‘It’s true, he’s risen, everything has changed!’ That’s what Kat wrote last month as she told us about Easter. But let’s dig a bit deeper now. What exactly has changed? Lots of things… but let me focus on one.
This year I’ve been really struck by the word ‘peace’ in our Easter readings and liturgy. On four occasions when the risen Jesus appears, he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ It could just be a greeting, but he never says this before the resurrection.
I was also very struck by these words from a short version of the Exsultet – an Easter song of praise which dates from the earliest centuries of the church:
‘At this sacred time all evil is dispelled,
guilt is washed away, and peace restored.’
‘Peace restored’ is a very striking and bold claim. How do we square it with what’s now been going on in Syria for over 7 years? How does it fit with what’s gone on in Gaza in recent days, or the last 10 years, or even longer?
Does it just refer to individuals having peace with God? I certainly believe that was something that came from the resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes we call it trust in God; sometimes we call it a relationship with God, or knowing God, or simply being friends with God.
But Kat wrote that ‘everything has changed.’ And the Exsultet calls on heavenly powers, choirs of angels and all creation to rejoice:
‘Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!’
This is about the renewal of all creation! But how do we square that with the groaning of creation today – the pollution of the air, plastic in the oceans, felling of the forests, poaching and other threats to endangered species…?
In theory (or theology, perhaps) ‘peace is restored’. But it has to be put into practice. And that takes you and me and all of humanity. The ability to do something about the environment is there. The power to seek reconciliation and make peace is there – through Jesus. Whether it’s our own personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus, or our relationships with others, or our relationship with the earth, all the potential is there. Peace can be restored!
A fuller version of the Exsultet proclaims:
‘Night truly blessed, when hatred is cast out,
peace and justice find a home,
and heaven is joined to earth
and all creation reconciled to you.’
The risen Jesus comes to each one of us and says, ‘Peace be with you.’ We can be overjoyed like his first disciples, but then we need to respond.
Each one of us can PRAY, ACT and GIVE for peace to come – for that peace which is already with us to become a reality for more and more people around the world.
With every blessing