FROM THE MANSE
FROM THE MANSE
At the heart of the Christian faith lies Easter.
It is a story about life and death, and how we deal with them. Most of us choose to live our life in ways that make us happy. We may be happy and fulfilled through our work, our family, our friendships, and we grab the good things of life and live for those moments. We try not to think about death and avoid talking about it at all costs. Maybe that is because we are fearful of death, worried about whether it will be painful and drawn out, or quick and sudden as though we never saw it coming.
The beginning of the Easter story as we know it, starts with a celebration. A parade weaving its way through the streets of Jerusalem, as Jesus enters riding on a donkey, and his followers come out in force to welcome him, by waving palm branches and singing praises to God. There is a sense of real optimism about this little Parade. Which is why we often focus on this as part of our celebrations around Easter. In some countries huge celebrations take place on Palm Sunday, and life is portrayed as being something good, and wonderful and joyful. And we all want to believe that life is like that, and that God is like that, and so the church must be about that.
On Easter Sunday morning, when the news breaks that Jesus is alive, the incredulity, the astonishment and the wonder of those first disciples are interpreted as being about life in all its fullness. Even though they have not understood what has happened, nor are they able to fully explain what has just happened, all they can do is be positive in the sense that something good has happened, and that against all the odds Jesus has defeated death in some way. So our hymns and worship celebrate life on Easter Sunday, and they make a promise that we too will defeat death.
Yet hold your horses.
We have gone quickly fromcelebration about life on Palm Sunday to another celebration of life on Easter Sunday, and we have simply papered over the events of Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
The brutal crucifixion is rarely mentioned, or it becomes a sanitised, clinical part of the story. Being laid in a borrowed tomb, and the darkness that overshadowed the people of God, and the sense of loss and grief that his followers felt and experienced is washed away by stories of personal encounters with the risen Jesus, as though the death does not matter.
Yet, this death does matter, because it is God himself people have put to death on Good Friday. Death does matter, because it is something that we will one day experience. Death does matter, because it is a natural part of being human, and we want to know what will happen to us when we are gone. So, it makes no point to ignore death, and to turn our backs on it, but we should embrace it, and face it, and try to make sense out of it, as we have all had to do in the face of loss of our partners, friends or family.
Easter more than anything else, raises the question about what Jesus death means for us. Which is why we cannot ignore it. His death reminds us of our own vulnerability, but it also speaks to us of the love and grace of God, who himself decided to lay down his life for our sake, that we might know that God has a plan for us in death and that we should not be afraid of it, but to accept it as part of who we are. Ignoring it, does not mean it will go away, but embracing it, and accepting it, helps us to understand that God is there with us, and that with him our fears can be diminished, our pain and loneliness eased, and life can be something to embrace and accept, knowing that whether we live or whether we die, we genuinely belong to God.
There is good news in life and in death!
Have a Happy Easter