Saturday, 30 March 2013

"The Best Easter Ever"?

Last week one of the advertising fliers that we received in or mailbox had on its cover a picture of chocolate Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies. Emblazoned across the top of the page were the words “The Best Easter Ever”. This image struck me as a reflection of the problems of our culture.

We keep hearing childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic in Australia and this is not surprising when we also hear that in recent years Australia has per capita been close to the top consumer of chocolate at Easter. We know too that much, if not most of the chocolate we consume, comes from plantations where young children are forced to work to pick the cocoa beans. Most of us would agree this is slavery.

If these chocolate products represent the “Best Easter Ever” then does this suggest that the best we can do as human beings is exercise our greed and exploitation to our own detriment and the detriment of others. Our ignorance in these deeply serious matters of what we do as a culture, even as Christians, is a sad indictment on our culture and on this day invites us to reflect again on the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus; which is about how we live now and our hope for the future.

This morning we heard Paul’s letter to the Corinthians seeking to affirm the reality of the resurrection and its importance. I suspect that many of us we get caught in seeing the cross alone as the redemptive act or we focus on Jesus’ teaching as something to follow and so we see Jesus being raised as simply an affirmation of God’s victory. Yet the resurrection has power in and of itself as part of God’s transformation: how we live now and our hope for the future.

I want to pick up on these two aspects of the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus this Easter day in the prayerful hope that in hearing these perspectives something within your life may be changed now and that you might find hope for the future.

So what does the resurrection say about the God’s will for us now and for the creation in general? I began the service this morning by telling the story of the Ragman. For me this is a powerful parable of God’s will expressed in and through Jesus. The implication is that God wants wholeness for people’s lives and in Jesus death he takes the suffering of others into himself and transforms it into wholeness. When he raised Jesus from the dead the scars of the suffering may still have been evident but there has been a renewal.

The resurrection says to us that Jesus prayer that it may be “on earth as it is in heaven” and his words in John 10 that he came “that we might have life and it abundantly” point to God’s concern for us as we live now. Too often I hear Christians express an understanding that they believe in Jesus because they want to go to heaven, or not hell, when they die.

The resurrection and Jesus invitation for the disciples to continue to share the good news says that this life and this world matter to God and that God’s will is for the reconciliation and renewal of this world.

When we see people healed, when we see peace established between warring enemies, when we see dignity restored and communities flourish it may just be that the reality of the resurrection is coming home to us.

Furthermore, when we see oppressions and division, when we hear of hurt and mayhem, when we feel the horror of our own mortality then we might be reminded of Jesus own journey through these things towards resurrection as a sign of hope.

When Jesus is raised from the dead God reminds us that this world matters for in Jesus we see the promise of a renewed creation and if we live as participants of that new creation we live now as people of God’s peace and mercy and love for we have been raised with Christ already and we can bear that hope in all that we say and do, it changes how we live now.

Having emphasised that Jesus’ resurrection is about healing and renewal in this life I also want to affirm it as our hope for the future.

A few years back a Christian lady in her 80s said she did not believe in the resurrection and the idea that death was the end did not trouble her too much. This particular lady had lived in Australia as a well respected middle class person and whilst there has been struggle in her life overall it had been pretty good. Now on one hand it may be a real blessing that she had come to a point of feeling like this, accepting her mortality with such grace, but for me I was left wondering about those who had a much more difficult experience of life.

I wondered about people living in such deep poverty that they had seen children starve to death. I wondered about the ones who died young due to preventable diseases because there were no medical facilities or no cures. I wondered for those embedded in places of war and hatred. I wondered for those who wandered through life filled with anxiety and depression.

Now whilst there is of course the longing for the transformation now that I spoke of before, which accompanies our call to discipleship, the resurrection does indicate that beyond the deepest darkness of death there is something more, that somehow our life with God and each other continues.

What that actually means I do not believe any of us can say with any authority for none of us have been there. However, I believe we hear a hope which transcends death in Jesus rising from the dead and in the promise that we have been raised with. We have a hope in the future.

The resurrection is one of those stories from the Bible which is incredibly difficult to believe and understand but as we contemplate it I believe it gives to us signposts of how we should live now as well as hope for the future beyond death. In the midst of a culture who thinks a few chocolates is the “Best Easter Ever”, it is good to be reminded that against the backdrop of the deep suffering we inflict on both others and ourselves God comes in Jesus to take on our old rags and give us to us new ones: hope that it may indeed by on earth as it is in heaven and that having died with him we will also be raised with him.

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