So. I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a really insightful and brilliant (obviously) take on love. It’s a simple, clean message – God is love – that we’ve used in the church for years. It’s kind of wonderful. I can hold it gently in the palm of my hand, a small weight of reassurance against the worries of being alive. And that’s why it’s not good enough.
We’re at the point in the Easter lectionary where we start to consider what comes next. We move away from simple joy and wonder of Christ’s resurrection to the consideration of what it means for those who follow Jesus. What it really might mean to be an Easter people, because it’s not about simple belief in the resurrection, it’s about letting that resurrection change your life.
Giles Fraser, in his insightful writing on Easter in the Guardian, relates that the message of Christianity is that “losers can discover something about themselves that winners cannot ever appreciate – that they are loved and wanted simply because of who they are and not because of what they achieve”.
A little bell went off in my head when I read this for the eighty-seventh time. And it was about Mary Magdalene. Mary went to the tomb to care for Jesus not because of his divinity, not because of his resurrection – but because she was committed to following Jesus and his message of compassion.
I am the vine, you are the branches. So, if I am to live into Easter, I must acknowledge my own resurrection. It means that I must go back to the broken places of my life, like Mary Magdalene did when she went back the tomb, and try to do good. Even when I’m not sure I can roll away the stone. Even when I’m not sure it’s safe. Resurrection doesn’t mean seeing God’s love in action in the world, it means being God’s love in action in the world.
On May 31st, Christ Church Cathedral’s morning congregation will join with many downtown churches in a prayer service and blanket exercise to commemorate the submission of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That day also will kick off the #22Days project, where Anglican Primate Fred Hiltz has called our national church to 22 days of prayer for reconciliation.
That report is going to make hard reading for many faithful Anglicans. The truth hurts, and the truth is that we twisted our faith into something genocidal. When I attended the TRC events in Vancouver, I found myself absolutely voiceless, and in tears. I didn’t know how to return to where God had given me responsibility, and be a force for change. But, as someone wisely said to me, “if you change yourself, you can change the situation around you – because you are part of the situation around you”. I want to use my 22 days to consider how I can prune my own prejudices to be even more fresh, green growth.
To me, the challenge of this week’s Gospel is that we are being asked by Christ to take on the job of unconditionally loving the whole world. It’s what we call discipleship.
He wants our faith to be fruitful. We’re told that God will help us – he will take us on as instruments of his love. But we have to want to put in the work. We need to forgive others and ourselves. We have to come back again and again to be fed by the Eucharist. We need to hold together in community.
We cannot be an Easter people without living the resurrection in our own lives. So I invite you be like Mary and go back to the tombs of your own lives. May you meet that gardener who works that early morning shift.