Thursday, 1 April 2010

Easter Message

I wonder how many times you have heard the words ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen – we are risen, Alleluia!’ And while it may be too much to say that familiarity breeds contempt, nonetheless, those of us brought up in the Christian tradition tend to know these words so well that we are anaesthetised to their true force. We have got used to the idea that God did the impossible: a dead man was not merely resuscitated, to grow old and die again, but resurrected to the new life of heaven, of eternity – with the implication that though all of us must pass through death, death does not have the victorious final word. No, life can triumph over death, and if we put our hand in the hand of the living God, we can begin to experience what such triumph means, even this side of the grave.

This year, the enormity of the claims of Easter have struck me in a deeper way. In early March I spent five days in Haiti, almost overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy brought about by January’s earthquake. I encountered death and destruction that was almost impossible to grasp, even though it was before my very eyes. I cannot describe my emotions, seeing bodies trapped in buildings from which it was too dangerous to move them, feeling my nostrils fill with the stench of rotting flesh.

My purpose was to offer support to the Anglican Bishop and his people. Yet I found myself learning from their faith in the midst of such heartbreak. One afternoon Bishop Duracin showed us his lovely home, totally collapsed with all his possessions destroyed, and his car flattened. ‘It is gone, all gone’ he said. He wept, and I wept too, as he showed where his wife had been trapped (she was later flown to Florida for medical treatment and for weeks he was denied a visa to visit her). Then this brave man pointed to all he had lost and said ‘We still have to sing alleluia, for in the midst of this, Christ is risen.’

The Bishop, his clergy, his people, are proclaiming alleluia in they way they live now. They weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn, even as they preach that their dead are now safe in the eternally loving arms of God. And they act so that new life can begin now for those who are left. Church hospitals are again up and running – in massive marquees. New homes for the disabled have been found. Schools are operating in the tent cities. The church, feeling strengthened by God and his love, offers a purpose and direction that the government is failing to provide. This is what it means to be an Easter people – proclaiming life in word and deed, even in the face of death.

I find myself challenged by the Christians of Haiti, to consider whether I have become complacent in the midst of poverty, illness and death, crime, corruption, all that is destructive to our nations and their people. Do I, do we, have the courage to join them in being those who, no matter what difficulty we face, still proclaim in word and deed ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen – we are risen, Alleluia’?

I pray so, as I wish you all a blessed Easter.

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