In Katharine Jefferts Schori’s Easter missive, the message of Jesus’ Resurrection is like the seed scattered among the thorns: it is choked by weeds – green weeds.
In reading her Easter guide to spring planting, I remain uncertain as to whether or not the gardener is Jesus. I note the lack of a capital “G”. He himself is planted and then spring[s] up green, so my abiding suspicion is that this is nothing other than a roundabout way of encouraging churches to enhance their electrical plant by installing more rooftop solar panels.
Meaning does occasionally struggle defiantly to raise its head in this epistle, but it is ruthlessly suppressed by the keen mind of the Presiding Bishop.
You can read the whole panegyric to Easter shrubbery here:
She peers in once more – who are these, so bold appearing? “Fear not, woman… why do you weep?” She turns away and meets another, who says the same – why do you weep, who are you looking for? This gardener has himself been planted and now springs up green and vibrant, still rising into greater life. He challenges her to go and share that rising, great news of green and life, with those who have fled.
Still rising, still seeking union with Creator, making tender offering to beloved friends – briefly I am with you, I am on my way. Go and you will find me if you look.
The risen one still offers life to those who will look for evidence of his gardening – hope, friendship, healing, reunion, restoration – to all who have been uprooted, cut off, to those who are parched and withered, to those who lie wasting in the desert. Why do we weep or run away when that promise abides?
We can find that green one, still rising, if we will go stand with the grieving Marys of this world, if we will draw out the terrified who have retreated to their holes, if we will walk the Emmaus road with the lost and confused, if we will search out the hungry in the neighborhood called Galilee. We will find him already there before us, bringing new and verdant life. The only place we will not find him is in the tomb.
It’s all about politics, apparently: “oppressive political regimes, torture, capital punishment, non-violent political action, and martyrdom.”
The church where I served as student minister has a number of very large stained glass windows: Christ with the children, the women at the empty tomb, and a rather lurid depiction of Christ on the cross, featuring a great deal of purple and agony. My son was three years old while we were at this particular parish and, of course, he loved that crucifixion. As a result, we (or rather, my husband and son, as I was generally otherwise occupied at church) talked quite a lot about Christ’s death, conversations that naturally (for my husband and son, at least) became conversations about oppressive political regimes, torture, capital punishment, non-violent political action, and martyrdom. Holy Week is not for the faint of heart.
According to the Rev. Rhonda Waters, the “good news of God’s Kingdom” is not that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, suffered the wrath of God on our behalf, reconciled us to God the Father and ensured that we would live with him in eternity. No, that is far too trite; instead Easter invites us to confront the really profound truths that the “world is a deeply loved and loveable place”. Non-transcendent Christianity at its finest:
Jesus still taught the radical good news of God’s Kingdom because the world is not a hopeless place. In fact, the world is a deeply loved and loveable place, and Holy Week invites us to confront the depth of both of these truths.
As is so often the case with vapid Christianity, the pageantry is the only part that remains intact – even the Resurrection, although I suspect it signifies something different to the author:
As Christians, we need to experience Holy Week in its fullness—and we should include our children in that journey. By participating in Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and finally the Feast of the Resurrection on Sunday morning.
Although Jesus’ death was at the hands of the Romans, the instigators were the religious authorities of the day – an unpalatable truth for Waters, probably because, given the opportunity, the religious establishment would do it again. So the villain was empire building:
empire will go to horrifying lengths to preserve itself
Primate Fred Hiltz delivered his Easter message on video. You can watch it all here (I’m sure he would be grateful: it only has 52 hits thus far). Most of it is maudlin Residential School hand-wringing delivered in a lugubrious monotone. This next clip I found interesting, though:
Holy Week is “all about reconciliation”, of course but not primarily reconciliation with one another: it is firstly and most importantly about reconciliation with God under whose wrath we justly find ourselves until delivered by the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
In the Anglican All You Need is Love Church of Canada, God’s wrath, our sin, our deserving of punishment, our inability to “do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us” have all been buried in the bog of sentimental liberal theological mush that has been oozing into the denomination for decades.
