Some post Easter musings from Darren Howie (St John’s Student)

Another Easter has almost come and gone, sadly and virtually slipping away again into the back of our minds, only to resurface again next year as we approach another Easter. Throughout this period of the Christian calendar, we are encouraged to reflect on themes of “new life” and “resurrection.” So every year I hear words like these I do my best to understand and embrace the hope they are supposed to convey. However, do these words really mean anything? Do they point to anything significant about what actually has happened in the past, what can happen now, or what will happen in the future? Are words like “resurrection” and “new life” not just Christian buzz words that are actually little more than, perhaps, the spiritualising of everyday concepts such as ‘self-help’, ‘fresh starts’, and ‘second chances’?

I was thinking about these things the other week as a walked along the Hook towards the Water Sports Centre — and I had a little moment of clarity when I saw a sight that would have been an ordinary one any other time of the year. It was a lonely, public, garbage bin in desperate need of being emptied. The bins have been forgotten, I muttered. And to add insult to injury others who were on the path that day just seemed to be taking no notice. And I thought I had moved up in the world into a more respectable neighbourhood. In Rushcliffe, you see, garbage is collected regularly, on time, in my street (Holme Road) for example, every Thursday without fail. You rarely see overflowing refuse, anywhere. That is of course, except when there’s a statutory holiday, such as Easter. Such as the day I was enjoying my walk, and my own company, along the Hook. Statutory holidays alter the norm -almost everyone in Lady Bay knows this, except me initially.

As I continued my stroll and as it dawned on me that it was Easter, the sight of the garbage toppling over the edge of the bin it got me thinking. It sort of symbolised a culture where Easter (or at least its historical meaning) is ignored, forgotten, or trivialised and commercialised. Easter comes and goes and we barely notice. We throw our garbage away and it’s business as usual. Life carries on, as it always does. It doesn’t seem to change anything and it’s good for little more than an extra day off work.

Moreover, and perhaps more significantly, the lonely and full garbage bin reminded me that life will inevitably go back to normal but that the ‘normal’ always contains its fair share of ‘garbage’. Taking the garbage metaphor to the extreme, you could say that those of us who celebrate Easter do so in the full knowledge that the coming year will contain a reasonable amount of struggles and trials. None of our lives are ‘garbage-free’.

There are few times of the Christian year more enjoyable to speak at than Easter. But I’m painfully aware that a large portion of the people in our community, those who might be reading this reflection, for instance, might find it difficult to find the joy, because it’s not true to their situation. Perhaps, like me, you have been listening to words about resurrection and new life, yet at the same time have been through, or are at present slap bang in the middle of varying forms and degrees of garbage. For example, we live in world ravaged by cancer and other diseases, families struggling with the fallout of addiction, mental illness, and suicide, lives touched by the economic downturn… And those are just the stories we happen to be aware of. How does ‘resurrection talk’ sound when you’re surrounded by garbage?

Of course, there’s nothing new about this question. The hope of resurrection has always been located in a world where suffering was the norm, where garbage is to be expected. The promise of newness has always been spoken to people more familiar with tragedy than to those who are adamant that they are in no need. The Easter message is that there is more to the story than we see, but this message has never been proclaimed into a context where newness and hope were self-evident realities.

Even when life goes back to normal. Even when it is the middle of June or September or November, and Easter is memory, and it seems like we’re up to ears in garbage and pain—when the flowers of spring are replaced by the scorching heat of summer or the wind and the rain of winter. Even when we’re surrounded by garbage, the memory of Easter, of new life, of resurrection, no matter how vague or distant, lives on, and it reminds us that hope always has the last word – that summer and winter will pass – that spring will arrive – that garbage will be collected and life will go on, even beyond death.