At Easter time Christians remember and re-enact our constructed narrative concerning the death of our leader, Jesus, and the death of his movement; and then the coming back to life of that movement, and Jesus’ spirit living on within it. We re-enact this over several days.
This year the context of Easter is very different from anything we’ve known in the last 60 years. A virus, its virulent and reproductive powers, and our corporate care of each other, is keeping us apart, locked down. Such isolation, particularly when there is anxiety in the air and rising international fatalities, is hard on people. And would have been much harder in times past when telephones and internet fibre and other mysteries didn’t exist.
But we are, at least in this land, receiving good leadership (from both the government and opposition), being both caring and careful of each other, are encouraging and supportive of our essential workers, and are resolved to seeing our strategy of isolation through. I think we can feel very proud of our country and each other for our response so far.
There is a Hebrew phrase ‘tikkun olam’ (תיקון עולם). Literally it means to repair the world. Social activists and those of a liberal persuasion use it to refer to acts of repair by human beings – so acts of social responsibility, kindness, and justice-making. Their focus is on fixing, not undoing, the world as we know it.
Mystics and those of a more orthodox persuasion use it to refer to overcoming all forms of idolatry – so all that human beings have prioritized for our own gain, our own aggrandizement, at the expense of the earth, at the expense of the loving relationality of all things.
Both interpretations of tikkun olam place the responsibility for action on us. Neither is asking an objective reality God to intervene to fix the mess.
Repairing and restoring are words that turn the notion of ‘resurrection’ into something that we do. We repair the tears in the fabric of our relationality, in the fabric of our planet. It is a work of prayer and a work of action.
It is also a work of re-visioning. Before we begin trying to sew the pieces of the different fabrics together we need to see what we are doing; we need to know the extent of the tear; and the nature (the material) what we are trying to bring together.
In that vein, similar to the reading by Hsiao-Wen, Kate Wood, an American woman who has the virus, invites us to think deeply about this moment in our human history:
“This is a pivotal moment. It’s not a world war, where we would still have ‘sides’, it is a whole world experience. My prayer/hope, on my personal day 5, is that we might come through this with a new respect for the planet and for one another as a global family, bringing about a new balance. That we might begin to work with nature. That we might beging to give as much as we take, globally, country to country and person to person. That we might begin to prioritize real time with our loved ones, to turn inwards towards our elderly, our children, our communities.
The speed of our lives, the demand we had put on the planet, ourselves, one another. It wasn’t sustainable was it? And it’s time to grieve it. To acknowledge the landslide. Our collective and individual mistakes. Where we went so utterly and completely wrong.
Perhaps before the reinventing of our small businesses, collating materials to relaunch, perhaps even before we rush into rescuing, slow down. Stop. Be bewildered. Feel the fear, the grief. Be empty.
Are we going to survive this? We don’t know yet. That uncertainty makes us transparent to one another. We are all emotionally naked now and are embarking upon the most unprecedented voyage of several generations, together. One people, trying to simply breathe.”
On most Easter Sundays we bring together food, symbols, and metaphors – all with ancient origins. There are eggs and bunnies, there is an empty cross and an empty tomb, and there are theologies of resurrection, atonement, and transformation. Most of it doesn’t much sense now, if it ever did. But it’s glorious, and it’s fun. And we need music. We need festive occasions.
But there is one ritual that we do every Easter, and indeed in what some call ‘little Easters’ throughout the year: we share/participate in communion together. Today we, like other churches, will have an Easter communion. We will take a piece of food and a cup of drink (post-match analysts can later write theses on what food and drink is the right or wrong food and drink). We will bless the food and drink – or, as my theology would express it – acknowledge that it is already blessed and is blessing us! And, like our forebears down through the centuries we will remember.
We will remember times when we suffered, when people died, when there seemed to be nothing we could do to prevent it, when we were in bondage to forces beyond our control, and when we were frightened.
We will remember in those times that we cried out for help to God, to anyone, and a heavy silence spoke back.
We will remember times of Golgothic despair.
But we will also remember the times when help did come, not from on high but from beside. We will remember the times when a simple word of encouragement made a difference; when a simple act of kindness lifted us; when a bear in a window told us we were not alone and never were.
We will remember the times we laughed together, ate together, baked together, wore silly hats and sillier smiles… all bearing the simple and powerful message: death will not defeat us. Not now, not ever. Our togetherness, our aroha for each other, our will to live life lovingly and meaningfully, is more powerful than fear, despair, and suffering.
We will remember, we will re-enact, and we will re-commit to our deeply held belief that we will overcome.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor powers seen or unseen, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in the entire universe, will be able to separate us (tear us) from the movement of love (that we call God) in which participate and in which we are held together.
This is our faith. This is the expression of our courage. This is what we sing today. This is what we take, break, bless, and share today. This is Easter. This is what the ancient code meant when it said: ‘Christ is risen’; and what our ancestors and we mean when we respond: ‘Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!’