The Vicar Writes . . .
Over the first few days of this month as we pass deeper into Autumn, we also walk with Christ through the events of Holy Week, to the Cross and Beyond. In some senses I find that, although every previous Easter I have spent with daffodils and cherry blossom bursting forth giving a Visual Clue to the new Life available to us all through the Resurrection of Christ, there is something to be said for Easter in Autumn. It reminds us that Resurrection only follows on from death - that there is Nothing inevitable about it. It is a Great surprise, that in the laying down of Life - new life might arise.
That Laying down of Life is remarkable in so many ways not least that it is a Living rebuke to Satan’s final temptation, to be Powerful. "Worship me and all this will be yours!!"
Christ refuses the way of Power - and chooses instead the way of Vulnerable Love.
We tend to forget that when the Son of Man is Glorified, He is nailed to a cross, a member of a despised race, naked. There is No sense of Power there at all. God is revealed to us upon the Cross in utter vulnerability - and thus reveals to us something perhaps we might not wish to comprehend, that the most Powerful way, is to lay all power down. That Life is only found in vulnerability.
One of the quirks of the English liturgical tradition is its heavy overuse of the phrase ‘Almighty God’, a phrase which occurs many many more times in English prayer books, both old and new, than it ever does in Scripture. Coming to New Zealand, a country which has no lengthy history of Empire it is interesting to discover that the liturgy makes little or no use of the phrase ‘Almighty God’. The Humanly powerful are always the most fearful, they have the most to lose, they need a God who is up to the job.
But this is not the way of Christ, it is not the Life giving Power of God. No, in the words of one of my mentors of old, ‘His Power is revealed in that he is utterly defenceless before us’. Utter vulnerability is the way to Life. He empties himself, makes himself nothing, loses His Life - all ways of expressing that which we most fear, death - and in so doing overcomes Death.
At the heart of Easter is this mystery of Life and death - the One who overcomes Death by dying and invites us to do the same - to become like Him in his life through the way of Vulnerability. Vulnerability is something we fear because we see how people are forced into it, by old age, or poverty, or sickness, or physical oppression. But God in Christ does something quite remarkable - he Reveals Himself in Choosing vulnerability. Paradoxically, in choosing the way of weakness, he is revealed to be the one who is Truly powerful. And invites us to do the Same.
Easter in Autumn expresses this well - it is the way to Life we can scarce imagine
Dare we follow?