Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Return to the world

What is the message of Easter? We might approach the question with appreciation of the gospels as responses to trauma.

The story of Jesus embodies concerns common to all the Abrahamic religions – ethical concerns – namely, faithfulness to one another, openness to the stranger, including the Holy Stranger (different from me, more than I know).

The crucifixion of Jesus shows the all-too familiar – hostile religion, state-sanctioned violence. There are cries of abandonment, scattered disciples, loss of faith and hope.

The story might easily conclude in bitterness, desires for vengeance or acceptance of tyranny – power as power over others.

The gospel accounts of the risen Christ, however, trace a certain recovery and return to the world – a return to faith after faith, hope after hope (there is grace and hard-won wisdom).

Although the accounts differ – each gospel tells its own story – there is an underlying pattern. Christ is encountered (again, anew) in sharing food, exchanging signs of peace, sensitive and loving touch, tact.

Hospitality is the key – openness to the Holy Stranger as last, little, least.

Easter faith, then, means coming to choose hospitality over hostility (ever a risk), working to amplify hospitable voices, joining with others (confused, traumatised) to practise the art of welcome, nourishment, care.

The message of Easter is thoroughly ethical as well as engaging poetic powers – songs and stories inspiring and inspired. It also means coming to experience the world in strange and wonderful ways. Hence, the various modes and layers of religion.

Just as Christ, in the gospels, returns to the world of gardens and community gatherings, cross-cultural friendships and courage for nonviolent action, we too are re-called – gently, insistently – to a world in need, in pain.

A story in Luke 24 tells of dejected disciples walking away from Jerusalem. They are joined by a stranger with whom they share their deepest concerns. In a village called Emmaus they invite the stranger to stay with them. There, at a table in an inn, as the stranger breaks and shares bread, their eyes are opened to recognise the risen Christ. In that moment, we read, the Holy Stranger disappears.

Once revealed, all is changed. We might even come to understand ourselves as holy strangers, hosts and guests, the body of Christ.

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