“It doesn’t make any sense!” the elderly woman said to her visitor. “That daffodil has reseeded itself in the concrete! And it’s changed colour and its now a double daffodil. I can’t explain how it has happened but somehow it has. See for yourself.” She took the visitor to the back door and showed her the rare double bloom poking out of the crazy paving.
The created world is full of impossibilities, to stimulate our sense of wonder and make us awestruck in astonishment. So Easter is not so detached from the rest of our existence; it is part and parcel of wondrous living. New life emerges from impossible situations, new light penetrates the darkest of places, new joy penetrates tear-filled eyes, new hope penetrates the shadows of tragedy and despair. We all know this happens, defying logic and belief.
We will never know or be able to understand what happened to those Easter disciples. Somehow their trauma was turned to triumph; somehow their heartbreak was transformed into rejoicing. Nothing will be able to be proved by argument or reason.
The earliest testimonies to Easter come to us not from the first eye-witnesses but from Paul’s correspondence to the Christians in Corinth. Paul’s claim is that Jesus, risen and glorified, stopped him in his tracks, transforming him from persecutor to preacher, from anger to love. Paul’s eyes had been opened to a new world in which death, hatred, evil, and all that destroys fruitful living had been overwhelmed by an incredible explosion of divine vitality, through the cross and the new life of Jesus Christ. Paul’s world was a new world. His priorities had been turned upside down. His life had been given back to him and it was now unrecognisable.
Paul describes it in terms of a new beginning for the whole of creation. Humanity, Adam, was being offered a new garden world and a new miraculous seed had come to flower, enabling life to blossom once more as it had always been meant to flower.
Believing and living this nonsense has been the joyful pilgrimage of Christians ever since. But can we live it in our own time and age? Can we take that leap of foolish faith which still enables us to believe in hope within a brutal world? Paul would have called it waging war on the principalities and powers of this world. That’s not our language. Our language may be less confrontational but there is no doubt we have a message which is a nonsense to people in any generation. In the end it will not be our language which will be the most persuasive factor, it will be our passion and perseverance, it will be the conviction of our living and our serving.
Jesus showed us pictures of Easter during his ministry, for his whole life was a celebration of the victory of the Kingdom of God. Easter is seen when foreigners stop on dangerous roads to help wounded travellers; Easter is proclaimed when shepherds go extra miles to find lost sheep and when estranged people come to realise that God is loving and forgiving rather than oppressive and angry. Easter is witnessed when a host or hostess offer an open invitation to their supper club, making no charge and asking for nothing in return. Easter rules when the mentally disturbed are embraced and homeless are provided with shelter.
That is why this “nonsense” has persisted for two thousand years. God’s transforming power is seen in the world because Jesus’ followers are still around. We draw on his risen power to proclaim and live the good news in the toughest of situations. If people say it is nonsense, an absurdity, we can agree … and go on living it.
With love and prayers
Russell J Furley-Smith