Sadness, shock, anger, disappointment, frustration, and despair. Such feelings are not uncommon in our streets and suburbs. Of course, there is much for us to enjoy, and opportunities abound for most people across Melbourne, and yet more and more data suggest that a cavity exists in many lives and it is only growing with time.
In the extraordinary musical, Les Miserables, Fantine sings a song that haunts. The words tell her story. It is a story of lingering hope. It is a story of desperate hope that fades. It is a story that too many of our neighbours and friends resonate with, and perhaps even yourself.
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I prayed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
And they turn your dreams to shame
And still I dream he’d come to me
That we would live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream, I dreamed
In our search for hope, we are often urged to look inside ourselves or to carry on and push through barriers. On other occasions, we are encouraged to hold onto relationships or careers as though these can secure contentment and peace. What happens when these things fall apart or fail? What happens when we reach all our goals, only to discover that they cannot fulfil the burden we placed upon them?
Easter really does give us the answer. Maybe that sounds a little too Christian for you; an unimaginative and prosaic offering. I don’t mean the long weekend or colourfully wrapped chocolate bunnies and eggs. I’m referring to the historic events that took place just outside Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. Even today, with all our latest gadgets and knowledge, the world hasn’t overcome the irresistible story of God who gave his life for hopeless and helpless people.
Over Easter, my church is exploring (as will churches across Melbourne) the good news story that never dies or fades or disappoints. On that cross, the darkest dark fell upon the Son of God in the place of a sinful world. On the Sunday morning, a light more brilliant than the dawning of the sun pierced history and continues to shed light on millions of lives across the world.
Our Bible text for Easter Sunday this year includes these breathtaking words from John’s Gospel,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:16-21)
Notice, how God is described as recognising there is something not right in the world. Also, note how these verses assume God doesn’t agree with every want and desire and activity we pour our lives into; it’s as though we’re not the standard for righteousness. At the same time, there is a profound love spoken and expressed.
A lot of Aussies have given up on Church. Millions have discounted Christianity. When we’re being honest we can understand why this is sometimes the case, given the horrors uncovered in some church buildings and lives of clergy. At the same time, most churches aren’t playing games of pretension and hypocrisy, but they are filled with ordinary people who are convinced by the power and goodness of the God who has loved the world.
Many of our dreams cannot be and some ought not to be. But life cannot kill the greatest dream: God is forgiving. Jesus has paid the ransom.
Why not visit a church this Easter? Perhaps open a Bible and read the Easter story for yourself (Mark chs. 14-16; John chs. 18-21)*
* You can read the Bible online for free. https://www.biblegateway.com/ is one of many great websites that allow us to search and read any part of the Bible)