfold me, you, us, and the world.
Easter comes at the end of this month. Before we reach it, we have to journey through three weeks more of Lent. My suggestion last month was that during Lent, we take the time to look at the things we do out of habit, “without thinking,” and consider how they might more correspond with the meaning of Easter. In particular, we can ask ourselves to what extent some behaviour values a person on the basis of difference or conformity to our ideals. How might we alter that behaviour, to better reflect God’s welcoming acceptance? How can we make our everyday words and actions more like those golden beams of love reaching out?
Let us live in the good news of God’s love.
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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