Sometimes, late in the evening, I relax in front of the television and channel surf through the dozen or so stations on my favourites list, looking for something interesting. I wonder if channel surfing is the modern incarnation of that old adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Certainly, after one or two circuits of the stations on my list, I realise that grass, green or otherwise, is rare on late night TV. Competitions, documentaries, unusual people, crime and violence crop up repeatedly. Most of these have some moral value: crime still does not pay (at least on TV), people with unfortunate conditions are helped by others, documentaries educate, and competitions encourage the best in people, even if these days they seem to have become extreme. What was the latest challenge on that cooking show– here’s an egg and a match, create roast chicken? I find myself retreating to the soothing cadences of David Attenborough, explaining once more how one of the world’s ugliest critters is in truth amazingly beautiful.
One new species of television show that has arisen recently troubles me. These are the programs about scavengers – people who buy lost baggage unseen at auction or scour the countryside in search of valuables. What concerns me is the apparent lack of consideration for others. The stars in these programs are lauded for getting a bargain. However, those bargains come about through the misfortune of another – how would you feel if you lost your bags during an airline flight? What tragedy struck the owner of the abandoned storage unit or the manager of the bankrupt business? The stars in the shows are happiest when they do not pay a fair price for an item. They rejoice when they are able to convince a person to part with something for far less than its value. Where is the moral content in this?
In April, we move into the season of Easter. If we were to look at Easter from the perspective of those TV series about scavengers, then Easter represents the ultimate bargain – eternal life given at no cost to us by God. However, that perspective misses the point. The love of God for humans and for the whole world was never in question. What Easter highlights is how we should respond to this love. Easter is the story of the resurrection of Jesus. During his time on earth, Jesus lived life in a fashion that expressed care for others, acceptance of difference, treasured the weakest and those on the edges of society or beyond them, as well as partying with those well off, and so on. He teaching and actions are summed up with words like justice, inclusion and sharing. His resurrection at Easter shows that this way of life is God’s way. Not bargain hunting eternal life, but concern for others in this life.
What is eternal life? Often people look at it in a one-dimensional way, as continuing to exist after death in some heaven far away from the troubles of the earth. However, if eternal life is life with God, then it is a way of living, life in a dynamic sense, life that has the qualities of the eternal, the qualities of God. This second view is the sort of life that Jesus illustrates – eternal life, lived in the present. Not life as a bargain picked up without paying a fair price, but a way of living that is committed to making sure everyone you encounter has a fair deal. Paradoxically, the focus of this type of life is on the here and now; what happens later is left to trust in God’s love.
We are called to live eternal life in the present, showing fairness, welcome and care to those we encounter in our lives and in our corporate life as a congregation on a busy corner in the city of Adelaide. This is the Easter message.
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
Image by Naomi Blanchard
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