Faith in the Family

Faith in the Family

We are in the midst of the Easter Season and I for one am glad that it is a season and not simply a day. I need time for Easter to grow gradually. I have struggled with stones and tombs this year and have needed a slow gentle dawning rather than exuberant exclamations of joy.

Resurrection joy comes in little things. I moved a fuschia some weeks ago. It had been beautiful last year, large ballerina-like red-pink flowers dancing until an unexpectedly ferocious wind funnelled round the side of the house and stripped every flower, burned every leaf and ripped the younger branches from the plant. So it was moved, into a pot, sheltered now at the back of the house but oh every time I looked at the miserable, dried up shape of it I was convinced I had finished off what that wind had tried to do. And then, sitting outside the other day I glimpsed, and lost, searched and found again a tiny spark of green, budding out of dryness. It lives – and will bloom again with wildly dancing beauty.

Similarly, my daughter had asked me why the trees were still so bare, was it normal, should there not be more life to them? And then, with one warm sun-filled day it was as if a switch had been thrown and life-giving sap surged up stems and buds were suddenly present in an abundance that defied expectation. Life is burgeoning. It will not be stopped. That cycle of life and death and rebirth to new life is a reality that surrounds us. And if in these days I struggle with that then I need to spend more time outside, to tap into the swelling energy of nature, to know at the core of my being that resurrection is a reality.

And what does resurrection mean for us? The word ‘transformation’ echoes in me and I find myself wondering if I am prepared to allow myself to be transformed, challenged, made new by this resurrection which is at the core of our faith.

From Palm Sunday and through Holy Week I found myself contemplating the suffering and death not only of Jesus but also of a man called Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texan man who was convicted of the murder of his three young children by arson. This man was no angel. He was a difficult, hard drinking, aggressive individual but always a good and loving father. However, when local police and fire investigators came to his home after the fire which killed his three little daughters they came with the ready-formed conclusion that he was to blame. The film Trial by Fire follows Todd Willingham’s story right to the point where he is carried forcibly to the execution chamber to die for a crime which it had become increasingly clear he did not commit. I was shocked, shocked that the few good people were not able to save the day, shocked that the Governor did not have a last minute surge of integrity, shocked that an innocent man was put to death, shocked that so many people involved in his dying promoted themselves as good God-fearing citizens. And that image accompanied me throughout the liturgies of Holy Week like a reflection of Jesus.

Power, fear, hatred and prejudice nailed Jesus to the cross – and pushed poisonous chemicals into the body of Todd Willingham. Surely if we believe in resurrection then we are challenged to reject the abuse of power and the potential of fear, hatred and prejudice to destroy life? I find myself coming back to this call to transformation, that it is not enough to celebrate Easter as a day or a season, but that instead it must become a way of being for us. I’m finding that this Easter challenges me to acknowledge what within myself taps into fear, hatred and prejudice. I also find myself invited into that growing, surging affirmation of life proclaimed throughout creation. This Easter, I need to take my time and grow into it.