What is EASTER?
In 2019, I spent Easter in Perth visiting my parents. The year before, I celebrated Easter with friends in Louisville, Kentucky, in the USA. This year, I am confined to my unit and garden due to the current situation of self-isolation and social distancing, which is worlds away from being able to freely roam to be with family and friends. Easter is very different this year, but no less meaningful.
With churches closed, we are discovering new ways of contemplating and celebrating the message of Easter. Many online services have been thoughtfully prepared to help us focus on the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus Christ.
As Melbourne’s weather is forecast to be sunny and warm today, I will go into my little garden and reflect on the momentous events that took place almost 2000 years ago, when a Saviour brought us new life, and hope, and a future.
In my Easter meditations, I am also reflecting on a poem that I found in the archives of Australian Church Women. The poem is called Good Friday, and it was composed by Christina Rosetti in 1862. It was used as the Easter message in the Australian Church Women’s newsletter in April 1972.
Am I a stone and not a sheep That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss, And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee; Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon Which hid their faces in a starless sky, A horror of great darkness at broad noon— I, only I.
Yet give not o'er, But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; Greater than Moses, turn and look once more And smite a rock.
Christina Rosetti, 1862
Rosetti is conscious of her own feelings as she views the cross of Christ and contrasts them with those who knew and loved Jesus. She begins with the grief of the women, as opposed to her own stone-hearted reaction at reflecting on the crucifixion of Jesus, and she questions her lack of tears and emotion. She progresses through how moved Peter and the thief were, and that even the sun, the moon and stars turned away, and darkness descended on the crucifixion scene.
Even though Christina knows the story of Easter, she wants another sign from Jesus of who He is, such as when the great Moses 'smite a rock’ (Exodus 17). She doesn’t seem to take in that Jesus is the Rock. And when our faith is based on the true Rock, then we can understand the love of Jesus and the sacrifices He made to give us new life, and hope, and a future.
And I wonder how many people do not know the stories that are contained in Christina's poem, and how many people still look at the man upon the cross and remain unmoved.
When Sunday dawns, we will celebrate the triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When I survey the wondrous Cross, by Isaac Watts, is a wonderful old hymn that expresses the miraculous sacrifice of Jesus. The following YouTube video has a background that depicts the changing sky on that day when darkness shrouded the crucifixion of Christ.