"We planned our Easter services weeks ago. It’s a season we let our creativity run wild. Last year we had a large central communion table with suitcases all around it representing the baggage of our lives which Jesus sets us free from. Then Easter Sunday we built a three-metre-high cross made of suitcases all painted white. All our plans for this Easter were unworkable so we focused on suffering and life.

They seem the stark questions of our people – explain this suffering and what is the life God brings? This pandemic has brought both into sharp relief."
For me, this seems like familiar territory. The same questions and concerns were paramount during the 18 months of Christchurch earthquakes and again last year during the attacks on the Christchurch mosques. In both, we had people from our church die, others injured and many months of painful grief, anxiety and then months and months of slow healing.

We don’t have a handle on such suffering. It handles us. This is where Easter speaks deeply. Jesus’ death on a cross in human history vividly portrays for us the cross at the heart of God—the very nature of God. To quote Jurgen Moltmann, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Michael Gorman, God by very nature is cruciform. As Philippians 2 tells us, Jesus in the form of God, took on the form of humility and suffering. Being obedient to death even death on a cross. I am called to the same path. To offer myself in humility to this suffering. My regular prayer right now is “Lord humble me in this present reality”.  

And I know; Easter tells me this is the path to life. Real life. Eternal life. The life that I am made for. Right now, the people at our church need to see how their suffering, anxiety and fear is ok and God is present in it with them. They need to know in humbling, being one with this present suffering, God’s new life is planted and will flourish deep in their souls. And in identifying with the suffering of others, especially the global poor and sacrificially praying and giving and speaking up for the poor, they are joined with the very heartbeat of God.

Early signs suggest NZ is starting to control the spread of this virus. World-wide the indications are looking far worse. While the virus infects princesses and prime ministers, the powerful and the poor alike; the full impact of this crisis again falls more heavily on the poor, the marginalised, and those scraping together a living. In many countries, the poor are badly affected as work dries up, money runs out and food prices at the markets soar.

Cramped living conditions allows the virus to move freely, infecting many who have no chance of being admitted to a hospital. These are the people God also sees and God’s heart is broken for. In our solidarity with Jesus at Easter, we are invited into a solidarity for God’s heart for the world and we are transformed—becoming more like Christ.

 
Tama tu, tama ora, Tama noho, tama mate,
Kia kaha e hoa ma!
Don't be discouraged, give it heaps my friends!