Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Easter is ultimately a celebration of life.
It is the day we remember Christ's resurrection from the dead. But it is also a day to remember that that resurrection gave new life to us all - and by all I don't mean a narrow group of Christians who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but the whole of Creation.
The symbols of Easter remind us of this new life. We don't eat chocolate bunnies just because they look cute. They are a reminder of new life. We don't eat chocolate eggs just because they're a good shape and can be wrapped in foil. They are also a symbol of new life. And while we may miss it in
even the time of Easter is a symbol of new life. Spring is a time when nature
is coming to life again - the flowers are blooming, animal babies are being
born. Spring is a time of renewal.
So Easter should be a time to celebrate life - by recognising the beauty and wonder of the life we see around us. It should also be a time to reflect that this world we see is not just the loving Creation of the God we remember on Easter, but the world he came to save - the world he loves and cares for and the world he will renew. Easter is not just about humans.
Yet how can we celebrate life today when we fail to protect that life at other times. How can we worship a God who brings new life on Easter and yet turn our backs to the destruction of life throughout the rest of the year.
I've heard critical comments from Christians about Christmas and Easter Christians, those people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. Yet if we embrace the message of new life on Easter and ignore that message for the rest of the year, aren't we also, in some way, Easter Christians? We give life a nodding acknowledgement as we go to church or open our chocolate bunnies and eggs and fail to really think about what a celebration of new life should mean or reflect it in our daily lives.
Life is the diversity of species on this planet. Life is a healthy atmosphere. Life is the conditions that exist on earth to help all life on earth flourish. Life is the wondrous places that exist on this earth.
Life is the animals in our factories, the species that are going extinct, the climate that we are altering.
Life is every single person who lives on this planet - all the people who are struggling, the people who are starving and the people who will lose their homes or their livelihood to climate change. Life is all the people yet to be born - and the world we're leaving them to live in.
If we truly want to celebrate life, then we need to recognise that life is more than just an empty tomb, life after death or salvation for those who call themselves Christians. We need that life is all around us - and it is that life we see all around us that God cares about.
And we need to commit ourselves to the protection of that life. How can we celebrate something if we are complicit in its destruction? To truly celebrate something is to recognise its value and do all that we can to protect it and see it flourish.
So let us celebrate new life this Easter - not just with chocolate bunnies and eggs, but with a recognition of the value of all life - and a commitment to look after it.
Posted by Liz Jakimow at 9:49 AM
Friday, April 18, 2014
I'm always amazed by the people who never spare a thought for God in their everyday lives, but get very legalistic about abstaining from meat on Good Friday - sometimes to the point of being horrified when someone else does eat meat on that day - and I'm not just talking about Catholics. Now there's nothing wrong with abstaining from meat - and there are many good reasons to do so, not all of them religious. But I can't help thinking this legalistic approach kind of misses the point.
After all, didn't Jesus say it's not what a person puts into their mouth that defiles them, but what comes out of their mouth (Matthew 15:11).
I don't think this means we should just scrap the rule about not eating meat on Good Friday - at least for those who want to keep abstaining. I believe that symbolic actions and practices like this are important, meaningful and help turn our thoughts towards God.
But those symbolic actions should never become more important than the reason behind those symbolic actions.
It's pointless abstaining from meat if we don't give any thought to why we might be abstaining from meat.
So why do we?
The reason behind abstaining from meat on Good Friday was to share in the sufferings of Jesus. By denying ourselves, we entered into the suffering that Jesus underwent on that day. And by denying ourselves, hopefully we remember that suffering - because we too are suffering.
Okay, confession time. The meal I eat on Good Friday is often one of the best meals I eat that year. Because while I eat fish and vegetarian meals frequently, I make the Good Friday meal a little bit fancy and a little bit special.
And that kind of defeats the purpose.
Or maybe not.
Because in reality, what actually matters about abstaining from meat is whether we are remembering the suffering of Jesus. We don't have to do this by eating fish. We can do it by denying ourselves something else. We can do this by reflecting on the crucifixion. We can do this by remembering the suffering of people around the world.
You can do this while eating a big beefy steak or a meat pie or a baked fish dish or a bowl of rice.
It's not what we put into our mouths that defile us, it's what comes out of our mouth.
It's what's in our hearts.
And it's the suffering of Jesus that is important - and the suffering of the whole world that he entered into - rather than what we eat.
How we reflect and think about that suffering is up to us. For some, it may mean abstaining from meat. Others may choose different ways to remember it. But it definitely shouldn't become a legalistic rule where abstaining from meat is more important than our reasons for doing so.