I had the privilege on Monday earlier this week of attending an Easter chapel service at MLC in Burwood for their junior school. The girls all participated in strong voice in the hymns and the responsive prayers, and eagerly shot their hands in the air in response to questions during the engaging sermon by the visiting Uniting Church minister.
Our colleague told the Easter story of Three Trees. You may well be familiar with it. If not, you can watch this 5 minute version.
What struck me was the moments of recognition as various students gasped towards the end of the story as they made the connection between the story of the trees and the story of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
You could hear their intake of breath, signifying the moment of insight and recognition, as they pieced together the revelation that was slowly uncovered by the story. Often they would turn to a neighbour to whisper the answer they had discovered. The riddle as to what on earth the hopes and dreams of three trees had to do with an Easter service was being solved. That sound – the sound of recognition, wonder and discovery – was to me the breath of the Spirit awakening hearts and minds to the deepest truths of the Easter story.
Last night I also had the privilege of attending the traveling event known as Passion: A Musical Reflection on the Events of Holy Week at Burwood Uniting Church. Rev. Radhika Sukumar-White and ministry candidate Claire Wright performed various sacred works by Handel, Pergolesi, Rutter, Lloyd Webber, Jenkins, and others, alongside a guided meditation of readings of the Passion narrative. I was seated next to someone who has very little experience of the Uniting Church though she has been a church-goer all her life. She said that she was struck by how much power the story of the Passion has on its own. She told me that she is used to hearing the Easter story used in churches as a recruitment tool. How much more power it has on its own, she said, when read and sung, to awaken the hearts and minds of the listener to the deepest truths of the Easter story. She left speechless and astonished.
And so from your friends and colleagues of the Sydney Presbytery staff we wish you an Easter filled with your own experiences of astonishment and wonder, recognition and discovery as you encounter the Passion narrative. May we all, through insight and repentance, begin again on our journey towards loving, faithful and hopeful ways of being alive together.