In times of stability in our personal and social life there is a sense that the future can be mostly predictable and known. To the extent that we are happy with our lives this leaves us feeling comfortable and assured. We plan, we build, we walk with confidence.
But life has a habit of throwing uncertainty and the unknown into our comfortable lives. Illness, accidents, death of a loved one, unemployment, personal crises, relationship breakdowns can affect us directly. War, storms, drought and social upheaval can affect both us and our community and beyond. Sometimes these events bring out the best in us and others, and sometimes they open up all our weakness and frailties.
There are also those innovators and change agents who invent and deploy disruptive ideas and technologies. We fear such people and their ideas and technologies. Galileo used his telescope to advance the theory that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, which the Roman Catholic Church considered “false and contrary to scripture.” The internal combustion engine, electricity, the telephone, and more lately personal computers and the internet were incredibly disruptive to the existing industries. Similarly democracy, freedom of speech and ideas about equality are disruptive to authoritarian leaders.
In his book The Prince; Niccolo Machiavelli reflected upon the difficulties of change and innovation, saying, ”There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this luke-warmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”
Jesus was an ardent critic of organized religion and a radical voice against poverty and for the marginalised. His vision of the kingdom of God breaking into our lives and disrupting the current social order brought him into direct and dangerous conflict with the religious and civil authorities. Machiavelli could have been talking about the mission of Jesus. His enemies who profited by the old order. His lukewarm defenders, fearful and doubting, unable to truly believe in him until the glory of the resurrection.
During Easter Week we remember the strong love that drove him forward to his death and the stronger love that conquered death. It can be challenging enough to walk with intention into a future that is unknown. But to move with purpose towards a destination that is known, and fearsome requires grace and courage and strong love.
Easter is about strong love. Throughout the Easter season we will be reflecting on the emotional roller-coaster of Jesus’ last week, from the joy of Palm Sunday, through the dread of betrayal and his last supper with his inner circle of followers, to his sense of despair and abandonment by all in his crucifixion on Good Friday and finishing with the hope that springs from the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Whether you are a regular, infrequent or “never” attender at church, I invite you to join us in one or many of these services.
Easter invites us to enter our future not as victims, helpless before our fate, but with intention and discernment, knowing that any path we choose will hold its occasions of dying and rising. Embraced in God’s strong love we can meet those occasions with courage and grace.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister