Last week, a neighbour of mine was awarded a chocolate egg by her school teacher for good behaviour – but warned that she must not eat it until the end of the lesson. So, in between lessons she began her celebration of Easter. Unfortunately, her school had decided to clamp down on disruptive behaviour in the classroom. She was apprehended by Darth Vader and escorted to the detention block, where she – and three hundred other pupils – spent the next five hours under close supervision. Six hour detentions during school hours, were also handed out to a girl who had placed her hair band around her wrist, and a boy wearing odd socks. The school justified their anti-educational, one-punishment-fits-all policy as ‘zero tolerance’.
It’s a silly story, and no doubt, its lunacy will be celebrated by those with no grasp of what education and discipline really are. But it serves as a metaphor for what genuine Easter Celebration looks like: a good act that gets you into disproportionate trouble.
Not that I’m suggesting we deliberately become trouble makers. This is precisely what my neighbour did not do. Trouble came to her all by itself.
To celebrate resurrection means to allow it to do something to you. And whatever else is meant by resurrection, it means revolution. The powers that be are threatened when their authority is called into question. This was why the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. It wasn’t that they were wishy-washy ultra-liberal spiritual-weaklings. The Sadducees were ultra-conservative. They had power and influence, and the last thing they wanted was any form of revolution.
When we worship a God who brings new life, there will always be political consequences. (Since politics is simply a term describing how we organise our world around the things that we worship). And now that we live in a so-called ‘Big Society’, with multi-millionaire cabinet members telling those losing their benefits that “we’re all in this together”, what will happen when disciples of the radical Christ celebrate something as revolutionary as Easter ?
If somewhere, somehow, our churches actually embody something of the radical Jesus – there is going to be trouble. If we just do the sunrise service, enjoy our easter breakfast and sing in the easter hymns, before returning to business as usual with a spiritual spring in our step, in what sense have our churches become outposts of God’s kingdom?
To bring in the kingdom of God is to announce good news to the poor, to bring the mighty down from their thones, to let the oppressed go free. When this happens in the real world, it invites trouble for those in power. But really, who wants to risk trouble ? The trouble of having our lives seriously challenged, in a way that seriously challenges the world.
The trouble with easter is with the church actually exposing itself to the pain of real transformation, and the trouble that follows when a community of people embody the Christ who engages the powers of the age.
The powers of our age look like this : Local authorities are banning soup runs for homeless people. HMRC have abandoned addressing tax avoidance for companies (which returns £60 for every £1 of HMRC money spent) to focus on individual people (returning only £3 for every £1 spent). Peaceful protestors are now being arrested under terrorism and harassment laws.
In our world, the almighty ‘Big Brother’ disguises himself in a Big Society. But somewhere in that society is the body of Christ, and they’ve just celebrated easter. What happens next ?
Published in the Baptist Times, April 2011