by Archbishop Geoff Smith
In June 1987 Lynn and I travelled to Taraka, just outside Lae in Papua New Guinea to begin three years of service with the Anglican church in PNG. I was the parish priest of Taraka, an area on the urban outskirts of Lae, and Lynn was the national accountant for the Anglican Church of PNG.
While we were expecting things to be different in PNG compared to Australia what was disorienting was that some things concerning the church were the same and others different. So, for instance, it was familiar to us that the eucharist was the focus of Sunday worship, but the service was in either English or Tok Pisin, most people didn’t wear shoes in church, hardly anyone was there at the appointed start time (PNG time), most of the congregation were PNG nationals, the singing was fantastic, the service was held under the priest’s house with the congregation spilling out onto the front and side lawns and even the footpath, the parish councillors seemed to think it was part of their role to berate the congregation during the ‘notices’, and it was really hot and wet in June!
But after a while, the unusual became more usual and we came to love it. One of the key learnings for us was to think about the basics of the Christian faith and the amount of cultural overlay which we see as part of our normal living out of the Christian faith. In PNG much of our Australian cultural way of being Anglicans was missing and we were really conscious of what was basic to the faith. Of course, the Papua New Guinean culture wasn’t missing from the equation, but our removal from our usual experience made the basics of the gospel very clear to us.
I am feeling a bit the same this year as we contemplate Easter without the usual accompaniments. No gathering together for great joyous worship, no getting together with family and friends for Easter celebrations, no holidays locally or overseas. All of that is stripped away. And what is left are the basic truths laid bare and stark. Jesus enduring terrible shame and giving his life for us on the cross as an act of love for the reconciliation of the world. Jesus breaking through the hold of death in his resurrection allowing us to cry-Christ is Risen-even if we are by ourselves. Christ is risen. Death could not hold him. Not only is Jesus resurrection good news for us individually but it is good news for the whole world. The resurrection of Jesus is the first act, the launching pad for God’s new creation. A new creation full of life and healing and wholeness. A new creation which will come to be, despite things like COVID 19 continuing to have influence for this time.
I will miss the usual things that go with Easter which won’t be happening this year. But I am looking forward to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day. The truths of those days remain and in fact will be even more clear this year.
May you see those truths clearly, embrace them for your life, know the joy of the risen Christ, and continue to tell everyone you can that Christ is risen, the new creation has begun.