Three terrible days.
Friday: despair and despondency; broken spirits at the foot of the cross.
Saturday: an uncertain and fearful Sabbath; the sound of a rooster’s crow still ringing in the ears of disciples who had not held faith.
Sunday: a day of fearful wonder; news of an empty tomb that sounded like nonsense even to those who had followed Jesus most closely.
Easter is not about activism. It’s not about issues. It’s about God being for us in the deepest possible way. God giving everything for us so that we can be saved, made new, gathered as God’s forgiven folk across the face of the Earth.
It is, as the song says, all about Jesus, in whom grace and truth reside.
Yet there is something for campaigners to remember, to draw deeply from, at Easter. Every year as we remember those three days, reading scripture, breaking bread and sharing a cup, we remember something of that emotional journey of the disciples.
This journey (and I’ll admit, I’m inferring from hints and tight phrases in the gospels) is something that all activists go through.
We feel despair when the cause we’ve believed in, spoken about, worked for, seems hopeless.
We feel uncertainty and loss when we can’t see a way forward, can find no strategy to win the day.
We hope, but can barely believe, that a breakthrough might occur.
A contemporary activist, Rebecca Solnit, says we need to have hope in the dark (in her book of the same name). By which she means not that our present situation is dark or dangerous – though for many it is. But that the future is genuinely clouded and uncertain. We don’t know for sure what will happen and so we must commit to working for positive change and cannot give in to cynicism or despair. She points to stories of change in the face of terrible odds, breakthroughs large and small, and counsels us to celebrate and share these victories to nourish our work as advocates for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
I agree wholeheartedly. Because without hope we become paralysed. Without hope, we close in on ourselves and seek to protect only what’s nearest and dearest, rather than reaching out, standing up and speaking out with all those in our world who struggle against injustice.
But for Christian activists, our ground for hope is not the uncertainty of the future. It’s the certainty that God who raised Jesus from the dead is acting in the world to bring about His purposes. The sure hope that the resurrection is just the first taste of a renewed heavens and renewed earth in which God’s reign of justice and peace is fully present. Because of the resurrection, we know that every action we take for a world more just, more generous, more compassionate is not wasted or lost.
Look, we are not Jesus and the healing of the world is not our task. But we are the body of Christ in the world He is making new. In the scarred hands of the crucified and risen one, every action we take in His name to love and serve the poorest, to challenge those powers which reject God’s gracious rule, becomes a sign that He is at work in His world. Our actions become hope-filled glimpses of God’s promised future.
We have hope because he is risen.