As Guardians of Ancora celebrates Easter with the new Bible Quest ‘Jesus is Alive!’, Beth Barnett encourages us to pause and remember the whole story...
At Easter time our children are bombarded with an exciting, colourful and confusing mix of traditions: eggs and hot cross buns in every shop; school assemblies; foot washing; midnight services in darkness; decorations of flowers; hilariously creative bonnet parades, Easter egg hunts – not to mention so much chocolate!
And in the midst of all of this crazy ancient and contemporary, religious and commercial cultural fun, our children will likely hear a story of death. Our Easter traditions recount the story of Jesus’ death – as well as the surprise of his empty tomb and the celebration of his life that goes on and on.
Of course our children will be thrilled by the celebrations and eager for the chocolate, but we shouldn’t underestimate how important the strange story of Jesus’ death might also be to them.
Jesus’ death is not a nice one. It is not a fair death. It’s a lonely death. It’s a political death. It’s a violent death. Unfortunately, these themes are all too familiar to our children. They already know of the terrors and injustices of the world.
That’s why making time for the story of Jesus’ death can be so significant for our children, and in fact for households and whole communities.
The story of the death of Jesus – the one who shows us God in human skin – reminds our children that God is not blind or ignorant or insensitive to the pain in our world. The story of Jesus gives our children a story that they can hold close when things are tough – and know that Jesus knows pain and grief and injustice and bullying and even death, from the inside. He knows what all of these things do to us as humans, how it feels and how we wish it away.
However, beyond this, the surprise twist at the end of the story, the empty tomb and Jesus turning up among his friends again, gives another dimension to the story. Death is not the end. Death doesn’t have the final say over Jesus, or over us. While death will always bring us sadness, the Easter story offers surprising hope.
Sometimes, we are tempted to rush through the story to get to the surprising and happy ending, set off the party-poppers and crack open the chocolate eggs. Perhaps this Easter, let’s not rush through to the happy ending too quickly. Let’s allow our children and ourselves to look and notice and recognise in the story of Jesus’ death, a God who knows sadness, pain and death. And a God who we can tell all our troubles and fears to. A God who will be with us in death and show us the way to life.
Beth is currently undertaking doctoral studies in the area of New Testament examining the constructs of maturity in the letters of Paul. She has held pastoral roles in Baptist and Anglican churches and been a long-term volunteer in the missions of Scripture Union, for whom she is a freelance resource writer and trainer. She teaches units in Children and Families Ministry and Biblical Studies at Stirling College, as well as guest lectures in other Melbourne, Australia, colleges. Internationally, she is a writer and facilitator in the Child Theology Movement.
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