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Easter people learning to love

We have watched a lot of episodes of The Simpsons over the years in our house.

Mr Burns, the mean spirited owner of the Nuclear Power Plant, has a brush with illness and becomes intoxicated with the
drug treatment.

In the forest a glowing light appears and people of Springfield gather outside the town to see the spectacle.

Emerging from the forest comes Mr Burns uncharacteristically saying, “I bring you love”.

Lenny responds by saying, “It’s bringing love, don’t let it get away,” and Carl blurts out, “Break its legs!”

Easter reminds us that love is often met with violence.

The meaning that people make of the Easter story varies.

Across the span of history Christian believers have used images and metaphors to describe what happened at the cross.

Christians teach that the execution of Jesus of Nazareth on a cross outside Jerusalem is part of a divine plan to save humanity from sin.

The problem with sin is that it separates us from God.

Apparently, 500 years ago when William Tyndale was working on his English Bible he coined the word “atonement” to translate the Latin word reconciliatio.

Theories of atonement give expression to how people believe that reconciliation between God and people has been achieved.

The favourite atonement idea in the New Testament seems to be sacrifice—an unblemished lamb—which in a ritual way mends the broken relationship with God.

In the ancient world sacrifices were commonly used to satisfy ritual obligations.

In the eleventh century, Anselm promoted the notion that the death of Jesus pays the penalty for sin satisfying the debt to God.

Others cast God as the just judge who must punish sin and Jesus takes the punishment for us, the prisoners of sin.

As Cecil Francis Alexander puts it, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of Sin”.

Another claims that Jesus rescues us by becoming the ransom which is offered to set the slaves free.

Good Friday hymns express this theology in rhythm.

From Frederick William Faber: “Seven times he spoke, seven words of love, and for three hours his silence cried for mercy on the souls of men; Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.”

Each theory tries to connect with the thinking of the people in that era.

Apart from the mental gymnastics to get your head around the ideas, some of these notions seem to be less than helpful in trying to communicate the Easter story with people in our world today.

What, for you, are the ideas and images that communicate in a fresh way the reconciling work of Jesus on the cross?

For me the proposal of the twelfth century theologian called the “moral example” still seems to connect.

Abelard contends that Jesus willingly accepted suffering and an undeserved death and humans become so moved by such a powerful demonstration of love that they repent, and in this way become reconciled to God.

Isaac Watts captures this beautifully in his Easter hymn: “See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e’er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small: love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

In John’s Gospel when Jesus is hinting at his death to come he talks of a seed that must fall to the ground and then germinates to produce abundant, new life.

The cycle of death and resurrection nourished by love is repeated in the church today.

I see it when people go out of their way to help resettle refugees and asylum seekers.

I see it when a foster carer from UnitingCare Community helps a distressed child to deal with their anger.

I see it when a widow finds support in her local congregation.

I see it when Easter people gather to worship to celebrate new life together.