Hope in the midst of crisis

We know how this season works, whether we are people of faith, or not.

Despite the clumsy marketing of some supermarkets immediately after Christmas, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs usually appear in late February, so we know that Easter is near.

Despite the irony of buns and chocolate, the Christian church has traditionally marked the weeks before Easter with the challenges of discipline and occasionally abstinence, preparing for the event which is the coherent crux of belief in Jesus Christ.

Many of us – people of faith, some faith and none – have danced this dance before, with worship attendance significantly larger than usual over the Easter weekend. For those of us who honour faithfulness and sacrifice, Anzac Day often follows on, sometimes within days.

Easter is about community, acknowledging with thankfulness a priceless sacrifice, the solidarity of Jesus with the brokenness of every human being, and the affirmation that love is stronger than death.

But this year, the dance is entirely different, and many may feel that we will dance alone.

We know, despite their depredations, how to manage natural disasters when they come. The chaos of the fire season, ravaging the drought-scorched landscape, drew us even closer as community. We carried people in our arms and our prayers, gathered on beaches, in surf clubs, and lounge rooms - together. Our fear was lessened because our shoulders bumped old and new friends as we faced the crisis.

This season we wait, in our individual spaces, zooming and texting and tweeting, quarantined from a virus and each other, wondering how to share communion, or play two-up, with no one standing, or laughing, or weeping, or singing, next to us.

This year, sanctuaries across the planet which are usually replete with music and colour and celebration will sit silent over the Easter weekend. In this season of disorder, our community will try to find its steps.

Churches and families have already begun to adapt, with a plethora of choice in worship and theology sweeping across the net, matched only by the marketing of businesses as chaos confronts the world they know. As in everything, some are acts of creativity and faithfulness; some, of course, are not.

 

However, a zoomed event is not the same as shaking the hand of a friend, or leaning on their shoulder. Sharing a meal, blessing a marriage, weeping at a graveside, blowing out birthday candles are inherent to the weave of all our lives.

People in our community are wary of their quarantine, as mental health concerns become more tangible. For some, home is not the sanctuary everyone deserves; violence and abuse can be appalling visitors when uncertainty and fear meet loneliness and isolation.

How will we care? How will our compassion be realised for those around us? Incidental conversations need now to be more deliberate, as we attend to those who might not call our attention to their need – small, or not so small.

Easter is more than what happened in Jerusalem two millennia ago. It is more than a story of empire and sacrifice, betrayal and suffering. It declares far more than a promise of life wrested from the silent injustice of death.

Easter is hope. This is not the trivialised “hope” for a parking space, or that it rains tomorrow. This is the hope which looks at what Jesus proclaimed in his life, in his death, and when he was raised again to life.

How Jesus invites (calls!) us to live – loving our neighbour, our enemies, even ourselves – is made tangible in his suffering and death at the hands of his neighbours and those who feared and hated him.

Jesus is the one who understands the fear of suffering, the grief of isolation, the pain of unjust violence. Jesus is the one who seeks forgiveness for those who harm him. 

Hope resides here.

Those who follow Jesus Christ place their hope in all our suffering being met on the cross with Jesus; when Jesus was raised to life, death was no longer the most powerful word.

Love is.

So, this Easter, we will care for each other, sing our songs, eat our chocolate eggs and call the spinner in by zoom.

We will declare our hope that this story of separation is not our complete story, and will end. We will assert our need for community and justice and life.

We will dance, now and in the days to come.

Rev. Simon Hansford, Moderator of the Synod of NSW and ACT