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Today: 31 May 2020


Death at Easter

First published 28/04/2019

Easter Day was not a good day in Sri Lanka.  The images of the carnage when bombs exploded around the country killing more than 350 people and injuring a further 500 are heart rending.  Photos of families and individuals from thirteen nations, but mostly Sri Lankans, bring home the reality - these were real, loved, gifted, precious and young people - killed on a day which should be filled with Christian joy.

Those of us who were at worship that Easter Day can perhaps identify even more closely - we might have been in the front line with them.  Church should be a challenging place, but not a deadly place.

At this moment, when much is still unknown and when grief is still so raw, we may want simply to sit in silence with those who mourn, and those deeply traumatised, and those whose lives have been changed for ever.

But there are some things to reflect on, none of them easy, but things that come to the surface again whenever there is such tragedy.

The Easter season takes us back to the suffering of Jesus.  His crucifixion was an act of perhaps similar brutality, even if sanctioned by the state, and the motivation - to get rid of a ‘dangerous’ innocent - equally difficult to understand.  Those who blithely think all is well with the world need to face up to the horror of evil destructiveness and the ability of humans to be badly misled into false beliefs and indescribable actions.

Jesus knew the power of evil, and confronted it head-on.  “Anyone who does evil things,” he said, “hates the light and will not come to the light, because he does not want his evil deeds to be shown up” (John 3, verse 20).

Such darkness is not overcome with more darkness but by the light of Christ’s teaching and the power released through his resurrection.  Christians are taught -
to love not only neighbours but enemies too; 
not to take revenge, but to leave the outcome to God; 
not to live with fear or resentment, but to forgive and love from the heart.
Of course, none of that is easy - hardest of all for those who have faced senseless murder.

There is too a deeper puzzle here.  Some people still struggle with the Old Testament image of a God who apparently encourages violence and genocide, or with a Jesus who says he came to bring not peace but a sword (Matthew 10: 34).  The first issue needs a longer response than there is space for now, but it is clear that Jesus renounced all such violence.  And the sword he brings is not the sword of destruction but of division, as families fail to be united in his peace.  Sometimes his very presence divides people.

But for now, we pray for those caught up in the tragedy in Sri Lanka, praying evil may be restrained, mourners comforted, and peacemakers strengthened.

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Lord God, we hold before you those whose lives have been shattered by the suffering and death of loved ones, and those who visit graves but have not yet found resurrection.

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