Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter and the Apple-Pip Princess: transforming the land and making it blossom again

A couple of days ago, I was reading a favourite book with our daughter Alice, The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray, and it made me think of Easter. The story (beautifully illustrated - you can see the pictures at Amazon) tells of three princesses whose task is to convince their father the king that they should inherit the kingdom. The land is dry and parched, the people in despair. The youngest princess, Serenity, decides to use a gift from her late mother to bring the land back to life, but in the seven days given by the king she can only do a small amount. On the seventh night, she falls asleep in the desolate land in despair. The next morning she is awakened by the king to see the following (quoting from the book now):
As far as her eyes could see, there were plants and graceful trees. There were fruit trees and olive trees and nut trees, all fresh and green in the early-morning sunshine. Serenity and her father walked slowly, arm in arm.

The air was full of the scent of flowers and all around them children were playing. People were picking fruit and tending the trees, and the old people were resting in the dappled shade.

The old King felt his poor unhappy heart fill with warmth again, as all his sadness drifted away on the breeze.

"Serenity, my Serenity", he said. "You shall rule the kingdom! For you have transformed the land and made it blossom again."
What a wonderful image for the new life of Easter! I sometimes think the church (especially the Protestant church) is a bit over-keen on Good Friday. We put great emphasis on the death of Jesus, talk a lot about the power of the crucifixion and the importance of his sacrifice. We spend six weeks in Lent preparing to empathise with Christ's suffering. It's important, but it pales into insignificance compared to Easter.

Easter changes everything. From despair comes hope. From death comes life. From grief comes joy. It shouldn't be possible. It isn't possible. It throws over all the expectations of the world, both of 1st century Palestine and of our 21st century world. Whether to interpret it in literal physical terms I'm not sure, though I'd certainly agree with David Jenkins (often misquoted) that it is "much more than a conjuring trick with bones". But however it happened, it cannot be ignored. As we heard in our church today, it was the conquering of death by life - "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).

And that's why Easter Sunday matters, more than bunnies and chocolate eggs and even more than Good Friday. And it's why the resurrection, like the quote above, transforms the land and makes it blossom again.

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