From Glynn Cardy
Minister of Religion at The Community of Saint Luke
Past: Diocese of AUCKLAND and Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia
This week, hoping for the best but expecting less, I await the church leaders’ published statement on the meaning of Easter.
Their task is not an easy one mind you. They are trying to explain the meaning of a death and life so wrapped up by the nuances of past controversies, and so overlaid with religious language, that its articulation is meaningless to most.
Each year I suspect these leaders draw lots, and one drafter drafts, and then others attach their imprimatur.
And each year, pretty much, we are told that God (who is invariably male) sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross and rise again, in order that our sins are forgiven and we can live eternally.
Which I suppose is good news if you want to live eternally. Which I don’t. And is good news if you are feeling unforgiven and need this male risen sort of God to forgive you. Which I don’t. It’s been a long time since words of sinning and saving made much sense to me.
But my main problem with packaging Easter in this language is that it doesn’t seem to take seriously our experiences of darkness and light, of suffering and joy, of probable endings and improbable beginnings.
If one of the drafters one year just told a story about some of that probable and improbable stuff, without any in-house religious language, we might hear the message that Easter as a metaphor of hope that breaks free of the constraints that religion tries to keep it in.
They might not be PG rated but there are lots of stories about darkness and despair. The pain of an ongoing bad Friday hangs over so many people’s lives. There is loss, worry, physical and mental pain. There is violence. There is betrayal. There is fear that drains the soul. There is not having enough, not seeing any way to get more, and feeling hope sink further with each new bill, demand, or child’s cry.
Religious leaders know about some of this. Ministers, if they make themselves accessible (as most do), are among the few who you can call on at any time, with any need, for no fee or obligation. Ministers aren’t there to primarily serve their church members. They are there for the estranged.
Mind you to be called on ministers have to be known and trusted. Trusted to listen, and not to judge. Trusted with an other’s pain. Which is no small thing.
The problem with these stories of hardship, loss, and pain, is that they don’t often have happy endings. Well, not ones easy to see anyway. Dead people don’t come back to life. Wounded people might heal, but scars and limps remain. Fractures in families and communities can last generations, even after any warring stops. Occasionally the prodigals come home, the parents do forgive, the other siblings are understanding, and with all their pain and history they try to make it work. Occasionally.
Hope can be a fickle thing. One day blossoming, the next wilting. One day a kind word spoken, the next silence. One day a neighbour cares, the next gloom returns. The hard truth is if we expect a saviour to knock on our door, we are often disappointed.
But hope can also be something that we make and create. Against the odds. If we risk it. We can be the one who smiles when we feel like we have nothing to smile about. We can be the one who shares when we feel we have so little to share. We can be the one who notices the wind in the trees, the children playing, and give thanks for life, even though our own feels mangled, muddy, and often a sad mess.
And for those of us whose lives are only occasionally a mess, for whom light is more common than dark, the recipe for hope is similar. Bring what you can. Share what you can. Smile when you can. Listen and not judge, often and often and often. Build neighbourliness. Look out for the estranged. Make hope, inspire hope, become hope.
And together, in spite of all that has gone before, without ignoring the pain and hardship, we can connect with each other as family, neighbours, community, and together we can become that hope which Christians call Easter.
(Photo: Simon Bentley. The church is St Michael’s Leafield, where I once ministered).
“Make hope, inspire hope, become hope” Sometimes we do feel that what we bring is not enough.
Thanks for your inspirational message