BY JUDITH LYNCH
It’s Easter this Sunday and the family, as well as friends who feel like family, are coming for lunch.
I’ve shone the spare cutlery, counted out the plates and mulled over recipes, making sure the menu accommodates dietary differences.
As usual we will join a couple of tables together and assemble our motley collection of chairs so we can all sit around the one table.
It’s a joyful occasion, being together for a few hours. Stories will be told, some new, others well-polished from years in the telling, and while we laugh the three-year-old will reach out a stealthy hand for another bit of chocolate.
We might talk a little about loved family members who have died, those who live far away and the one or two who always choose to absent themselves from any family gatherings and when that happens we are held in a little pocket of silence.
Christmas is reasonably easy to celebrate. We’ve become adept at accommodating a new-born baby with the conflicting figure of a fat whiskery old man.
But there’s something awkward about Easter. Personally and on a world scale, we live with death, suffering and injustice so we can empathise with Jesus’ death.
But then there is the Resurrection, and that is quite outside our human experience. It brings us to mystery, to ‘God stuff’, however hard we try to wrap it up in images borrowed from the northern hemisphere or words that would be more comfortable on the pages of a theology book.
My family, and I suspect many other families, don’t have the words to talk about our reason for this celebratory lunch. Somehow, amid our must-have technology we’ve lost the religious and symbolic language we need to grasp the mysterious reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There’s a God pull in all our deaths and resurrections but we seem to have forgotten how to decipher God- language. We don’t know how to read God in our own stories. Chocolate bunnies don’t exactly fill the gap and we confine ‘alleluia’ to the liturgy.
We are a long way from the first Christians, gathered around a table set with bread and wine, telling their stories of Jesus over and over again. The pain of losing Jesus and the joy of his presence in the memories of him they shared along with the bread and wine gave them the strength and connectedness to take back to their daily lives.
Yet we are constantly reading each other’s Good Friday and Easter Sunday stories. There won’t be an adult person sitting at my table this Easter who hasn’t experienced pain, grief, rejection, maybe even despair.
More elusively, they are familiar with something that could be called joy and the vague ache that comes with it, that desire to stay in the moment, the deep down voice that says, ‘But wait, there’s more.’
Joy can’t be bought in a shop or Googled online. There is nothing superficial about joy, even when is as fleeting and elusive as a thought that we don’t recognise or trust for what it is, or surfaces like a wellspring deep within us.
Little moments of joy sneak into our lives. They’re often a surprise and for a moment or two we seem to be flooded with a feeling of happiness, rightness, peace, contentment and even amazement. Easter theology tells us that Jesus won it for us. In his baby-body, his crucified adult body and his glorified Easter body he brought us, and continues to bring us, to the Father.
In the days before climate change loomed so large, there was a popular hymn called ‘Joy is Like the Rain’. Amongst other things it said that joy slips across our lives like rain slipping down the windscreen of the car. Those slip-away moments put us in touch with a deeper faith, resurrection faith. The big alleluia of Jesus’ Easter resurrection contains all our little everyday alleluias.
I will place a growing plant on the dinner table along with the chocolate Easter eggs and remember Jesus’ earthy words about seeds and dying and new life bursting out of that dying.
We might not be celebrating with bread and wine, but the substitutes will be enjoyed. The talk will tumble around the table and there will be laughter, a rowdy Easter egg hunt to come, space for just-one-more chocolate and hopefully, a renewed appreciation and tolerance of each other.
And I will know that Jesus has been a guest at my table.
Judith Lynch is a writer who lives in Melbourne. More of her writing appears at tarellaspirituality.com
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