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Looking beyond the bunny

2 chocolate rabbits with easter eggs

The Dominion Post headline on 16 of January declared: ‘Easter Hot Cross Bunny Arrives Early’.

‘Santa has just departed but the Easter Bunny has already arrived, with the season of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns already in full swing for retailers,’ said the paper, noting, ‘Many Wellington shops and supermarkets started selling hot cross buns on January 3, despite Easter Sunday falling late this year, on April 20.’

There’s evidently a strong commercial incentive to leverage off something that’s at the core of the Christian faith: Easter. What I’m asking myself is, ‘How can we, as disciples of Jesus, capitalise on this season to gain deeper roots in our faith, and not just expanded waistlines from over-consumption of the aforementioned goodies?’

We’re already part-way through the period of Lent on the Christian calendar. Lent is a period of 40 days (omitting Sundays) leading up to Easter. The purpose of this season of weeks is to offer us an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to the Jesus way of life. As we reflect on our patterns of life, we may decide to make conscious change and bring into greater alignment our lifestyle choices and habits, resulting in personal spiritual renewal.

Lent is a time for deeper prayer, and a time to reflect upon Christ’s sorrow over humanity. We may find ourselves becoming more aware of the things that cause Christ sorrow and become compelled to respond to this heightened awareness. Our pathway of increased spiritual growth and renewal is never intended to be an end in itself. Rather, we hear a call to action that sees us seeking ways to serve the poor and those most in need. This is what we see in the life of Christ.

Maybe the retailers got a head start in actively embracing the opportunities presented by the approaching Easter. But there’s still time for you to have a ‘bumper Easter’ if you explore practices that will deepen your spiritual life, seeking to know in a fresh way the extent of Christ’s sorrow for this world.

Simply listening to the evening news on any night of the week informs us about situations of extreme gravity, locally and globally. But knowing about situations is not necessarily enough to bring us into a deeper place of prayer or identification with Christ’s sorrow about it. Tragically, it’s possible to become so accustomed to violence, homicide, corruption and abuse that we may initially feel little sense of need to respond, act or pray. We may simply feel sad or unable to help.

But praying can take many forms. How would it be if in this season approaching Easter you chose to intentionally reflect on the current-event situations? This may mean deliberately going off by yourself to spend some time in God’s presence—asking God to help you see the poor as he does, to increase your understanding of the violated and the victims, to deepen your awareness of them as people whom he loves. You may find a solidarity with them that surprises you. It was this same solidarity with the poor, the marginalised and the violated that sent Jesus to the cross.
Beyond simply reflecting on these situations, you may find yourself wanting to become even better informed about the background to what lies behind the news, whether this be corruption, ongoing racial tension or political tensions. Your prayer might then take the form of delving into the facts, seeking background knowledge and information to increase your understanding. You may even seek to contact individuals or organisations that are motivated to action, which can suggest new ways of participating in solutions.

To make the most of the remaining days leading up to Easter, you can choose to make an intentional spiritual journey that is not dissimilar to the one that Jesus took when he set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. You may choose to commit to a regular time in the morning, midday or evening, with the expressed desire to pray for the world or your community. You may choose to have times of fasting (from food, technology, television or something else) so that you can seek to know God more. There may be some project you want to do by yourself or with others as a means of serving the poor or relieving another’s suffering.

Retailers are leveraging Easter by extending it from just a few days after Christmas until the actual week in April for their own gain. The question is: ‘What will we have gained when we celebrate Easter this year?’

By Heather Rodwell

Major Heather Rodwell is Territorial Secretary for Spiritual Life Development for The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory.