I’m fond of describing the church as ‘Easter people’.
I know we aren’t quite there yet, but I find myself thinking about the whole Easter story when I think about times of change, particularly those times of change which hold the potential for transformation.
The whole story – from Thursday to Sunday – is there for me whenever I phone a minister and tell them their name has been put against a congregation for a potential move.
It is there for me when, at Standing Committee, we make decisions about new units which mean some people’s lives will be turned upside down.
And it has been there for me most strongly on the Royal Commission Task Group, which is in part about record keeping and policies and training, but above all it is about people’s lives and our deep hope and commitment that they will find healing and wholeness.
This morning I want to share a story with you.
It is the story of one person. For me it is a story for Lent and for Easter.
I met Tracey in 1993 when she moved to Brisbane to audition for drama colleges. Colin and I were in theological college at the time.
Tracey was bubbly, energetic, generous, friendly and vulnerable.
Her mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Tracey attended almost 20 schools – primary and high – and after the first few would often take herself along on the first day, with her mother attending to her enrolment on a day when she wasn’t too high.
Tracey came along to the congregation where I was in field placement. People were drawn to her but very few knew about the personal battles Tracey fought. She didn’t have good boundaries and her need for acceptance meant she was vulnerable and so Tracy’s battles weren’t just the result of her childhood.
Yet, through it all Tracey always seemed to bob back up to the top. In 1995, she left Brisbane and went to the States to work at a summer camp. We lost touch with Tracey at that point. I suspect she didn’t have the money to get back to Australia and so she disappeared into the community as an illegal person.
A couple of years ago Tracey found me on Facebook. She is married and Tracey and Julia are part of HOME Inc, a not-for-profit organisation in Maine that provides services to low-income residents and visitors of the Orland and Ellsworth areas.
HOME’s services include homeless shelters, transitional housing, day care, adult education, food banks, soup kitchens, and affordable home construction. HOME also operates an organic farm, craft shops and a cooperative craft store. HOME is part of the anti-poverty movement Emmaus International, headquartered in France. The group identifies as ‘non-religious’ however its values are not inconsistent with Christianity.
Late last year, Tracey was elected as the leader of HOME Inc, Maine.
Christian community was one small part of Tracey’s journey. Even so, Tracey’s story is, for me, an Easter story. It is one of transformation, of the journey through the darkest of times to find new life.
This is what I believe Easter is about.
When I think about the dark, painful journey from the Thursday evening of Jesus’ arrest, through Good Friday and into the nothingness of Saturday, I am thankful for those who carry hope when all seems hopeless. I hold onto Easter Day because it tells me that new life, that transformation is possible.
And this time of year makes me think of people like Tracey and those she now cares for who live on the Good Friday side of Easter.