We have some friends who are working in South Sudan. It is not a very happy place to be. They sent us their newsletter the other day, with some photos of their … home.
It is a hut, on a flat bit of scrubland, in the middle of what seems to be nowhere. Their toilet is a bucket. Their life is spartan, to say the least. Sudan, North and South, is in a mess.
The splitting of the country did not solve issues, merely exasperated them. Don’t go there for a holiday. Not just now, advise our friends.
I was playing with Caspian, our youngest, the other day. I am not sure what we were playing. I was really just following him round the house, trying to keep up with his running commentary.
It was an interesting experience. If we came up to an obstacle in the game: if, for instance, the game was ‘treasure hunt’ and we remembered we hadn’t brought a shovel – well, that’s easy enough – we turn this stick into a digger.
Or if we were playing (the game changed pretty rapidly) ‘going to the moon’ and we realised we hadn’t made a space ship, snap, says Caspian, here it is! – and we stepped onto the carpet which was, of course, the spaceship carpet. ‘Didn’t you know that Dad? You’re not very good at this game are you?
He’s right. I am not very good at that. I have slightly lost the knack.
The knack of seeing what is right in front of me, with eyes that can see right through what is right in front of me. The knack of seeing, and believing, that what I am seeing is not the end of it all. That there is hope: for a spaceship, a shovel, or better yet, life.
So often I take at face value what is placed in front of me.
Easter is about saying don’t. Don’t accept that what’s there as all there is. Don’t accept that what looks like hard reality to be the final word. Don’t. Because, according to the events of that Easter day so long ago, it isn’t … The final word.
Jesus’ friends see Jesus come from the grave and wonder if they can believe their eyes. Or their hearts. They want to believe. They want to accept what they are being offered. But it’s pretty strange. Pretty surreal. The reality is fact. Their leader is dead. They are in trouble. Dry bones do not come to life, dead bodies stay dead. And life must go on, drearily and painfully. Life goes on. Same as it always has.
But Easter, this counter-reality we are being invited to consider, suggests quite the opposite. That life doesn’t need simply ‘go on’. That life, in its fullness, its radical-ness, its complexity, can be embraced, lived, won and treasured.
Because it has been embraced. It has been lived. Won. Treasured. By this Jesus. This One who is no longer at its mercy, but is now, incontrovertibly, its Master. The Master of Life. Jesus Christ.
This is not make believe stuff, though to those who choose not to accept, to believe, it appears so. This is not ‘escape-from-reality-dream-world-therapy’, though to those on the outside looking in that is exactly what it looks like. This is not playing, avoiding real life, though we are often accused of such.
This is hearing, and believing, and acknowledging that the reality we wrestle with every day – joys, happiness, illnesses, depressions, injuries, sadnesses – that such is not the last word. That there is One who came among us, who has lived a life that we can only dream about, has offered us just that opportunity. To live a life we can only dream about. Starting, again, right now.
We might think we would be foolish to accept. Delusional. Childish. But what are the options?
To remain as we are? To allow what is our small reality to dictate our actuality? To allow the smallness which surrounds us to prevail?
Or to go to Sudan, and say, as our friends have done (for they are, in fact, working there as Christians), in the name of This One, This One who has given us Life, we will go and seek to see.
What He sees. Hope, Spaceships, and Life. Where others only see sticks, carpets and death.
I choose Life. I choose Easter. I choose Jesus. Risen from the dead.
Alleluia Alleluia. Christ is Risen. Christ is Risen indeed. Alleluia.
And I do not, for one moment, understand how. But I do believe. And on Easter day will sing Alleluia, with people all over the world, in awe and wonder. And in gratitude. For Jesus Christ.
You would be welcome indeed to join me, or any of the Christian communities spread throughout the Algarve, for our Easter Celebrations (see advert on this page).