And they all lived happily ever after! From our early childhood stories onwards we like a neat and joyous ending. Think of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and all those other Disney Princesses. Think about your favourite films, how many of them follow the pattern of boy meets girl, all sorts of difficulties are placed in their way but all is well by the end. How many others see good triumphing over evil, and all in 90 minutes! In part they appeal because we know that real life isn't always like that. One of the best films I saw last year was Manchester by the Sea. If you can get past the bad language it's well worth watching (although I'm now going to spoil it for you - so perhaps skip this next bit!) The film gradually reveals why Lee, the central character, is so sad and withdrawn. He has done some terrible things, and one had particularly tragic consequences. During the film Lee is offered forgiveness, a chance for all to be made well. He is offered some hope of redemption by adopting his nephew. He can't take either opportunity and the film ends pretty much where we started with Lee unable to forgive himself or accept forgiveness from others, unredeemed and alone. Not the traditional Hollywood ending!
It some ways the story is the story of humanity without Easter; a humanity knowing that individually and collectively we have made a mess of things, the world is not as it should be. This is a humanity without any real hope, trying to make the best of things, just getting by, but like Lee turning away from what life could be. The message of Easter for Lee and for all of us is that there is forgiveness for all the bad we have been responsible for individually and collectively. Jesus went to the cross so that by faith in him we are forgiven and the weight of our past, a weight that is crushing Lee, can be removed (see Romans 5:8). That in itself would be a much happier ending for Lee, but it gets better. Jesus rises from the dead. It isn't just that the mistakes of the old life are wiped away, but that believers share in that new life in Christ. In him we can live the kind of lives we were created to live, at one with God, and at peace with ourselves and others. It is a message we need to continue to hear, are we reconciled with God and ourselves? It is the Good News of Jesus Christ that all the Lees of the world need to hear too (Colossians 1:15-20). Will we be the Easter people whose way of living and speaking, serving and being, attract attention and allow for the Good News to be heard?
Rev. John Mills