Easter, as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus– and let’s be clear, I mean the historical fact of his bodily resurrection – brings the hope of life everlasting to all who believe in his atoning sacrifice and rising again.
This year was bitter-sweet: not a sour disagreeable bitterness, but a tinge of sadness that, by being starkly opposed to the trite cheerfulness that so often accompanies the celebration of a holiday, made the hope shine more brightly.
Our first Easter service was at Coronation Park at 6:00 a.m. – a time of day that feels like the middle of the night to me. The exquisite sunrise made it seem a little less like the middle of the night and brightened the sadness of missing an old dear friend who no longer attends the sunrise service because he forgets to come – he has Alzheimer’s disease.
After the sunrise service and a quick trip home to splash cold water on my face, my wife and I set off to church for an Easter breakfast; we left early because my wife, an accomplished organiser, had to be there first to – organise. After eating too many just-baked croissants, I wandered into the sanctuary to tune my guitar and check the sound levels; as I looked around the familiar sanctuary and inhaled the unique aroma of cedar and carpet mould, I remembered that this would be the last celebration of Easter in our building. The negotiated settlement with the Diocese of Niagara means we will relinquish the building to them in June. In spite – or perhaps because – of this, the worship during the service was particularly moving.
Once the main Easter service was finished, a few of us drove to a local youth prison for a monthly chapel service: I supply the musical part of the worship. We have been conducting this service for over 20 years and, during that time, have had the pleasure of trying to sing above a row of Satanists chanting curses, ducking to avoid hurled projectiles, studied indifference and the occasional intervening of the piercing light of God’s grace. This time it was in the form of a young man who asked us to pray for him after the service. He was clutching a Bible and told us he was getting out soon and was looking forward to the birth of his new baby. I don’t know how old he was – he looked about 15. While we prayed, I tried not to think “he doesn’t stand a chance” – because, with God’s grace, he does. And the one thing in his favour was that, like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, he knew he was a sinner.
It’s always a relief to exit the prison and feel the cool air. It’s too hot in there: I keep thinking that it’s because the flames of hell are licking at the foundations. Arriving home, all I really wanted to do was lie on the bed, but the house was filling up with people for Easter dinner. After a few massive hugs from my grandchildren, I revived somewhat, settled down to eat, drink, be merry and regale my son with all that “has been happening at church”. He was especially interested in this photo.
A blessed Easter to all.
To celebrate Easter, Father Phil Ritchie recommends staying in bed, eating chocolate and copulating – because going to church isn’t “cool and funky”; whether this has to be done simultaneously is unclear.
I must have missed something: that’s what I used to do before I was a Christian. I am completely indifferent to the “funkiness” of Christianity and its institutions: what I care about is whether it is true or not. If it is, no other reason for attending church is needed; if it isn’t, no amount of “funkiness” could persuade me to attend.
To be fair to Father Phil, this does have one redeeming feature: if at some point I need a self-caricaturing vicar to illustrate how the Church of England submersed itself beneath a morass of trendy irrelevance, I need look no further.
This could be one religious commandment that a congregation might find very easy to follow.
Father Phil Ritchie from All Saints Church in Hove, East Sussex, has said Easter Sunday is the perfect time for staying in bed, eating chocolate and having sex.
The vicar gave the alternative suggestion for a way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ after admitting that church just isn’t ‘cool and funky’.
Father Ritchie said: ‘The problem with the church is that we stay inside our building and occasionally come out and say “Why don’t you come to our church, it’s cool and funky”.
‘To be honest, it’s not.
‘I would love more people to come at 10am on Sunday and I would welcome them to All Saints.
‘For Christians this is the most important day of the year.All life and all hope flows from it.
‘But there are plenty of ways to celebrate without coming to a draughty Victorian building. So why not stay at home, have a lie in, have sex and eat some chocolate.’