So, I think I will rather let images do most of the work of this post. I read, with interest, the Presiding Bishop’s Easter message. I have given myself a couple of days to ponder it as I am loathe to string together posts that seem excessively pessimistic!
However, after an absolutely lovely Palm Sunday Mass complete with a stunning chanted Passion, a sermon of substance and depth, prayers replete with the complexities of this day, I began to think about what it is that draws people back to church – back to hear something of the faith and of the salvation promised through Jesus Christ.
Beauty, complexity, drama, struggle, and hope were all found in a liturgy that, as fully as we could manage, sought to give a glimpse of some part of the mysteries of Holy Week. We struggle to give voice to unspoken doubts, to offer a glimpse of undecipherable mystery, to raise our hearts and minds to contemplate the victory of the cross, and to draw all in some way closer to the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.
I am attaching, below, word cloud images of the Easter messages of several different leaders from various Churches and denominations – and an Easter message from the outspoken atheist Ricky Gervais.
The troubling thing about the Presiding Bishop’s Easter message is that it is conspicuous in that it does not mention Jesus Christ or God. It sounds much like a rather vague message about new life in spring – perhaps an ad for seeds, fertilizer, or a non-profit designed to appeal to the vaguely spiritual crowd that follows Oprah’s booklist with devotion. One could read it or a Walt Whitman poem and find similar themes of natural beauty and struggle. I do not see anything about the decisiveness of the Resurrection or the great gift given to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. One does not see God the Father or the Holy Spirit in the word cloud either. In other words, it is an Easter message without the true, great hope that is Easter.
Resurrection is presented as a theme to be found in the world around us rather than as an act of love that upends the very nature of the world.
I am not one who takes delight in speaking ill of the Presiding Bishop or her office – hers is no easy task. But I opened that Easter message looking for hope and news of God’s great gift and found an Easter message that said much about the day of Easter but not about its source, meaning, or Truth. It focused on resurrection as a process (with a small R) rather than as a victory that destroyed death. What I found was a message profound for what it lacked – news of God’s mighty acts in the person of Jesus Christ.