Revd Peter Rickman by St Paul's Collegiate School

Easter, it’s no 'yoke!'

I love this time of year, and I love Easter! A time punctuated with themes and stories from the Christian tradition which continue to shape, inform, inspire and guide us. One of my favourite services in the entire school calendar is the whole school communion service for Easter at the end of term one each year. We recall as a community the story of Jesus’ triumphant welcome by his people into his own city, the last supper he had with his friends and family, the miscarriage of justice in a poor excuse for a trial, the betrayal by his close friend, his abandonment by those who said they would never leave his side and that small group of women who refused to leave him at the hour of his greatest need because of their loyalty and love. We are reminded of his sacrifice and his death on the cross, and the despair that followed.

Of course, these are all deeply human conditions; stories with impact and emotion that we can all relate to: Exuberant welcomes, special meals with close family and friends, a desire for fairness and justice, being let down by those close to us and times of suffering, loss and grief. In the Easter story, we can find our own stories and experiences, which we each share through many decades of human life as individuals and as a community. They remind us though that there is something else too alongside all of this, a great mystery that resonates around the world with the rising of the new sun every Easter Sunday.

Then comes the great triumphant cry, resurrection, new life, celebration and victory! All of these powerful deeply human themes are woven together into our liturgy and into a celebration of holy communion at Easter. In the chapel, our wooden cross, crudely and symbolically wrapped in barbed wire, is brought to life through its decoration with flowers. We also hold the ‘annual school joke competition’ in which case each house completes for the crown of the best joke for 2022, and of course, that joke has to be not only funny but also appropriate for the occasion and the space. This is not as easy to do as you might think!

Why do we tell jokes at Easter? Why do we have a joke competition? We tell jokes at Easter because of a long-standing tradition in the Christian church, particularly the Orthodox church of the eastern regions of Europe. At the first communion on Easter Sunday, with the arrival of dawn amidst the cries of the faithful “He is risen! Alleluia!” the priest would stand before his people and tell them the funniest and most appropriate joke they could. Bursts of laughter would follow, and the faithful would be aware of the role and purpose of the joke; God always gets the last laugh!

Through the resurrection of Christ we are reminded that despite the suffering and the sorrow and the sadness of the world at times, God speaks the last word on us all. God speaks the last word on suffering and death, and that word is deeply and intrinsically connected with the resurrection of Jesus. This is the triumph and the resounding cry of Easter, life is stronger than death, peace is to be prefered rather than war and violence, light always drives back the darkness, and love will always conquer hatred in its many forms.

Have a wonderful Easter and celebrate with your loved ones, whaanau and family. Regardless of your own particular religious convictions, keep hold of the reality which lies at the centre of Easter: life, light, peace and love. As St Paul once wrote a long time ago, the “greatest of all things is love!”

Happy Easter, everyone!

Maa te Atua e manaaki

Ngaa mihi nui

Revd Peter