I have been invited to contribute some thoughts for the Easter season, on behalf of the Board of Anglican Financial Care. The first thing that came to mind is that our members and customers are a mixed bunch. Some lay, some ordained, some Anglican, some from other denominations, and some affiliated with the Christian message via their workplaces or their connection with how we work. We’re also spread across Aotearoa, New Zealand, and the Pacific. It’s unlikely that Easter will mean the same to even some of us, let alone all of us.
Lent, the 6 weeks leading up to Easter, has sometimes been a time to fast or give up something. I found the words of Pope Francis entitled “Do you want to fast this Lent?” to be a refreshing approach. They’re easy to find online if you haven’t come across them. My takeaway was rather than focussing on negative thoughts and actions, we can choose to focus on positive thoughts and behaviours, somewhat like Phil. 4:8-9.
What does this look like in practice when we are surrounded by challenges? The wider church, faith, and community context is quite different this year to others. Many of us are somewhat over the impact of Covid-19 on our lives, even while being grateful we live where we do. Our Christian Church leaders have just had their annual meeting with the Prime Minister and focussed on Welfare, Income, and Wellbeing; Covid-19 and Vaccinations; and Housing. The issues they raised are what some term “wicked problems” i.e. thorny, complex, seemingly intractable realities. And faith communities are in the process of reporting to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. We, collectively, are having to account for our past transgressions. These are just a few of the many issues on our radar as Christians.
The community of Mangere that I live in is diverse, complex, exciting, young, challenged, and challenging. The media usually choose to portray the challenges rather than the strengths, talents, and opportunities that exist in abundance. As I write this, I am looking at a stunning, multi-coloured sunrise. It could mean rain if you believe the shepherds. And it could mean the sky was painted with such beauty to remind us that, in the words of the poem Desiderata “with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
As Christians we are all called, whether lay or ordained, to share God’s love with others. Sometimes the “sham, drudgery and broken dreams” can feel overwhelming. And that’s where the hope of Easter comes in for me. Easter reminds me that there is always the possibility of a new beginning. God is available to me in my life just as God was experienced by Jesus’ first followers, both before and after his death. The forces that killed Jesus, were unable to stop the ongoing experience of God in our lives that we name resurrection.
So, amidst the busy Easter services for some, the last of the summer holidays for others, the pastoral challenges you may face, the Easter eggs, and the Easter sales, I wish you an encounter with the God of resurrection; an encounter that surprises you, maybe startles you, refreshes you, and then excites you with the possibilities of new life.
Deputy Chair, Anglican Financial Care