Easter celebrations are a time for gathering with family and connecting with others, including the through Christian rituals of Holy Week and Easter Day.
Our family recently hosted a Japanese exchange student, and we appreciated the inter-cultural exchange. Our daughter studies Japanese at school, and we each learnt some new phrases for meal-time rituals. We provided immersive experiences in language, food, customs, and the beautiful Tasmanian environment. We were conscious of the potential for ‘overload’ and home sickness in our foreign culture.
As Christian communities celebrate Easter and welcome additional guests as well as regular attenders, similar inter-cultural experiences await us – even when we speak the same language. Church gatherings are rich in symbols and metaphors but when symbolic rituals and cultural patterns are unfamiliar, visitors may need interpretation. When we are the hosts, it is our responsibility to check if others are feeling comfortable, know where to sit, when to stand, and what to say. When our guests are uncomfortable, we are not as hospitable as they need us to be.
The Easter stories of the Bible often upend our ideas of ‘host’ and ‘guest’. Jesus is often the guest in the homes of others but becomes the host and welcomes all. Jesus often invites and includes those on the cultural margins even when that makes the host uncomfortable. When we welcome guests into our Church communities, we gather around the table of Jesus the eternal host. Together we receive abundant life anew, are held together in recognition and reconciliation, all within the wide embrace of the Spirit of Life.
This Easter, my prayer is that each one of each of us might experience again something of the mystery and wonder of transformed new life in the Spirit together. This new life is not only for us as individuals but together as life giving communities of faith, living in solidarity together amidst the deeply challenging times in which we live. This sense of new life together could even inspire us to invite others into the new community of deep care, wellbeing and solidarity with all of creation. Our life giving communities of faith may be just what our lonely neighbour or isolated friends needs for their own wellbeing and for abundant life (John 10:10) – which is why at Easter the Church celebrates again that God raised Jesus to new and transformed life, and that we have the presence of God’s Spirit with us, eternally.
Chairperson, Uniting Church Presbytery of Tasmania