At Easter we are celebrating life in many aspects, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. Supremely, it is the life that Jesus assumed at His conception and which was made visible at His birth; but it is also the life that He lived, both the hidden years before His baptism in the Jordan, and the few years of His public ministry. Finally, it is the life that He surrendered on the cross and which by the sovereign act of God was restored to Him as He rose from the dead.
But this life was far more than existence or survival. A tree can have life even if it is not sentient, and an animal can survive, so long as it is not the unfortunate prey of another predator. And yes, we would hope that we give our pets a quality of life that goes beyond mere survival and includes a sense of being and belonging.
Jesus’ first word to the assembled disciples in the Upper Room was ‘Shalom’ or ‘Peace’. This was to be the character of the resurrected life – peace, wholeness, plenteousness, holiness, godliness, healing, fruitfulness – qualities that tell of building and thriving, of developing and extending without destroying or polluting or distorting. Jesus’ resurrection is a statement that life does not have to be ‘nasty, brutish and short’ and that there is indeed another way.
But then there are certain other aspects of Jesus’ resurrection for His body was a wounded body and both His love and His peace were also wounded. There was still a sense of self-fulfilment though self-denial and this was something that His disciples would have to learn and live as well.
When we look at the risen, glorious but wounded life that Jesus showed to His disciples we find certain other aspects that can or should affect us today. Life is for living – but for living unto God and not just for our own enjoyment or satisfaction. The processes by which life is transmitted and continued are sacred both in the act of procreation and in the process of nurture and upbringing the young, yet these are both easily abused, assaulted and trivialized and made to fit in with our own agendas without being submitted to God. They can become things of fashion and opinion, liable to change and stripped of permanence or significance.
Then there is the process of saving and safeguarding life, ranging from the practice of medicine to safeguarding our streets and borders. This too can be trivialized and subjected to the fashion of the moment with genuine threats ignored and imaginary ones contrived.
Finally, life is of God: created by God, even through the processes of natural selection, but refined or degraded by human culture. It is His as a matter of right and does not belong to any state or sectional interest to abuse or manipulate. In rising from the dead Jesus also asserted the authority of God over both life and death, heaven and earth, and all that live upon the earth. In Jesus the message of God is of mercy and of un-earnable blessing, there to be welcomed and received.
But in due course there will also be an accounting for the ways in which we have honoured that miracle of life and the One who established it.
Every blessing this Easter,