Easter -The Power of Powerlessness by Father John Richardson

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the festival of Easter is upon us when we walk the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. What are we to make of the Easter story? Those of you who come to our 9.30 service will know that we finish our Eucharist with one of the Prayers after Communion in which ‘we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice’ or ‘May we who share Christ’s body, live his risen life’. In
these beautiful prayers we are called to be a ‘living sacrifice and to live his risen life’-
the very essence of the Easter Story, to be sacrificed, to lay down our lives for one
another and to rise up. It’s a tall order to say the least – to try to ‘bring life to others’,
‘give light to the world’, ‘so we and all your children shall be free’. We are called to
do this in the midst of very challenging times.
At the time of writing this article, the world is experiencing a ‘meltdown’ in terms of
the measures need to deal with the spread of the Coronavirus epidemic. I’ve no idea
how it will be when you read this magazine, maybe it will be over, or maybe it will be
worse? Of one thing we can be sure, is that it will have caused havoc, not only in
grand worldly terms of countries, health systems, economics and politics but, perhaps
more tellingly, in our own ordinary everyday lives dealing with ourselves, our
families, friends and neighbours. It seems from the very beginning of the ‘crisis’ that
the whole world experienced a sense of powerlessness – great mighty, and not so
mighty, countries and governments seem completely unable to respond – powerless
over the event overtaking the world. No one likes to admit that they are powerless,
especially those who are supposedly ‘in power’? After all, haven’t they promised us
that they can deliver a better society, a better and perhaps freer world? Not just for us,
but for our children and our children’s children!
They now face, what the sociologist Jurgen Habermas called ‘A Legitimation crisis’-
they cannot anymore lay claim to be able to provide solutions to our problems – they
seem to have no more understanding or insight than you or I! So what is to be done?
Can we point to Easter for an answer?
Perhaps a beginning may be to admit, to say fully and unafraid that we don’t know
where we are going, we don’t know what the future will bring, we only have today
and it is all complete mystery. But in order to be able to do this we have to have faith,
a faith that helps us to accept the uncertainty and the complexity of daily living –to
look to Jesus to be the answer although we may not be asking the right questions!
Perhaps Jesus himself is in turn asking questions of us? This is certainly true of the
mystery of Jesus because Jesus is not a typical superhero or mythological power who
slays things and crushes his enemies with his might. What is most riveting aspect of
Jesus is that he is defeated, executed and abandoned, that he is a man whose symbol is
an instrument of public execution, like a gallows, and whose message is radical peace
and nonviolence. When he is arrested he tells the disciple who wields a sword in his
defence to sheathe it, for that is not how things are done in the Kingdom of God
(Matt.26:52). After this the disciples desert him. As he hangs on the cross he asks
forgiveness for those who are executing him. To feel the sharp edge of this scene on
Good Friday we must accept that Jesus is nailed to the cross who, unable to move,
unable to escape, really feels abandoned and in this we experience not power but
powerlessness – it is the power of powerlessness. St Paul calls this ‘the weakness of
God’ (1 Cor 1.25) and what is specific to Jesus is what Paul calls the logic of the
cross, which is more precisely the ‘foolishness’ of the cross.
So we move to Easter Sunday and the Resurrection and this does indeed seem
‘foolish’ to the wise, how is this possible? Remember that, for us, this might seem impossible, but for God, nothing is impossible! What rises up in the Resurrection is
not a show of might and power, that one might expect from a classical hero, but the
stunning power of powerlessness – of nonviolence, non-resistance, forgiveness,
mercy, compassion and generosity. As the theologian John Caputo puts it: ”The
divinity that shows through Jesus consists not in a demonstration of might but in a
complete reversal of our expectations culminating in the most stunning reversal of all.
It is the centrepiece of all this madness, the one that makes as little sense as possible
from the point of view of worldly common sense, the most divine madness of all: love
your enemies. The key to the kingdom is to love those who do not love you, who hate
you, and whom you, by worldly standards, should also hate. …..loving the lovable is
entirely possible, but loving the unlovable, those who are impossible to love, that is
when the kingdom reigns. …Jesus endures all things in his own body but will not
tolerate suffering in the bodies of others; he suffers his own passion but rises up in
compassion for the suffering of others. Forgiveness and bread, healing hearts and
healing bodies, turning all things around to be of a new mind, a new heart, a new
creation, and a new order.” Perhaps out of this ‘crisis’ a new order may indeed
emerge?


God Bless you at Eastertime
Fr John