Yesterday the headteacher at Buckland school sent me the image at the top of this week’s bulletin, wishing me a Happy Easter. I love that photo. It’s cute.
But as I looked again, another message began to come through.
Too often we end up making difficult and challenging things cute or kitsch, and essentially removing their true meaning. But I wonder if, this year particularly, those teddies might have something powerful to say.
For many of us, it felt like Easter simply did not happen last year. We said the words “Christ is risen” on Easter day, but it felt hollow. The joy was not there. And we were alone. Separated from each other by an invisible enemy who we could only see in the trail of devastation and death which it left behind.
For many of us, this whole year has felt like an extended Good Friday and Holy Saturday. A time of grieving, of shock, of readjustment. Of asking “what now?” Those same things must have been running through the disciples’ minds as their leader was crucified and they wondered, “Am I next?”
Jesus was of course fully divine as well as fully human – he knew what he was doing, and what, and what would happen. Doubtless this gave him courage and fortitude to endure the agony of his torture and death.
But I do wonder if the love and support of his friends and family – even when they didn’t quite get the point – also sustained him in those awful moments.
John’s gospel tell us that when he was on the cross, he looked down and saw his mother and the beloved disciple standing there. And he asked them to become a new family (John 19.25-27). Luke’s gospel tells us that he had the energy and love to show love and kindness to the thief crucified beside him (Luke 23.39-43). And he famously forgave those who nailed him to the cross – and arguably all those whose anger and lies had put him there (Luke 23.34).
But before all this, he had a last meal with his closest friends (Luke 22). It’s that meal we remember today, Maundy Thursday. On the night before he died… He gathered with his friends and followers and they ate the Passover meal together. Even though one would betray him, another would deny him, and most would be in fear of their lives following his arrest, they were with him then. And there is no doubt that they truly loved him. Mary Magdalene and Mary his mother were even brave enough to come and be with him as he died.
Teddies are so often a symbol of love and care and comfort, a memory of cuddles in our childhoods. We all need comfort. We all need to feel that we are not alone. It is this togetherness and sense of love and comfort which struck me as I looked at that photo above. The Last Supper was no formal gathering merely for a religious ritual. It was the gathering of beloved friends around a meal. It was a last moment of comfort and peace before one would die, and the others would scatter in fear.
We know the end of the story – though at that moment they did not. We know that life broke through death, bringing hope and love and a new future.
May this Easter truly feel like a Resurrection, filled with joy, new life and new possibilities! May we meet with our friends and celebrate life once more, strengthened by the struggle of the past year. And above all, may we know that we are loved, and that we are not alone.