Recently whilst visiting a school I was in a class which had been given the task of imagining and designing an island. In pairs they had been given a blank sheet of paper and asked to put in the features needed to shape the future of the people living on their imaginary island. I was fascinated by the way in which all the islands ended up with similar features – mountains, rivers, fields, villages and towns. All had roads and most had railways, some had an airport and most had docks, some had reservoirs and one had a rubbish dump – but none had wind farms, none had hydroelectric power stations and none had solar panels. What was common to them all was that they imagined the future in terms of what they had already experienced – their future was a reflection of the past and I suspect that many of us, given the same exercise, would have done the same – imagining the future as a reflection of the past.
To Christians, the Easter story is an invitation – an invitation to become involved in shaping the future – our own and for our society. An invitation to glimpse what is possible when we allow our imagination to be fed by the possibilities of God and his transforming love; an invitation to re-imagine our future, not as a reflection of the past, but as a new landscape of life and love.
We celebrate Easter this year when the world is experiencing remarkable changes and uncertainties. The global economy is undergoing a fundamental readjustment, the recession is teasing out the viability of businesses leaving in its wake the unemployment which makes the future so uncertain for millions of people.
We celebrate Easter with the growing spectre of climate change and the continued threat of terrorism contributing to a general texture of uncertainty and, as ever, we celebrate Easter against the backdrop of all the ongoing joys and sorrows of life, from the joys of new birth to the heart rending plight of the Italian earthquake victims.
It is a troubling picture and it is far too simplistic just to say that Easter and its message of hope is ‘the’ answer to all the problems of our times. The key to understanding Easter is the image of Jesus dying on the cross. The pain and suffering of Jesus tortured to death on the cross is transformed not avoided. The hope which Christians celebrate today is not about making everything all right again, but how we can re-imagine the future.
As we wrestle with the future, it is understandably tempting and attractive for politicians to offer a future which is a recovery of the past good times, but what’s the sense in that? More of the same will bring us to exactly where we are now – I think that it is called boom and bust.
It is too easy to jump on a bandwagon of blaming the bankers for all the economic problems we are facing. We need to remember that they were operating in a system of values which we endorsed as we enjoyed the benefits of a buoyant economy, but those values had no substance, for they were not about shaping the future but exploiting the present. A target driven world can be a world that sacrifices wisdom for the short term gains and approval of meeting the targets.
So do we really want to go back to that? Or, if given a blank sheet of paper and asked to re-imagine the world, what features, what values would we draw in to shape the future for our world. The message of Easter invites us to draw in life and love, peace and justice, hope and goodness as foundational features for shaping the future. These features are not exclusive to Christians – life and love, peace and justice, hope and goodness are universal and a commitment to them would be future shaping. The Easter story enables us to glimpse that when these things are lived out to the full, then there is a flourishing of life which even death cannot destroy.