What do you hope for? When the Pioneers travelled to the Americas, they took with them a dream that life should be richer and fuller for all. For many people today that dream is about being famous, having a successful job, earning lots of money, having a beautiful partner and at least one home. Films continue to call us to aspire to achieve our dreams and our hopes – and to overcome all the odds in doing so. But is a better tomorrow reliant on fame and fortune?
With seeming regularity, stories appear about a rogue gunman, accidental death due to medical negligence or a reckless driver, corruption in the media and in politics and corporate greed. People are never as good as they appear to be, or even want to be. It may only take one decision by an individual or by a government or organisation to fling us or an entire society into the next headline.
Who should decide the punishment for a crime? Is it for a government to set the limits on a group’s rights, responsibilities and actions? Or should there be a separate, independent, objective force for justice? Perhaps the role of justice should be in the hands of the victim, or the victim’s family — clearly setting out a punishment in line with the pain of the crime on them as a unit. Perhaps there should be some representation on behalf of the accused, and thus the punishment should be set by peers or friends or acquaintances.
Is forgiveness good for you? There are many reasons why people might find it difficult to forgive someone who has deeply hurt them. Yet, psychologists tell us that individuals feel better when they have forgiven someone. Offering forgiveness is not easy. Sometimes people can hurt us so deeply that it is impossible to forgive them. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa offered people the chance to hear the truth about apartheid atrocities, and to seek a place of reconciliation and perhaps even forgiveness. The process of forgiveness still continues.
The Easter story is about the final days of Jesus’ life. It is about acute suffering and anguish. It is about the isolation that Jesus felt in the midst of his pain, and it includes the fact that however close his friends were to him, they really did not understand the reality of what he was enduring. Jesus encouraged people to live in hope and experience a good life, and yet the end of his life’s story includes rejection, loneliness, misunderstanding, overwhelming isolation, betrayal, agony, unbearable pain, being drugged and death. The story of Jesus’ final days tells of someone who chose to suffer on behalf of other people.
Why don’t we like talking about death? One of the Easter story’s core themes is that Jesus died. Eye witnesses recorded that he freely gave away his life following an unfair trial, that he was effectively murdered by those in charge, and that overarching all this was a ‘Divine Plan’ of some description. In the midst of Jesus’ own death bed sequence — which spans around a week — the story is told of death, loss, silence, and the formidable and unanswerable question: what happens next?