Holy Week 2021: Thinking Ahead in the Eternal Now, with Easter Faith
By Bishop Philip Huggins
When I first saw this painting, I thought of the symmetry between the Creation, the Incarnation, the Cross and the Resurrection.
The symmetry is in the love of God for us all.
God creates from nothing this universe of beauty and splendour; comes amongst us as vulnerable as baby Jesus in a manger; lives, dies and rises to show us the Way, the Truth and the Life.
It is all a matter of love. In return, we are invited to be loving of God and of one another.
This is our Easter faith. At a local level, individuals and faith communities express it in many different ways- maintaining a life together of worship, pastoral care and community engagement.
What else can we do to ensure we are in the right Spirit, the Holy Spirit, for current circumstances in the eternal now?
Can I make one suggestion?
It comes with a story which gives context for why I think this is utterly crucial.
These past days I have been in meetings both in our Federal Parliament and with our Multifaith Advisory Group to the Victorian State Government.
Amidst matters like support for Myanmar’s democratic future; the provision of vaccines to the vulnerable health workers of our region and climate change policy there has also been such deep concern about gender violence and about racism.
How do we become a society without such cruelty- without racism and misogyny?
What is the role of faithful disciples of the risen Jesus in our local faith communities- schools, parishes, agencies?
Simple as it may sound, it starts with the universal wisdom of attending to what we think about and what we let influence our thinking.
This is because our thinking shapes our words and our other actions.
The pattern of our thinking, over time, shapes our character and our destiny- individually and corporately.
We become what we think.
It is estimated that we have some 50,000 thoughts per day!
Imagine the change in atmosphere if we only thought and spoke that which is beautiful, kind and true!
Imagine the difference if we practiced “silence is golden” and did not speak the thought that is on our lips but is actually only divisive gossip or some form of “us “versus “them” unkindness?
The silence of Jesus before accusers at the trial in Holy Week is so poignant. Likewise, poignant is the story of the woman whom Jesus helps find freedom and a new beginning in John 8:1-11. As that person stands silent and vulnerable, Jesus challenges those full of righteous hostility to re- consider their own condition of being.
Silence and then only words of grace...
Finding ways to create new beginnings is Easter faith in action. Redemptive narratives warm our hearts. Reciprocal negativity is so familiar.
Imagine the difference if we saw folk we know as if afresh in a new meeting, without preconceptions, especially folk with whom we have had a negative history?
That is, seeing folk afresh in a spirit of giving and forgiving rather than trapping them and we in some negative stereotyping, based on the past.
Whilst this negative stereotyping is seen as ‘normal ‘in much of public life, it is utterly unedifying and takes us nowhere new.
However, to make a “new normal “and choose to think only that which is speakable in grace, does take sustained discipline!
Hence the place of the Jesus Prayer and other spiritual practice so as to enhance our self - awareness and help us make good, Godly choices.
The fact is that we are currently poisoning ourselves and causing much suffering by thoughts and actions that do not respect these essential realities.
This will only change when we all clean our minds with the same discipline that we clean our bodies, our homes and our streets.
I cannot overstate how important this matter is to health. For local communities of Easter faith, when there is this healthiness of relationship, then people seeking healing, grace and peace can find a spiritual home.
Looking back on my many years of Church leadership, much of it has had to be about trying to stop people making their lives even more unhappy together. This is because people have become alienated by not being careful about what they think and say to one another.
Our faith communities, which are meant to embody the Easter faith, are much weaker than they could be and should be when people are not careful about the effect of what they think and say to one another.
The sorrow this causes our beloved Saviour is itself unspeakable.
Our national and international context is so in need of hopeful beings in agape love with God and one another. There is such a need for patient listening to facilitate healing and reconciliation.
One other meeting I had this past week was with a fine young man who teaches music to troubled teenagers in a special school for kids who are from families of abuse, violence and neglect. Music helps them to find a new, a unifying and an uplifting language. Making music together gives them hope and helps them, in education, to shape a positive way forward.
If we are to also help such young lives, damaged by the thoughts and actions of elders, then our own life together must be ‘the change we seek’.
I have learned to try and be more careful myself with matters of thoughts, words and actions. Accordingly, humbly, I offer this heartfelt reflection in Easter faith.
As St. Anthony of Egypt would say: “Each day we begin again”.
With prayers in the grace and peace of the Risen Jesus, the One who was before all time and “in whom all things hold together” (Colossians 1.17).
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