Our theme through Lent this year has been ‘Breaking the Barriers’, and that was our theme at the congregational weekend away as well. We’ve looked at the barriers Jesus breaks to speak to a Samaritan woman – barriers of tradition and convention, or religion and nation; we’ve looked at the barriers facing a man born blind, the least of which was his blindness – with many more barriers being placed in his way by the attitudes of others (especially the religious authorities). As I write, my thoughts are on Lazarus and Judas, who will command our attention in the last two Sundays before Easter, and who will offer us a way in to addressing barriers of death and blame and betrayal.
At Pitlochry we also looked at barriers created by prejudice and stereotyping, at the way we presume things of one another, things that prevent us seeing each other as we should. And we looked at the barriers encountered by people who have never been to church before when they come to church for the first time – and at how we might begin or continue to break down those barriers in our lives and in our society and in our church.
As we read of Jesus in the Gospels, we read of one who broke down, or just ignored, barriers. He recognised how those with power and influence and wealth often tried to erect barriers around those things to keep others out – and keep those others safely clear of having influence of their own. Even, perhaps especially, religious rules of the day did a very good job of exclusion. As we approach Holy Week, we may remember again the story of ‘the cleansing of the temple’; it is a story of how the principal place of worship of the faith was built on exclusion – and of how Jesus acted to draw attention to who was being excluded.
To the people of the time, the people visiting the temple, the people who knew the rules, who knew the system, who knew what to do and where and how to do it, Jesus would have been seen as making a fuss about nothing, making a scene, disturbing the peace. But maybe we still need to allow Jesus to disturb our peace, to point out the ways in which our actions, or our customs, or our buildings, or our language, still exclude. And maybe we should notice when the barriers needing to be broken are the barriers we erect or maintain – or just take for granted.
The resurrection we celebrate at Easter is not a restoration of the old, it is the inauguration of the new; it is the embodiment of the kingdom. And we are called to be that embodiment today – it’s quite a calling.
Have a very happy Easter.
Yours in Christ,