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The paradox of Easter

It is through the brokenness of the cross that God reveals the way to wholeness. A message from the moderator.

By Mardi Tindal

Easter begins with a broken heart. In an essay entitled “The Politics of the Brokenhearted,” Parker J. Palmer writes of the cross by saying, “God’s heart was broken for the sake of humankind, broken open into a love that Christ’s followers are called to emulate.”

“Broken open into love” is, I think, a very good way to describe the way of Easter.

The path my spouse and I have travelled over the past year has been uphill compared to most of our years together. Within a few months, the two of us began three new jobs; discarded decades of life-laced stuff in order to move from a house into an apartment; temporarily relocated from a community that felt like family to a city where close friends aren’t exactly next door; grieved the death of a parent; and carried concerns about other dear family members.

Work demands that were new to each of us made the incline feel a bit steeper. When we finally stepped off the path for a breather, we discovered that we had been trying to hold it all together, in silence, without being fully honest with ourselves — let alone with one another. The truth was that our hearts were broken over our lost parent, lost community, a sense of lost competence and frequent disorientation.

Even through prayer and worship, I pretended that my heart felt whole. The changes were, after all, good or at least natural; I should be thankful for the best of what each represented. Nothing I was going through compared to the real suffering of others — those who have lost family in an earthquake; those who have lost the ability to grow food in spreading drought and floods; those who have lost their language and culture. Focusing on the suffering and needs of others is a worthy distraction.

Yet whenever we pretend that our hearts aren’t broken, we stand in the way of love. Only by being truthful with ourselves and with others can we take heart together and find our way back to Easter love and resurrection.

God’s heart was broken on the cross. And the paradox is that God’s way of wholeness was made known through brokenness. In this season of Easter, we are able to celebrate and live God’s way of love and wholeness — but only to the extent that we can face into brokenness, rather than turning away from it.

To experience Easter fully as church is the same story. We must be honest about brokenness and not turn away from it. We are so often tempted to pretend that loss and even suffering aren’t really affecting us — or that some losses are hardly worth mentioning. But if we are not honest about what’s tearing us apart, we may prevent a necessary breaking open to the Holy Spirit’s healing and wholeness, to God’s resurrection love.

Easter love is springing up through the cracks of brokenness almost everywhere I look. Writers including Phyllis Tickle and Harvey Cox describe what they see as a resurgence of faith: old ways break into the new, in a convergence of spiritual, communal and justice-seeking practices.

There are countless examples in our church experience of being broken into love. One of the most vivid is the work of truth-telling and restorative justice pursued through our Residential Schools Steering Committee.

The legacy of our church’s involvement in residential schools continues to invite us to be broken open over and over again: to tell the truth of brokenness, to listen to one another and to find new ways forward together, in the spirit of Christ. It is a privilege for me as moderator to sit with and listen to those working through stories of brokenness and of hope — stories that are long and deep and rooted in times when we thought we could fix others and strategize on their behalf, in the name of Christ. In the name of Christ, we now find our way back to resurrection love by travelling back through those stories.

In the months to come, you and I will have more opportunities to be broken into love as the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission spreads throughout Canada. We will continue to support the Healing Fund and the Justice and Reconciliation Fund; we will open our arms to the ongoing witness of the All Native Circle Conference and the new work of the Aboriginal Ministries Council; we will continue immersing ourselves in educational resources about the impact of colonialism; and we will anticipate and receive blessings of traditional spiritual practices into our worship and work. We will be broken into love. We will be invited into God’s way of wholeness. We will know the truth of Easter.

Mardi Tindal is the 40th moderator of The United Church of Canada.

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The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

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