Opinion

Choose life: A very blessed and happy Easter

Easter is the ultimate celebration of life, with resurrection the intended destiny of rich and poor alike

The good news of Easter is not simply about an event that happened 2000 years ago, it is the re-writing of history's narrative in which death is not the final word: life and its celebration are.

PHOTO: Icon of the Crucifixion, by Margaret Harper

By George Browning

April 13 2017 

The media feeds us on a diet of rather depressing news. Indeed, it appears not to be news unless it is depressing!  Weather events, climate change, terrorism, the shenanigans of the White House,  Mosul and Aleppo, drug-taking, paedophilia in the Church, the exploits of politicians and the housing crisis – is there any good news? Is good news too good to be true – is it fake news?  

It can be argued that the Church and Christianity are in part responsible for fake news in the Western world.  Apparently more than 40% of Americans believe God created humans less than 10,000 years ago.  If 40% of Americans can challenge evidence-driven science on something so basic, then space is created for "alternative facts" in any dimension of life.

Many of the assertions of the President of the US are clearly false, and yet remain seemingly acceptable to a vast number of citizens because he is allowed to claim what most would consider reliable facts, to be fake. If a culture is developed in which opinions or assertions have the same value as facts, then anybody’s opinion is worthy of trust and subsequently of great disappointment.

So what of Easter; is it a myth concocted by a small band of disaffected men and women at the commencement of the modern era?

Space does not permit an examination of the many explorations of the evidence, of which there is plenty: the most compelling of which being the extraordinary power to transform, this belief demonstrated in the lives of the early disciples. However, I would like to take a dive into "so what"?

One indisputable fact of life is its ending – death.  An increasing number of people are fortunate enough to escape its arrival for four score years and more, but arrive it will.  Because death is inevitable, we human beings live in a transitory world coloured by death’s expectation.  We accumulate resources as if "our life depended upon it".  We value that which is useful to us, often to the exclusion of others, then throw it away. We viciously compete for the domination of our ideas, our race, our religion - even to the extent that we will go to war in the hope of gaining an advantage for the miserably short span of time we are here. We are victims of the "tragedy of the commons": we will use, and if necessary trample, on that which is common to us all, for fear that if we do not then someone will get there in front of us.

These are traits with which we and all who have preceded us on the planet are tragically familiar.

But what if death is not the final word, what if it has been replaced with resurrection? This is not a thought redolent only with hope for the future (pie in the sky when we die), but a reality to transform the present. Resurrection teaches us that material and spiritual are intertwined with a shared destiny. Resurrection says that nothing of value is ever lost. Within the providence of God, everything matters, every human life matters, but so does every plant, the earth itself, the air and the sea, indeed anything that we can conceive matters.

Easter is the ultimate celebration of life. Easter should make the thought of violent action impossible to conceive, for violence denies to another human or another part of creation the flourishing that is their destiny.

Easter makes aggressive competition unseemly, for resurrection is life’s intended destiny for rich and poor alike; indeed, claiming space for oneself that is denied to others diminishes the prospect of this destiny. We cannot strive for a greater prize than what is already on offer – resurrection. It is the same prize for all.

Jesus is resurrection’s first fruit and resurrection is shared life. To be united with all living through Him is to be truly alive; to be separated, like a pruned branch, is to die. Resurrection denies all duality.

The good news of Easter is not simply about an event 2000 years ago, it is the re-writing of history’s narrative in which death is not the final word: life and its celebration are. The Deuteronomic writer anticipated this Easter message when he declared "choose life". This choosing must occur in matters large and small many times every day. To be generous, forgiving and hospitable is to choose life. To consider how one might add to the life of another is to multiply life.

To go to war is to deny life.

To take advantage of another is to despoil life.

To avoid responsibilities for the common good is to be dazzled with fool’s gold whilst surrounded with abundance.

To choose life is to love God with heart, mind and spirit and to love one's neighbour as oneself.

A very Happy and Blessed Easter.

 

Dr George Browning is the former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn. This is a slightly edited version of an article he wrote for his blog on 11 April 2017. See http://www.georgebrowning.com.au