One of the most misleading sayings in some Christian quarters is that Jesus was born to die. Indeed, so concerned are some to talk about Jesus’ death that they would really like us to put a cross in the nativity scene! Now, of course, the meaning Christians find in the death of Jesus is certainly very important. That is part of why the Easter story is central to Christian Faith. Yet even Good Friday is not ultimately about death. For, as the Bible Society’s lively 2009 campaign expressed it, Jesus. All About Life is the true reality. As Jesus says in John’s Gospel (10.10): ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’. Death is a part of life and life involves a series of little deaths (losses and griefs) as well as physical death. So Jesus showed us how dying well can be done. Yet this was in service of life, which is the real purpose and invitation of God’s creation of us. For God wants us to live! Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus, is therefore not merely a beginning and prelude to Easter. It also witnesses powerfully, in its own right, to the heart of the Christian message. In God in Jesus Christ, we find our fullest life, which is eternal love, right here, right now, and for evermore...
Sheer drama is one of the most significant aspects of historic Christianity's marking of Holy Week. To share in it is to share in a mighty eternal stage-play. This is no mere re-enactment of events long ago, as if the Church were an ecclesiastical form of the Sealed Knot. Instead, appropriately engaged with, it is a re-membering and re-imagining of love's ultimacy in the face of the forces of human abuse, deceit and betrayal. Theologically speaking, as a drama to enter into, Holy Week is a powerful confirmation that it is not us who find or save ourselves and our world. Rather it is God, the ultimate power of love, who does the work and turns the world upside down. The call and challenge to the Church in any age is to help make this drama live in any context.
This year, Holy Week in the parish of St Luke Toowoomba began with a wonderful celebration of Palm Sunday, with a delightful blessing of palms around our soon-to-be-completed labyrinth, a lively procession, dancers from our Living Dance school partners, a loving celebration of communion, and joyful singing from one of The Glennie School's choirs. Perhaps the most powerful part of our gathering however was the dramatic presentation at the heart of our Ministry of the Word. Instead of a reading of the lengthy Passion Gospel, and a brief address, several parish members each took a key role (money-changer, Simon Peter, Pilate, Mary Magdalene etc) and told their own story of what they had seen, felt and experienced in Jesus last days. This spoke wonderfully to everyone as it brought the story, and the whole liturgy of Holy Week, alive in new ways. It was an encouragement to us all to continue to look at how we stage, dramatise, and enflesh the Gospel at all times, as well as a beautiful journey into the great tragi-comedy (in the deepest sense) of Holy Week.
It was a delight last Sunday evening to see again Brothers Ghislain, Matthew and Alois (the Prior) from the Taize Community and even more delightful to take some of our parishioners and boarders from The Glennie School to share in Taize Prayer in St Stephen's Cathedral in Brisbane. This followed on from our beautiful Taize-style Candlemas Prayer the previous Sunday in St Luke's Toowoomba.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the remarkable Community in the little village of Taize in Burgundy, 100 years on also from the birth of the founder Brother Roger. It continues to act as an inspiration to so many people in so many places and situations in our world. Above all, its Christ-centred spirit of simplicity, solidarity and celebration speaks to young people who continue to join in 'the Pilgrimage of Trust' in such great numbers. The special Letter in preparation for this year's anniversaries is again a beautiful distillation of the Taize spirit and an encouragement to us all to walk together 'Towards a New Solidarity' with people of all Christian, ethnic and other backgrounds, with people of all faiths and none. Check our the Letter here.
Penny and I were delightfully taken aback when the president of Toowomba's Garden City mosque invited us, with a few other Christian leaders, to the recent post-wedding reception of his son Adnun Abdullah Khan and new daughter-in-law Farhana Haider Chowdhury. It was lovely expression of the growing multicultural friendships across our community in Toowoomba and another step in the deepening of our relationships. One of the most beautiful moments was when one of the little Muslim girls present came up excitedly to greet Penny. She was in one of Penny's classes at The Glennie School last year and she had spotted Penny as one of the few grown-ups other than her family to whom she really wanted to say hello! In such moments God smiles most kindly on her many children of different faith.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.