An Easter message from the Most Revd Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the (American) Episcopal Church
I actually love fairy tales and I used to enjoy reading them to our children when they were young and little. Now to be sure those were the more sanitized fairy tales but there was something good about them, a way of confronting what was tough in life with genuine hope. But they were fairy tales.
This week called Holy Week, the remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem and offering His life in the ultimate act of sacrificial love. Good Friday, the experience of betrayal, the experience of friends abandoning you, the experience of injustice and wrong, criminal self-centred conspiracies. And then beyond that Holy Week, the resurrection from the dead. This is not a fairy tale.
The truth is even as we speak this Holy Week, we do so not only in the shadow of the cross but we do so in the shadow of those who have been killed in Brussels, of those who have been wounded and maimed, of those who weep and mourn. And of a world mourning, and not too sure how to move forward. And this world does not need another fairy tale. This week’s story of crucifixion and resurrection is not a fairy tale.
Some years ago in the last century George McLeod, the founder of the Iona Community, had fought in the First World War, a war that he came to realize was fought for no good reason. He eventually became ordained, and founded the Iona Community, and at one point he said this about this faith that we hold as followers of Jesus:
I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage dump, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. It was the kind of place where cynics talk smut, thieves curse, soldiers gamble. That’s where he died. And that’s where we as Christians ought to be and what we as Christians ought to be about.
This week called Holy, the season called Easter, the remembrance of death and the realization of resurrection, this is not a fairy tale, but the revelation of ultimate reality. Now the truth is it’s easy to dismiss or discount whether by conscious conviction or by unconscious resignation to dismiss this as naïve, nice, but naïve. It’s easy to dismiss it whether consciously or unconsciously as a great hope, a wonderful ideal, but not realistic in a world like this. Maybe, parts of us I suspect wonder, maybe the strong do survive, maybe might does make right, maybe you better look out for number one. I suspect we all share those feelings once in a while.
But, I have to ask myself a question. It’s not my question, it’s Dr Phil’s, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” How’s that workin’ out for the world? The truth is, the way the world very often operates is not working out. It’s not sustainable. It’s not the way to life. Jesus has shown us the way. He has shown us that unselfish, sacrificial love, love of God, and love of the other, is the way to life. That, my friends, is the ultimate reality. And that’s not a fairy tale.
When Jesus was executed, He was tried and convicted of crimes He never committed. He willingly gave His life. Not for Himself, but for others. And in so doing, He showed us what love looks like. That’s what we call the Way of the Cross. And that Way is the way of life and hope. And when He died, His closest followers feared that maybe the strong do survive. Maybe might does make right. And maybe we better look out for number one. ‘Cause maybe the world has won.
But three days later, something happened. Unexpected. Undreamed of. Unheralded. Three days later their world turned upside-down which is right-side up. God raised Him from the dead. And you could almost hear God thundering forth in that resurrection. Love, in the end, love wins! Love is the way! Trust me! Follow me! Believe in me! This resurrection is real! This is not a fairy tale!
So go forth into this world. Don’t be afraid. And don’t be ashamed to be people of love. And go forth into this world and help us to change it from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends.
A blessed Holy Week, a blessed Easter, and go forth into the world. Amen.
Watch Presiding Bishop Curry deliver his message: