Bishops' Easter message, April 2019
You should have been safe here
Those haunting words which have been spoken out over our nation in these recent weeks keep resounding in my heart. As I have moved between our churches, week by week, and as we have gathered day by day in the deep tradition of our Holy Week, my mind has become stuck on that phrase. You should have been safe here. The grief of my heart for our world at this time is ripe, as is my grief for the people about whom those words were rightly spoken. Yet I find myself repeating them under by breath to someone else: to Christ. To my friend Jesus those words also seem so painfully real. You should have been safe here. You came to that which was your own, but your own didn't recognise you. All things came into being through you and what came into being was light and life (John 1). You, friend, bringing your light and life, should have been safe here. But you weren't. The turning point of Lazarus, over who you wept, over whom you held grief with your sisters; his return to life became the turning point of your own death. You should have been safe here. An eye for an eye, a life for a life. But you gave life. You loved. You who are one with the God who is love. You who are one with the source of life. Yet, in response to your gift you were given death. You were given hate.
You knew all those things, and in the agony of your heart you still accepted that, and so you said, "this is my body given for you".
One physical body was destroyed by fear, by hate, by human power. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a seed, but if it dies it produces many seeds (John 12:24). Our lips now confess that we are the body of Christ, we are those many seeds. That you are with us. That we get to proclaim that you are here, that you are risen, that in you nothing can separate us from the love and life of God.
I am so thankful for all of you to responding to the appeal for Mozambique and the Diocese of Niassa. Bags of seeds are being distributed as a gift of tangible love and hope from you to our African brothers and sisters. Here the Archbishop reflects on the harrowing nature of his visit to the remote parts of my friend Bishop Vicente's diocese. One phrase of his writing stands out, in the midst of the inhumane conditions of the villages he reflects:
"The key feature everywhere is that we are welcomed – and bid farewell – warmly in song and dance. Even in pain and total loss, the gift that they have not lost, nor are prepared to lose, is their song, dance and their hope."
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it (John 1:5). Come, friends, let us walk with the Light of the World and learn afresh the song of the new creation that is always being sung from his lips. Perhaps this year it could sound a little like one of my favourite childhood songs:
They cut me down and I leapt up high, I am the life that'll never never die
I'll live in you if you'll live in me –
I am the Lord of the dance said he.
So many times when I have been asked about how we change our world, or how we enliven a declining church, I say the same simple things: extend hospitality in simple, honest and loving ways. Transform your homes, transform your communities, scone after scone!
Different journalists have recently printed the repeated phrase of baking scones and visiting neighbours. In my first Synod charge I said that the church would be totally transformed if every household that was part of our diocese intentionally hosted two meals a week; one for people within the church community and one for people who were not.
I was so heartened to hear of the beautiful expression of hospitality shared by young adults from the Wellington Muslim community; brainstorming with Rosie Fyfe, our Intercultural Enabler, and AYM members, about how to express thanks to the wider community for the love that has been shown to them in the past month. Together they have been having wonderful conversations about baking and serving tea on street corners to passers by as a sign of love, togetherness and thankfulness.
I urge you to take seriously the repeated call that I give to take step after step of simple, honest hospitality to neighbours, friends and strangers. This Easter season, be light, be generosity, be hope in your streets. Get baking people – and you know that life is sure to rise somewhere and somehow!