I do not want to do what Dame Nellie Melba was reputed to have said about her attitude to her audiences ‘Give ’em muck!’
After last week’s reflection where I was encouraging you to come on the Easter Journey this Holy Week, I began to ask myself “Well why do all this? The people here have been used to a (to me) ‘minimalist’ Easter, why try to make them do more than that? It would certainly be an easier Easter for you, Paul’
So here is what I came up with.
First of all, if I am truthful, the shape of Easter is for me. You know how the commandment says ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength?’ Well If the truth be told (but don’t tell any one else) I do. There is a lot of devotion in my soul. I want a place for it to go. Doing the best Easter I know how is a way of showing this devotion.
Some people say ‘You don’t need to go to all this effort to prove that you love God.’ True. But what if I want to be lavish? Like the woman who bought the expensive ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet with it, and wet his feet with her tears, doing the best I can for Easter, without reserve or concern for time is my way of providing some expensive ointment for God. We all say ‘You don’t need to buy expensive gifts for the people you love to show that you love them, it’s the thought that counts.’ But we also say at funerals ‘Why is it that we only take the time to say about the people we love how much we value them after they are gone?’ For me, the way of doing Easter is a way of saying ‘I love you’ to God, for Anglicans!
The second thing is this. As You read last week, doing what we’ve always done will produce what we’ve always had: slow genteel decline. So renewal needs something different. It requires a re-ordering of the pieces in the jig-saw puzzle of our lives. This re-ordering needs to be not just about ‘advertising’ but about a renewal and a deepening of our life with God, so that we can be effective witnesses for others. This effectiveness comes when we show forth something in our lives about God and Jesus that is of decisive importance to us. This means devoting time to it. Doing Easter well and lavishly, where this festival claims our time, rather than fits in around other, already-made arrangements associated with a holiday season, is part of the renewal process.
The third reason is similar to the one above. It has to do with the idea of ‘entropy’. Entropy is the name given to the process of ‘general running down’ of all systems, be they natural or social. If you put a wheel in motion, friction will cause a loss of energy from the turning wheel, and cause it to stop. In social systems, entropy works through a lessening of the power and attentiveness to social occasions, such that they lose their significance. Baptism becomes, for example, a few dabs of water on the head of a newborn in the lounge room of the local squire who can command the presence of a clergyman when he doesn’t want the inconvenience of having to go to a church.
This derives from a ceremony which was once the culmination of at least several years’ worth of training, and involved the naked plunging into a pool of water, and the subsequent covering with perfumed oil and the dressing in a ‘wedding garment’ (baptismal robe).
The point of telling you this is that in any system, unless energy is added to the system, it will run down. Doing something ‘more’ is a way of adding energy to a system.
The fourth thing has to do with becoming a more visible and tangible sign of the Body of Christ. I remember a long time ago now, when I was a member of a Christian community, a visiting speaker asked us ‘What do you do together than makes you into a community?’ (or a communion?) . Companies know this too. Every so often, staff go off and do white water rafting together, or rock climbing. The elements in this activity are that the members of the group are taken out of their normal lives, and are opened to suggestion and new things; they are asked to go out of their comfort zones and to take risks; they are asked to work together on new tasks which build a sense of common purpose. This is what they ‘do together’ to turn a group of ‘workers’ into a ‘team’ or a community.
So it is with us. ‘Doing’ Easter together creates a sense of our being the body of Christ because we also go out of our comfort zones for a time. We go out at strange times of the day and night. Sharing these times together, helps to build the bonds of love that make us into Christ’s Body.
The last reason for asking you to give yourself to this Easter is that it’s fun! Doing some things out of the ordinary means the possibility of being lavish and having some fun. I know that the events of Easter are also very solemn, and touch on the core of our faith, but as any child will tell you, playing is very serious business.
So I hope this reflection adds something to last week’s. I certainly do not want to be, or to be seen as a slave driver, whipping you into doing things that you really do not want to do. I want to invite you into a new experience for many of you, that will help to achieve some of our goals for renewal here at Montreux, and give you a part in it.
I also do not want to do what Dame Nellie Melba was reputed to have said about her attitude to her audiences ‘Give ’em muck!’ Being a faithful priest, and yes, a loving priest, means not leaving you alone, but offering the best I know, and inviting you to come on the journey.