Wednesday, 8 April 2015

And on the third day we're closed

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Easter, an enigma for many in the modern world, came and went with its usual inconsistency and confusing values. Some shops it seems were allowed to open, others were not so blessed. Commercial radio and TV continued to broadcast although revenue from advertising was banned.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the pronouncements as to who should work on holy days and who shouldn’t. No one directs hospital staff, public transport workers, petrol station attendants or caregivers to the elderly and the infirm to take religious days of rest, so what makes shopkeepers and their assistants so special?

The garden centre proprietors are always the loudest in their protests about being unable to market God’s most beautiful creation on the Friday and Sunday. Many of them will have ignored the ban and taken the inevitable fines on the chin.

Most of the Easter festivities centred on hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. All symbolic of the season, but the man Himself was almost conspicuous by His absence. His death and resurrection garnered little attention.

To be fair the judicial Good Friday murder of Jesus of Nazareth is not a pleasant story. He was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but instead between two thieves on a town garbage heap. It was the kind of place where cynics talked smut, thieves cursed and soldiers gambled.

Most people accept that Jesus was a real person and that He was put to death at the instructions of the Jewish priests and most of the social elite of the day who hated everything about Him. He saw through their pontificating and their self-important determination to maintain their status as the only dependable interpreters of the scriptures.

His Sunday resurrection and His subsequent ascension into heaven for many however are harder to swallow than the story of Jonah and the whale.

The Bible says He spent forty days before the ascension where He walked the land and talked to numerous people; perhaps as many as 500. According to the scriptures He then led his followers to the Mount of Olives, just East of Jerusalem where His feet lifted off the ground and they witnessed His ascension up into the clouds.

Not once throughout the rest of their lives did any of these people ever doubt having seen Jesus in the flesh after the resurrection. Many of them died a painful death of martyrdom while profoundly witnessing to the very end that Jesus had risen from the dead and thereby proved himself to be the Son of God.

There is something disturbingly familiar about all this. Two thousand and fifteen years on Jesus’ adherents are still despised by many. The forces of evil are ever present and over the Easter period we learnt of the massacre of 147 Christian students at a University in Kenya by the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group. Like the Somalian group, Isis and Isis Boko Haram Islamic militants both blatantly threaten the followers of Christ.

Today Jerusalem, though just a speck on the world map, receives overwhelming attention as it and the surrounding states live in constant conflict. This holy land for both major religions is sadly devoid of peace and goodwill.

Laws and human rights based on Christian teachings have served New Zealand well as a society and we can probably endure a couple of days without an adrenalin shot from visiting a supermarket or a garden shop, but we need to be constantly vigilant. In a world where international travel is commonplace a terrorist act on our shores is always possible and perhaps even inevitable. New Zealand’s security agencies are under severe criticism for their perceived intrusions into our private lives, but I’m personally more than happy to put up with the surveillance.

And we can’t rest on our laurels. Religion was supposed to be replaced by Christianity yet there are well documented instances coming to light of how some of Christ’s representatives have fallen well short of His ideals.

I’m even told there are some devoutly religious groups who want to ban surrogacy.

Just as well they weren’t around in Jesus’ day.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” - Martin Luther King 


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