Sunday, 16 April 2017

The great mysteries of Easter

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Easter came and went and was preceded by the important questions of our time: should shops be allowed to open on religious holidays, can Sonny Bill Williams play footy sans the bank logos and did Jesus really rise from the dead?

And sadly, probably in that order.

The three Wairarapa district councils debated the shop trading issue with great fervour and despite overwhelming submissions to the contrary decided that shops could indeed be allowed to open. Good Friday remained sacred, but we managed to find a superette open for business allowing us to replenish food stocks for unexpected visitors.

The Sonny Bill issue was more complex. The rugby super-hero suddenly decided that the logos of the Australian-owned Bank of New Zealand and the Jewish investment bank Investec did not sit comfortably on his jersey. Muslims, unbeknown to many of us, don’t believe in paying interest which they regard as usury. I fully expected a large majority of mortgage-paying Aucklander’s to apply to convert to Islam, but at the time of writing this hasn’t happened.

And so to the vexed question, did Jesus rise from the dead? (Incidentally Jesus had no problem with interest. In fact he was highly critical of the faithful servant entrusted with his master’s silver coins while he was away and dug a hole in the ground to hide the money for safe keeping. In sharp contrast two other servants invested their share of the coinage wisely and earned interest for their grateful employer. This allegory is graphically told in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke.)

But the Easter story holds no credibility unless Jesus rose from the dead and so we have to trust the biblical narrative. Some do of course, and some don’t.

1 Corinthians 15:32 raises an important question. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then neither will we, so we have nothing to gain from Christianity. We might as well eat and drink in the evils of the world, for tomorrow we die and it’s all over. 15:19 goes even further “If our hope in Christ is good for this world only and no more, then we are to be the most pitied of people.”

I’m always reading claims that Christianity is waning in popularity, yet I would calculate that there are more churches in Masterton today than there have ever been. Last Sunday I suspect most of them were full. Not everyone is going to take up the Cross; in fact in the parable of the sower Jesus tells his disciples that only one in four who hears the message will go on to believe.

In a pre-Easter interview Bill English was asked: “What role does your Catholic faith play in your political life?”

“My faith is a significant part of who I am so it can’t help but affect my personal decision making. It’s part of my conscience. I go to church most Sundays. I like sitting down the back as just another congregation member. You hear ideas around humility, forgiveness and mercy which are not part of the general political round. I find it very balancing.”

Good answer.

“When men cease to believe in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.” -  G. K. Chesterton 


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