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Reenacted, Retold and Reimagined

By Canon Dr Mike D Williams

Easter brings with it a range of memories of family traditions, not unlike Christmas. Growing up on the southern outskirts of Edinburgh, every Easter Day we used to head out with our neighbours to Flotterstone in the Pentland Hills. We took with us our decorated hard boiled eggs to re-enact the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. I have little memory of the religious aspects of the event – it was all about having a fun afternoon out. 

Fast forward many years and I brought that same tradition to my own family. It became just a shade competitive with nail varnish being used to decorate the eggs to help prevent cracking. A cracked eggshell was disqualified. The prize was no longer the taking part but a chocolate egg to eat. New memories were forged as the resurrection story was told to a new generation. Now my grandchildren take part – they paint their eggs the day before and the cracked eggshell rule is less enforced.

Religious practice is all about repeatedly telling the same stories and taking part in services to mark the key moments in the life and ministry of Jesus. Holy Week and Easter are a mix of emotions and experiences – the almost triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the arrest, conviction and crucifixion, the desolation of Easter Saturday followed by the joy of Easter morning.

Such stories and participation in services feeds our faith and imagination. I remember being introduced to Ignatian spiritual practice. One of the first exercises was to use my imagination to place myself into one of the Gospel stories as one of the characters. What was it like to be around the fire as a member of the crowd, as they singled out Peter, as he denied knowing Christ? To use our imagination allows us to create new experiences and memories.

I recall a story of an American soldier captured and held prisoner for a number of years in Vietnam. Each day he played a round of golf to keep himself sane. The golf he played was in his imagination. He played his home course slowly and deliberately seeing each shot and the contours of the land. When he eventually returned home, he played close to his previous handicap on his first round back.

Covid has brought upon us many restrictions. We have had to imagine what it might be like to meet family and friends, attend church and the many other joys of everyday life. This is our second Easter under restrictions. Some will go to church for a socially distanced liturgy. Others may watch on-line and imagine what it is like to be in the Cathedral, to hear the stories of Good Friday and Easter Day and sing the glorious hymns. 

As three generations of my family paint and roll our eggs this Easter we will try to imagine the joy of the disciples and give thanks for all that the resurrection means for humanity now and always.