Kia ora everyone. Rob here.
Easter is fast approaching. Some of you may be making plans for a short holiday. Others of you may be working frantically to meet deadlines. Some of you may be wondering how you’re going to make all those church services and still have time to fix the roof and mow the lawn. I’ll be helping to lead 2 services and speak at a youth camp. All of those activities are good and have their place, but if Easter’s actually going to make an impact on our hearts we’re going to have to make some space for it. We’re going to need to turn up to those services with room to receive the beautiful message of Christ’s sacrifice and triumph for us. How will we do that?
The thing about Easter is that it’s the climax of a story that we are invited to find our place in. A big part, then, of preparing for Easter is reminding ourselves of the story. So we look back to the creation narrative and remember that we were made in the image of God, made to rule over creation in his name and be in harmony with God, the earth and each other. We remember that the longing to return to that place of peace lies deep within us still.
We then remind ourselves that we fell, we lost our vocation and harmony was lost. the image remained in us, but it was dimmed and distorted. We remind ourselves that there is an assault against humanity, our relationships and our connection with God. We have an enemy and the world is at war. We also remind ourselves about Israel, and how, even as a chosen covenant people, given the law, given the prophets, they still found themselves in exile with their land ruled by a pagan empire. God could not be made in their image and he had a better story to tell; a better rescue to enact. The story of Israel puts into sharp focus the faithfulness of God to his promises. The prophecies will be fulfilled. There is a hope and a future for all.
After reminding ourselves of all of that (and there’s so much more to tell!) we can come to Jesus the Messiah. Son of Man, Son of God and Saviour of the world. He came as the suffering servant whose sacrifice would set all of humanity free from the curse we put ourselves under. As Israel’s Messiah he became our representative. He was the true human and the new Adam. He came because God’s love compelled him. He was the older brother dragging his younger siblings out of the pigsty and back into the Father’s arms. He’s the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world and delivers us out of slavery. Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension he conquered the power of sin and death and set us free to become truly human again.
Easter is an invitation to, once again, take our place in the story. We all know that we need help to be the best people we can be. We know that a strange combination of pride and shame – that is, a fallen ego – prevents us from connecting the way we want to with God and with each other. So on Good Friday let the victory of the cross speak to you. There, your ego can die, your sin can die, our loss, our pain, our brokenness can die. The cross is where God says that we don’t have to be defined by that stuff anymore. We become free to serve one another in love, just as he did. On Easter Sunday, revel in the fact that the power of death is broken. The resurrection vindicates all that Jesus said and did, so rejoice in Christ your Lord and give him praise. His story is your story. Resurrection awaits, but it also tells us that the kingdom has come to earth. A new power is at work in the world.
Christ’s ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit will complete the Easter event, but will start a new chapter of the story. It’s a story we’re all invited into. Give yourself over to that story this week. Let the cross and the empty tomb speak to you of the lavish love of God. And may your heart soar as you realise afresh that you are a son and daughter, rescued, forgiven and free, and the Father’s embrace is your welcome home.
Happy Easter everyone.